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16 Best Chest Machines At The Gym

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If you’re reading this, you may have a hard time feeling your pecs or breaking through a plateau.

You also probably think that a good machine might be the solution.

And you know what…it just might be.

But a lot of stuff has to come together for that to happen.

Choosing the right machine type FOR YOU would be a great start!

I can help with that.

Who am I?

My name is Steve Hoyles, and I’ve been a personal trainer and a gym owner for over two decades now.

I know both sides of the chest-machine coin:

  • The gym-owner angle – what goes into choosing and buying a good machine.
  • The trainer angle – what goes into using it right.

What you’ll see below

I’ll aim to offer specific tips and machine recommendations.

If I do my job well, this page will give you clear answers to these two questions:

  1. What type of chest machine is best for you (and why)?
  2. Which specific machine fits your budget and space?

For context, I’ll sprinkle in answers to the first question as we go through the recommendations.

Let’s get cracking!

Budget Option

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Powertec MultiPress

Best Overall

Life Fitness Optima Series Chest Press

Life Fitness Optima Series Chest Press

Premium Option

Cybex Ion Series Multi Press Machine

Cybex Ion Chest press

16 best chest machines

Type of chest machineNameBest in categoryPriceDefining feature/characteristic
Seated press1. Life Fitness Optima Series Chest PressTop value seated press overall$$$Great value, most well-rounded for the price
2. Body-Solid S2MP-2Most versatile seated press$$$Changing angles of the incline, doubles as shoulder press
3. Cybex Ion Chest pressMoney-no-object seated press$$$$$Premium build
4. Freemotion ES800Chest press with converging handles$$$$$Converging handles
5. Hammer Strength Iso-lateral Wide ChestPlate-loaded incline press$$$Biomechanically accurate
Lying incline/decline press machine6. Powertec Leverage Multi PressBudget incline/decline press$Wide range of bench angles
7. Valor Fitness BF-47Cheapest incline press$Cheap
Chest fly machine8. Body-Solid StrengthTechChest fly machine$$Versatile, features both a press and a fly station
Pec deck9. Legend Fitness 901Standalone pec deck for advanced lifters$$$Premium build
10. GoplusBudget pec deck option$Part of a versatile home gym
Seated dip machine11. Titan plate-loaded dipBudget seated dip$cheap
12. Hammer Strength dipPremium dip machine$$$$$commercial-grade
Assisted dip machine13. PowerTec Levergym Assisted Chin Up Bar and Dip StationAsissted dip machine$$Doubles as assisted pull-up machine, can be used for “regular” dips
Cable machine / functional trainer14. REP FT-5000Functional trainer$$$Versatile
15. Merax cable stationBudget cable station$Budget-friendly, plate loaded
16. Bells of Steel weight-stack towerValue among selectorized towers$$Selectorized

1 – Best chest machine for a home gym – Life Fitness Optima Series Chest Press

Best chest machines- Life Fitness Optima Series Chest Press

Who it’s for: For the conservative buyer that wants a selectorized* seated press that doesn’t break the bank.

*Selectorized means you pop a pin into the stack to select the weight (as opposed to loading plates)

Dominant muscles: Pectorals major and minor, anterior deltoid (front of the shoulder), triceps.

Chest press muscles worked


  • Great value – costs about half compared to similar weight-stack machines
  • Adjustable at all the right points
  • Safer than a bench press
  • Weight changes are fast and convenient (great for drop sets)


  • Lesser activation of the stabilization muscles
  • Costs more (slightly) than a classic bench press setup


This Life Fitness model is the best chest press machine for home gyms because it delivers the same stuff as fancier machines for less money.

They’ve really carved out a niche for themselves in the home gym space, and they consistently deliver. This is no exception to that rule.

That doesn’t mean it’s cheap.

It just means that machines like the Cybex Ion (our money-no-object pick) cost over three grand more.

Three grand gets you a lot of barbells and weight plates.

And the difference between the top-tier machines and this Life Fitness is mostly cosmetic.

When it comes to the basics, the Optima chest press ticks all the boxes:

  • Solid-size stack (202 lbs)
  • Good, versatile handles (angles, shape, and length that allows for different grips)
  • Adjustable seat height makes it comfortable for all body types
  • Adjustable back pad depth gives you control over the ROM (range of motion)

Here’s my bottom line – this is the cheapest you can go with selectorized weight-stack machines without sacrificing functionality. The weight stack is sufficiently heavy for almost all users too.

The parts where Life Fitness skimped to make this cheap are non-critical…like the size of the pulleys, the shape of the frame tubes, and the finish.

Personally, I’m totally happy to sacrifice on the non-important elements to keep costs down, as long as the important bits are done well.

In other words, some details could be better, but making them so would jack up the price.

Bottom line

If you have the budget for a seated chest press with weight stacks but don’t want to splurge, this is the machine for you.


Dimensions (LxWxH, inches)38 x 50 x 57 (live area 62 x 68)
Max weight (size of the stack in lbs)202
Path of the lift*Parallel, curved

* Path of the lift refers to the trajectory of the hands through the motion. It’s a simple concept.

