If you’re trying to find an alternative to the bench press on chest day look no further than the pec deck.
I have a lot of clients that are intimidated to use free weights and the pec deck machine is how I have then train there upper and lower chest muscles until i can get them comfortable with using the bench press or dumbbells.
For whatever reason you’re looking to utilize the pec deck this article will explain how to use it safely, the best way to train with it to see the best results, and in case you’re looking to add one to your home gym I’ll show you the best options.
What Is The Pec Deck
The machine fly also known as a seated lever fly or a Pec Deck is a common machine found at any local gym, it consists of a small base and seat to sit on with a vertical post that has two arms on either side that you squeeze together to perform a chest fly.
The seat can be adjusted so that it can support different body types and the arms can usually be moved up or down so that you can work your high, mid and lower chest muscles.
Just like other machines it also comes with a weight stack that can be changed normally in increments of 10 pounds.
What Muscles Are Engaged With The Pec Deck
The primary muscles that you will target are the…
When you see a picture of a man with a well defined chest this is the muscle most responsible for that highly sought after look.
Pectoralis major – This is the largest section of your chest muscle, it spans from the shoulder to the breastbone and are primarily used to control movement of the arm.
Pectoralis Minor – This is a thinner, flatter muscle found just underneath the pec major, as the name suggests it is the smaller of the two muscles and it stabilizes the scapula while also depressing, abducting, protracting of the scapula.
This is the red headed step child of the chest group, people looking for that classic bulbous chest need to understand that a well defined lower chest (pec minor) is what will create that aesthetic look.
Serratus Anterior – This muscle runs from the 1st to 8th rib on the side of the chest and inserts along the the entire medial border of the scapula, its main use is to pull the scapula forward around the thorax.
This is one of the coolest muscles when it is defined, it almost look like fingers wrapping around your torso and gives an unmistakable look of extreme fitness and power.
The 5 Best Pec Deck Machines
|Sporzon! Home Gym System Workout Station with 330LB of Resistance, 125LB Weight Stack, Gray||Prime||Buy Now|
|Home Gym Weider 214 lb Stack, 300 lbs, exercise chart, ankle strap, vinyl seats||Prime||Buy Now|
|ICON Fitness Gold's Gym XRS 50||Prime||Buy Now|
|Iron Chest Master Push Up Machine - The Perfect Chest Workout. Fully Assembled with Built-in Resistance Bands. Includes Workout Programs||Prime||Buy Now|
How Effective Is The Pec Deck To Other Equipment
This is a question that will have different answers depending on who you ask, my opinion is you will receive a better chest workout using the bench press but that is probably because I always prefer free weights over machines.
However, when you compare the EMG tests done on the bench press and Pec Deck the results are very close and wouldn’t prevent you from doing one over the other.
Just remember that you wil be performing different rep ranges on the pec dec than you would on the bench press so if you’re new to the movement make sure you find out the proper load so that you don’t strain or hurt yourself.
It is superior to push ups, flys and dips so if you find yourself not liking one of these exercises or you just need a change of pace this is a great substitute.
How To Use The Pec Deck
- The first thing you always want to do is to make sure the machine is adjusted properly to your body, in this case you would adjust the seat so that the arm pads are level with your chest when you’re in a seated position
- Select how much weight you want to use. Remember, you always want to be in control of the movement, don’t allow your ego to make you do something stupid or unsafe.
- The starting position will be when you’re seated, grasping the handles and placing your forearms on the foam padding.
- Slowly bring the weight up by pressing the handles together, you don’t want them to touch though.
- When the handles are directly in front of you contract the chest muscles and hold for 2 to 3 seconds then slowly move back to the starting position.
- Don’t move back to the starting position quickly the eccentric movement is just as important as the concentric movement.
Best Results Using Pec Deck
To receive the best results when targeting any muscle it is recommended that you use different exercises or movements to isolate the entire muscle group.
You don’t want to just do a bench press, push ups and dumbbell press because all three of these movements are working the chest muscle in the same way.
You want to hit the fibers of any muscle group from all directions to make sure you work the entire area completely.
For example, using the Pec Deck, cable crossover and bench press would hit the pec major, pec minor and serratus anterior giving you a complete chest workout.
Tips On How To Use The Pec Deck
- Make sure to slightly bend your elbows, this relieves pressure on your ligaments.
- Don’t touch the handles together, this will keep the chest contracted during the pause before you move back to the starting position.
- Don’t bring your body forward while pushing the handles together, this will put extra stress on your shoulders.
- Don’t let the weight drop to the floor always stay in control of the movement putting.
- Pay attention to the eccentric portion of the exercise as you do to the concentric portion, you build muscle in both directions.
- Make sure your arms are always parallel to the floor.
- Contract your chest muscles for 2 to 3 seconds before moving back to the starting position
Common Mistakes Made While Using The Pec Deck
- Not adjusting the seat – You want to make sure that the handles are level with your chest and your feet are firmly planted on the ground, this will guarantee that the movement is working the desired muscle group.
- Not completing the entire motion – You want to press the handles until they are directly in front of you, pause for 2 to 3 seconds then go back to the starting position. Do not stop halfway, if you feel like you need to do this you may be using to much weight.
- locking out your elbows – This puts stress on your shoulders, you always want to have a slight bend in your elbows.
- Not contracting the chest muscles – This guarantees that you fatigue the chest fibers creating a more efficient workout.
Avoiding Shoulder Injury.
One of the biggest critiques of the Pec Deck is the way your shoulders are placed while you are sitting in a vertical position, some people while pressing the handles forward will feel strain in their shoulder joints. If at anytime you feel uncomfortable or have pain in your joints you need to stop the movement and find a different exercise.
You can adjust the Pec Deck but not in a way that it will prevent any of the pain you’re experiencing in the shoulder joints. There are plenty of substitutes to work the chest muscles don’t injure yourself and prevent being able to train going forward.
Substitutes For The Pec Deck.
The cable crossover, just like the Pec Deck uses stretches and contractions to work the chest and is found to have a lot less stress on the shoulders.
Flat/Incline dumbbell flys
This is the closest exercise to the Pec Deck but it also has one of the biggest drawbacks, a major debate with the fly is the problems it can present to the shoulders.
Some people say that this is due to people not using the correct technique or trying to lift to much weight, while other people will tell you it’s because of the force put on the shoulders as you bring the weight down by your side.
Personally I love the chest workout I get when I perform the fly, use lighter weight at first and make sure your form is perfect, watch this video to see how to correctly perform the movement.
The pec deck is a great alternative if you’re trying to change things up, just make sure to take the time to learn how to use it properly. In the end though it is not a suitable alternative to the bench press.