The chest press is a classic upper-body strengthening exercise that works your pectorals (chest), deltoids (shoulders), and triceps (arms). For the best results and safety, it’s essential that you use proper form and good technique.
If you’re just starting out, find a personal trainer or workout buddy who can spot you, monitor your form, and give feedback. There are several chest press variations that you can do with or without a machine.
Continue reading to learn how to do chest presses, the benefits, and safety precautions.
How to perform a chest press
Below are some tips and step-by-step directions for doing the chest press. Watch a demonstration of the chest press in this video:
Before beginning this exercise, here are a few tips for better form:
- Keep your spine flat throughout the exercise and avoid arching your low back.
- Press your head, shoulders, and buttocks into the bench the entire time.
- You can use a raised platform under your feet.
- Press your feet firmly into the floor or platform throughout the exercise.
- To target your triceps, draw your elbows close to your sides.
- To target your pectorals, flare your elbows out away from your body.
- Keep your wrists neutral so they don’t bend in either direction.
To do a chest press
- Lie on a flat bench with your feet pressing into the floor.
- Draw your shoulders down and back to press them into the bench.
- Hold two dumbbells with palms facing forward and your thumbs wrapped around the handle.
- On an inhale, lower the dumbbells slightly wider than your mid-chest, slowly and with control.
- Gently touch the dumbbells to your chest.
- On an exhale, press your arms upwards, keeping your elbows slightly bent.
- Position the dumbbells just below eye level.
- Do 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 15 repetitions.
The chest press is one of the best chest exercises for building upper body strength. Other effective exercises include the pec deck, cable crossover, and dips. The chest press targets your pectorals, deltoids, and triceps, building muscle tissue and strength. It also works your serratus anterior and biceps.
This upper body strength and power help with daily activities such as pushing strollers, shopping carts, and heavy doors. It’s also beneficial for sports such as swimming, tennis, and baseball. Other benefits of strength training include enhanced fitness level, stronger bones, and better mental health.
You’ll gain muscle and lose fat, helping to burn more calories even while at rest. These benefits may help you to look and feel better, which can increase your confidence and well-being.
Here are some chest press variations, each slightly different in the muscles they target. Try out a few to see which you prefer or mix a few into your workout routine.
You do this variation on an incline bench. This targets the upper pectorals and shoulders while putting less strain on the rotator cuffs.
Since your shoulders don’t tend to be as strong as your chest muscles, you may need to use a lower weight load for this variation.
One con of this variation is that you’re not working the entire pectoral muscles. Plus, you’ll need to rest your shoulders the following day to avoid overuse and potential injury.
This variation allows you to move slowly and with control. The cable chest press strengthens your core muscles, which improves balance and stability.
You can do it one arm at a time and adjust the height of each push to target different areas of your chest. Use resistance bands if you don’t have a cable machine.
The seated chest press works your biceps and latissimus dorsi muscles. The machine allows you to lift heavier loads with more control. Use proper form and adjust the seat and handles it to the correct position.
Use smooth, controlled movements and avoid bringing your elbows too far back, which will overextend your shoulders. You can do this exercise one arm at a time.
The standing chest press improves balance and targets your stabilizer muscles. These include the rotator cuff, erector spinae, and transverses abdominous.
This variation is ideal if you already have a firm foundation and excellent form. The only downside is that it works your chest muscles less.
You can do this variation while standing or lying on a bench. It isolates your inner pectorals and minimizes the potential for injury. Squeezing the weight forces you to maintain muscle engagement throughout the exercise.
Chest press vs. bench press
Both the chest press and the bench press are effective exercises. They work for the same muscle groups but in slightly different ways.
In terms of which one is better, it really comes down to what you prefer and how each exercise feels in your body. You can alternate the chest press and bench press on different days of your workout to vary your routine.
How to avoid injury
To stay safe and avoid injury, it’s important that you do the chest press with care and caution.
Talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise program, especially if you have any injuries or medical conditions that can affect your routine.
Do a warmup and cool down
Before you begin your workout, do a 5 to 10-minute warmup. Along with walking, jogging, or jumping, do a few stretches to loosen up your arms, chest, and shoulders.
Do cool down at the end of each session, and stretch the muscles you worked.
Start with small weights
Start with low weights and slowly build up once you get the technique down.
Use a spotter, especially if you’re a beginner. They can be available to hold weights, check your form, support your movements, and ensure you’re using the correct weight load.
Try it two to three times per week
Include chest presses in your fitness routine two to three times per week. Allow for at least one day of rest in between training to avoid overtraining muscle groups.
Balance out your chest workouts with shoulder strengthening. This helps to prevent injuries from lifting loads that are too heavy for your shoulders.
Only work out to the degree that’s comfortable without causing stress, strain, or pain. Stop exercising if you feel any intense pain and take a break until your body is fully recovered.
Tips for form and technique
Make sure to follow these tips with each rep:
- When you lower the weights, don’t bring them over your shoulders as this can strain your rotator cuff.
- Balance your right and left sides by lifting weights in equal measure. Grip the weight evenly between all of your fingers.
- If you experience pain from the flat bench chest press, opt for the incline or bench chest press.
- When using dumbbells, avoid putting them on the floor by your sides upon completion. Doing this can injure your rotator cuff. Instead, place them on your chest and carefully come up into a seated position. Place the dumbbells on your thighs before lowering them to the floor.
You can add chest presses to your routine two to three times per week. If you’re new to weightlifting, consider working with a spotter or a personal trainer. They’ll help you get started and make sure you’re doing the exercise correctly 🙂 🙂