We’ll get into more detail in the buyer’s guide, but below is a reference term list:

  • Parallel – means the hands maintain the distance through the motion, as they would in a barbell bench press.
  • Converging – hands get closer towards the end of the motion, as they would on a dumbbell press.
  • Straight – the path is a straight line.
  • Curved – the handles are fixed in a joint and travel on a curve, as they do on this machine.

If this sounds complicated, you can skip to this section of the buyer’s guide, give that a read, and come back here.

Click here to skip to the buyer’s guide.

2 – Top value among incline chest press machines – Body-Solid S2MP-2 Selectorized Multi-Press

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Who it’s for: Anyone looking for an incline chest press that does more than one thing.

Dominant muscles: Pectoralis major and minor, anterior deltoid, triceps.


  • Versatile – chest and shoulder presses
  • Adjustable – seat position, incline, grip, handles
  • Beefy, 11-gauge frame


  • Costs more than standalone machines
  • Big footprint


The incline press is the probably most competitive category here.

The Multi-Press wins it straight out, for 3 main reasons:

  1. Value
  2. Adjustability
  3. Convenience of the weight stack

Better value than similar machines

At first glance, the price of this thing does not scream value.

  • You can get a classic incline press for less money.
  • You can get a separate lying bench press machine.
  • You can get a separate shoulder press.

…all for less…

You need to look at the bigger picture to see the value.

Series II combines it all with the convenience of a weight stack.

That’s where the value is.


You typically adjust the angle of an incline bench press machine by adjusting one of three things:

  • Seat angle.
  • Seat height.
  • Handle position.

The Multi-Press allows for all three.

The certain and the possible benefits

This is certain  – somewhere among all the possible setups, you’ll find your sweet spot.

This is possible – that sweet spot might not exist on other machines.

Bottom line

If you like the idea of getting a flat, incline, and shoulder press in one cable machine, get that measuring tape out because the size is the only potential deal-breaker.

In my opinion though, the versatility is something I find difficult to ignore here.


Dimensions (LxWxH, inches)76 x 58 x 61
Capacity (weight stack in lbs)210
Frame 2x 3, 11 gauge steel

3 – Money-no-object pick among seated chest press machines – Cybex Ion chest press

Cybex Ion Series Multi-Press Machine

Who it’s for: For the no-compromise buyer looking for a top-tier chest press (and has the budget for it).

Dominant muscles: Pectoralis major and minor, anterior deltoid, triceps.


  • Bigger pulleys translate to smooth cable motion
  • Premium materials and commercial-grade craftsmanship
  • Contoured high-density padding
  • Attractive, modern design and color choices


  • Expensive


Cybex Ion is a commercial-grade piece of eye candy that does everything just a peg better than the competition.

When we talked about the top overall pick (Life Fitness Optima Series Chest Press), we said that it nails all points that make or break a chest press – the geometry, the handles, the adjustments…

Cybex Ion is all that and a bag of chips.

  • The steel tubing is rectangular, which means less wobble
  • The finish and attention to detail are at a higher standard
  • The cable movement is smoother (bigger pulleys)
  • The padding is better – more generous and contoured (given this is the major contact point with the machine, it’s more important than you’d realize).

Simply put – it’s slightly better in many ways that add up to an overall feel of a premium machine.

Bottom line

If money is not a primary factor, get the Cybex Ion. It’s a great machine and a conversation starter.


Dimensions (LxWxH, inches)44 x 51 x 53
Capacity (weight stack in lbs)202.5
Max user weight (lbs)300

4 – Best chest press with converging handles – Freemotion ES80

Freemotion ES800 Chest Press

Who it’s for: Those who want to combine the biomechanical accuracy of converging handles with the convenience of a weight stack.

Dominant muscles: Pectoralis major and minor, anterior deltoid, triceps.


  • Arched path combined with a weight stack
  • Beginner-friendly
  • Sleek design and high-end build
  • Robust frame (7 and 11-gauge)


  • Expensive


I have a quick confession – I came up with this category so I can mention this Freemotion machine.

Hear me out…

As you move up the price range, some machines add true advantages, and some add frills.

Out of the true benefits, we mentioned the converging handles (help with positioning) and weight stacks (more convenient).

This is the best chest cable machine I know that combines the two.

Bottom line

If you like the convenience of a weight stack and the “help” of converging handles, ES800 is the machine for you.


Dimensions (LxWxH, inches)61.7 x 42 x 72
Capacity (weight stack in lbs)295
Increments (lbs)5
Max user weight (lbs)350

5 – Best plate-loaded incline chest press – Hammer Strength Iso-lateral Wide Chest

Hammer Strength Plate-Loaded Iso-Lateral Wide Chest Press

Who it’s for: Those who have problems “feeling the pecs” and are OK with loading plates.

Dominant muscles: Pectorals major and minor, anterior deltoid, triceps.

