Standard Bench Press Versus Chest Machines

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    Aug 12, 2007 6:08 PM GMT
    I have been perfomring my chest exercises on machines. I've done different chest exercises in the past to mix things up. Currently, I do three sets of three different chest exercises -- Iso-Lateral Decline Press, Iso-Lateral Incline Press, and Pec Fly -- all machines. I haven't been doing the standard bench presses because I work out by myself and wouldn't have a spotter. Plus, I feel that I get more of a pump with the machines. Currently, I'm at 200 lbs at 8 reps with the decline, 180 lbs at 8 reps with the incline, and 187.5 lbs at 8 reps with the pec fly. Do you think that I would get a better workout in foregoing the chest machines and doing the standard bench press? Would the size increase tremendously from doing the standard bench press as opposed to doing the machines?
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    Aug 12, 2007 7:30 PM GMT
    Switching from machines to bench presses--or the reverse--should produce some gains just by mixing up the routine. But that's only if you can press sufficiently heavy weights--which is a big safety problem if you don't have a spotter.

    Even if you can't get a spotter, it might be worth some focus on the stablizers and secondary muscles that help build overall chest strength as well as definition. This is especially important for guys who rely exclusively on machines. Pushups on swiss balls, bosu balls, medicine balls, etc can really do the trick, and they're excellent for core. I like putting each foot on a medicine ball, both hands on a swiss ball, and then doing pushups. Or each hand on a medicine ball and both feet on a swiss ball. Looks harder than it is, though it can take some practice to get the balance right.

    Supersetting these stablizer-focused pushups with your standard machine workout is a decent substitute for bench presses with a spotter. Though I'd still try to rotate some of each type into the routine.
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    Aug 12, 2007 7:44 PM GMT
    I'm sure either people will agree with me or correct me where needed (hey, i can't be right all the time). Best way to get results is to utilize machines and free weights. Yes, it's true that when you go heavy you'll need a spot when working with free weights, but you will be utilizing your secondary and, in some instances, tertiary muscles more, such as the shoulders, triceps and other muscles that I'm sure are helping but I can't remember their names.

    Using machines only, your body will become accustomed to the method of resistance and it will be harder to make progress. Switching back and forth will not give your body enough time to fully adapt, keeping it on its toes and constantly having to grow and develop to meet those needs.

    Does that makes sense?
  • CurvDkBlkTop

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    Aug 12, 2007 8:35 PM GMT
    To add to what has already been said here: Free weights are going to force your stabilizer muscles to develop, thus increasing your strength gains. I train alone as well; the key is PROGRESSION when you can't train to "FAILURE." Basically, each time you train, you need to increase your work by either 3-5 reps, or 5lbs heavier than what you did last time.

    Additionally, if you do your bench press with DUMBELLS you can go heavier without needing a spotter. When I started, I was barely getting 5-6 reps with 85lb dumbells (5 sets); now, I'm doing that with 105lb dumbells (2months later).
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    Aug 12, 2007 9:47 PM GMT
    Flexin' beat me to it.

    It's enough to say that I concur with him 100%
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    Aug 12, 2007 10:03 PM GMT
    I have come to question the value of "mixing" up exercises. I don't think that inherently has any advantage.

    What it DOES do is usually force you to drop back the equivalent weight so that you can progressively increase the weight or volume.

    I did the 5x5 and so called DC routines that have you maxing out every workout for about 2 years and I believe that's what fucked up my knees.

    I now follow the HST principle. You calculate your maximum lifts for 15-, 10-, and 5-rep sets and then start at a weight low enough that you can add 5 lbs per workout to build up to your max. Then, after you've completed a cycle, you "decondition" your muscles by taking about 10 days off. Then you start again at a somewhat higher weight.

    This keeps you progressively adding weight without putting yourself in the unnecessary danger of injuring yourself or burning out. It works amazingly well because it turns out that muscle size is primarily dependent on progression, not the load itself.
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    Aug 12, 2007 10:29 PM GMT
    The plate-loaded Hammer machines feel pretty natural to me.
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    Aug 12, 2007 10:31 PM GMT
    I agree with Obscenwish, at least when it comes to injury prevention aspects of exercises...

    I see all these personal trainers make their clients do these dumb bell flies on a theraball, that is just very scary...

    Many have the FALSE assumption that if you stabilizing muscles are strong, then you are not prone to injury. FALSE FALSE FALSE...

