How to Use a Seated Chest Press Machine

The seated chest press machine is an upright version of the standard lying bench press machine. The arms, placed under a weight-bearing load, are pushed away from the chest and returned to starting position. The chest press helps build the pectoral muscles as well as the biceps, deltoids, and latissimus dorsi muscles.

The same exercise can be performed on a bench using either a barbell or a pair of dumbbells as well as on a cable machine.

Types of Seated Chest Press Machines

For the purpose of this article, the exercise is illustrated on a standard Nautilus machine. This is a levered device which uses a set of removable weight plates. Older machines have a single weight carriage that distributes the weight equally between the two bars.

Newer levered models have a carriage for each bar and an independent movement that builds both sides of the chest more equally.

Others machines work on a cable-and-pulley system that attaches to a stack of weight plates. To adjust the weight, you would simply move the removable pin to the selected plate. As with levered systems, cable-and-pulley machines can either have independent or non-independent bars.

If you are unfamiliar with any of these machines, don't hesitate to ask a gym attendant for help.


How to Do the Seated Chest Press

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  1. Sit comfortably on the machine with your feet placed firmly on the floor about shoulder-width apart. If this is your first time using the machine, place a lighter load on the weight carriage.
  2. Grasp the handles and push the bars outward to full extension but without locking out the elbows.
  3. Try to keep your head steady against the upright pad and the neck still. Breathe out on exertion and in on recovery.
  4. You should feel significant resistance against the horizontal push. Try different weights until you are able to push and release slowly for about 10 repetitions. The last repetition should always feel a bit difficult.
  5. Try three sets of 10 reps. Start with less if you have to, always listening to your body to avoid injury. Rest for a few minutes between sets.

How to Maintain Proper Form

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  1. If your machine has an adjustable seat height, ensure that the setting allows your arms to push at a horizontal position to the ground when your arms are fully extended.
  2. Don't stress your shoulder joint by extending your elbows too far back when grasping the handles. A little is okay, but the handgrips should always be in front of your body line. Injuries can easily occur if you hyperextend the shoulder while bearing even moderate weight.
  3. When pushing the bar, your movement should never be explosive. Keep your movements steady and controlled, both as you push and release. If needed, count "one-two" when pushing, pause, and then count "one-two" as you release. Never rush.
  4. If you find yourself arching your back when you push, you are using too much weight. Reduce the weight so that you can push with effort but without arching the back.
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