The debate rages: Are free weights or machines the best way to build muscle?

I say, why not use both? You can enjoy training with machines and reap the same muscle-building benefits you get from clanging and banging the free weights.

By adding these three machines to your chest-training routine, you'll wonder how you could ever reach your full pec potential without them.

1. Cable Station

This is obviously a station you can use for almost all muscle groups, but let's be real for a minute. Whichever genius came up with the cable-cross station clearly had Mondays—aka International Chest Day—in mind.

With this single machine, you can hit your chest from every angle. Perform cross-overs or presses from the high position, or bench or floor flyes from the bottom. You also can isolate each side by itself from either pulley.

Cable Station

Seriously, why isn't everyone embracing this miraculous chest-building machine? Whether you want to warm up, establish the all-important mind-muscle connection, or blast the pecs with an intense finisher, the cable cross-over is your answer.

Pro Tip: Superset your cross-overs for a different stimulus. Start with the single-arm cable cross-over using a high pulley for 12-15 reps. As soon as you finish, drop to the low pulleys and perform the same number of reps. Repeat for 3 sets resting for 60 seconds in between.

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2. Horizontal (Seated) Chest Press

There are so many versions of this machine out there, but any setup that allows you to press horizontally should be in your chest-day plan.

The locked path of travel this machine offers helps you focus on the chest while minimizing shoulder involvement. Also, pressing horizontally (sitting up) versus the standard vertical bench press (lying down) adds another angle for you to target different areas of the chest.

Pro Tip: Some seated chest-press machines allow you to adjust the seat so you can target the upper or lower chest. If your gym doesn't have the incline or decline machines, use the seated chest-press machine to hit your upper and lower chest. Perform 2 sets of each for 10-12 reps, resting 45 seconds between sets.

3. Pec-Deck

There are two keys to a great rep: a solid contraction and a deep stretch. This is especially true for the chest, which is why, when it comes to free weights versus machines, the pec-deck can't be beat.

Seated Chest Press

This machine helps you get the best of both worlds. The motion of the pec-deck isolates the chest, allowing you to squeeze the pecs hard and hold it before performing a controlled negative. At the same time, the setup of the pec-deck holds you in place. So, you get the best possible stretch for your pecs to make room for more blood to hit those muscles. That's what chest day is all about, right?

Pro Tip: Since you're stretching the pecs, you might as well fill them with blood to get that pump. After you perform 20 reps, hit the floor and knock out 20 push-ups. Do 3 supersets in this fashion, resting 60 seconds between each superset.

About the Author

Roger Lockridge

Roger Lockridge

The debate rages: Are free weights or machines the best way to...

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Chest Workout

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