    Injury prevention is a lot more complex than just "strengthening of the stabilizing muscles". I am not going to get into all aspects as I have been heavily critized for being too techinical, but I am going to point this out:

    The ONLY way to prevent injury is progression of doing the SAME movement. This is because a strong stabilizing mucle group has to ALSO learn the correct movement pattern in space, that means the intricate sequence AND ratio of muscle group activation THROUGH every point of the motion performed. It is strength, flexibility, strength ratio, coordination, proprioception, resistance/load, duration, angle of attack, etc, etc...

    If all it takes is to strengthen the stabilizing muscle groups, then rehabing top atheltes will just consist of super efficient isolating exercises of these muscle groups. Of course that is not what is done. It is these isolating exercises in conjunction with doing the exact physical task you will be required to perform, and progress the any of the 4 parameters in appropriate manner (duration, resistance, velocity, and ROM/angle of attack).

    The gain in strength wheil progressing on ONE exercise will not carry over so much when performing a different exercise. If you expect such result, and think you are somehow less prone to injury if you mix up your routines, you will end up injured more easily.

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    Aug 12, 2007 10:46 PM GMT
    One more thing...

    Exercise equipment using machine defined path such as Hammer Strength are not all equal. Some are better than the others... Hammer Strenghth is actually quute good. Although the movement is imitating what is natural to the joints, it is not the same as the actual natrual path, or does it offer the same resistance along the path of the movement as compared to free weights. This is even more so when the manufacturers alter the shape of the camber of the pulley mechanism for the types that use stacked plates. But this also gives manufacturers the freedom to design specific resistance patterns for their machines, such as placing the most resistance at the begining, middle, or end of the motion path, or progressively heavier, etc, etc...

    You can also push more wieght with machine defined path equipment.

    The danger with machine defined path is gross substitution of using the wrong muscle groups by the user... You can get away with alot of and still get the motion accomplished...

    While user defined equipment, like cable colum, is half way between free weights and machines. It is not quite like natural free weights as it uses pulley system, which alters the resistance loading charateristic along the path of the motion. It is like free weights that you cannot push as much weight. But you do not need a spotter most of the time...
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    Aug 12, 2007 10:49 PM GMT
    NJfitandbi,

    You may want to adjust the seat and other adjustable features of a machine defined path equipment... That could make a world of difference...
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    Aug 13, 2007 1:58 AM GMT
    Thanks for the replies, guys. I'll try to incorporate some barbell bench chest presses and try to get back to cross-over pushups on a bosu ball. (I had stopped earlier because my wrists were bothering me.)

    Just to clarify -- the chest machines I'm using are Hammer Strength machines except for the Pec Fly.
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    Aug 13, 2007 3:40 AM GMT
    I know for me the gym where I'm stationed in Afghanistan doesn't have a benchpress. They have a full set of dumbells and two sets of pre-defined barbells but you can't adjust the weight on them, leaving 90% of the gym equipment here as machines (all Hammer Strength).

    For the military it falls more under what they consider a "safety issue". Why run the risk of having your soldiers, sailors, airmen, or marines injur themselves in the gym and then not be able to be deployed into a combat situation. While I consider it sort of selfish of the military, I also understand that I has it's place.

    So with that said, I couldn't even really do a bench press if I wanted to.
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    Aug 13, 2007 5:45 AM GMT
    Well, we have a dedicated gym JUST for the employees of the hospital (8 treadmills, 5 ellipticals, 2 bikes, 1 rowong machine, 1 cable colunm, and 12 pieces of weight equipment).

    I am on the committee that was responsible for studying and purchasing of the equipment. We got a deal from LifeFitness (HammerStrength is a division of LifeFitness).

    We were told no free weights because that is more costly as far as maintence... And it takes up more space. Injury was discussed but $ and space were on the top of priorities.. The hospital is not paying people to put weights back, or take inventories if lighter weights are missing...

    I am sure it was a cost issue.
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    Aug 13, 2007 5:54 AM GMT
    Oh forgot to tell you, I work for the military hospital. I work for the VA.

    Lifefitness (HammerStrength) is a long time government contractor... The govenment will not buy anything from non-government contrcting vendors, no exceptions.
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    Aug 13, 2007 9:08 AM GMT
    Ive been to the site for HST based workouts but I find it quite confusing...