Incline chest press muscles worked


  • The converging path hits the pecs just right
  • High-end material, make, and finish (e-coat with color options)
  • Free weight – you can start slow and move up in small increments
  • Weight storage


  • Loading and unloading free weight is not as convenient as stacks
  • Resistance not uniform


If you don’t “feel your chest muscles” on a bench press and think it’s genetics, you have never used a machine like this.

If you have used one with proper instructions and still don’t feel the pecs, you don’t have them…and it’s a medical miracle that you’re still standing.

Let me put it like this

A good chest machine will allow you to get the correct angles and hit the pecs.

The best machines force you into it.

That’s what The Hammer Iso Incline Press does.

The converging handles imitate the natural motion of pec activation.

Now, that sounds like gibberish without context.

So bear with me for a minute here as I drop some truth bombs… it’s a minute that will put you into the 1% when it comes to understanding chest workout machines.

Here’s a myth for you…

Chest muscles are mostly for pushing stuff away.

Not true.

The movement that gets the most contraction is actually pulling stuff toward your torso.

We’ll nerd out on this in the buyer’s guide.

We’ll talk about where the pecs connect to the bones and use big words like medial rotation and adduction of the humerus…

You know, …the stuff that would get you beaten up on the playground back in the day.

It’s gonna be wild!

For now, here’s the bottom line:

Machines like this Hammer Strength will be better for people with problems targeting the pecs.

For beginners and intermediate lifters, that means finally feeling the muscle.

For advanced lifters, it means blasting the pecs like you hate them.

Bottom line

Converging handles is the way to go if you have problems “feeling your pecs,” and no machine does it better than Hammer Strength Wide Chest.

It’s a really popular machine in commercial gyms, which is a testament to its quality. It’s not the cheapest though, as you can see. 


Dimensions (LxWxH, inches)77 x 45 x 75
Starting resistance (lbs)2
Steel of the frame11-gauge

6 – Best budget incline chest press machine – Powertec Workbench MultiPress

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Who it’s for: Anyone looking for versatility beyond the incline press…. great if space is an issue.

Dominant muscles: Pecs, front shoulder, triceps.


  • Versatile – incline and decline press, narrow grip, shrugs, pulls, rows
  • Gentle on the home-gym budget
  • Great bench (allows you to target the lower chest muscles on a decline)
  • A closer feel to free weight than cable machines


  • Reported shipping issues and on-arrival defects


I remember falling in love with the smart engineering of this Powertec.

It allows for crazy versatility on a budget.

I also remember hearing stories from people who had problems putting it together and aligning everything.

So, let me put it like this…

If you know your way around a wrench and are fortunate enough to get a good unit that aligns well, you’ll love this Powertec.

It’s all about the versatility – the video below explains it best.

Bottom line

The Workbench Multipress is easily the most versatile chest machine I know and easily in the top 3 units here in terms of value.


Dimensions (LxWxH, inches)77.8 x 55.6 x 41.3
Max weight capacity (lbs)500
Weight in starting position (lbs)30

7 – Cheapest bench press machine – Valor BF-47

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Who it’s for: Those on an extra tight budget.

Dominant muscles: Pecs, front shoulder, triceps.


  • Cheap
  • Converging handle path.


  • Basic build
  • Might be too small for the big and tall.


Valor BF-47 is the cheapest you can go and still get a decent bench press machine.

It’s every bit as basic as the price suggests, but it does two things better than the competition in the price range:

  • Adjustable (it’s not only a flat bench).
  • The arms converge towards the top.

And it has no critical flaws.

That’s as much as you can expect in this price range.

Bottom line

I wouldn’t say Valor BF-47 is my recommendation. I’ll say this – it’s factually the cheapest press machine that’s not junk.


Dimensions (LxWxH, inches)60 x 59 x 28
Max weight capacity (lbs)250
Frame cross-section (inches)2×2

8 – Chest fly machine – our top pick, Body-Solid StrengthTech EXM2500B

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Who it’s for: For upper intermediate and advanced users. You need good control and strength to get any value from these.

Dominant muscles: Chest and front shoulder.

Chest fly machine muscles worked


  • Range of motion – works the pecs in the stretched position
  • Versatility for chest muscles – press and fly machine
  • Versatility beyond the pecs – lat pulldown, leg station, low pulleys
  • Value – costs much less than getting the standalone machines
  • Stable and sturdy – 12-gauge frame


  • The stack might not be heavy enough for some
  • Finish and coating not high-end


Body-Solid realized what many manufacturers are stubbornly missing – that packing a press and a fly station into one doesn’t work.

The StrengthTech is the fruit of that realization.

They also added a few extra stations and made it run on a weight stack.

And voila…

Along with the Powertec Multipress, this is the most versatile unit here.

What it is and is not

You can likely tell just by looking at it that we’re talking about your average home-gym quality.

You’re not getting that butter-smooth motion on a machine like the Cybex Ion or the Hammer Wide Chest.

It rattles and wobbles a bit but works well.

And for a fraction of the cost of fancier machines.

That means more money left for cool dumbbells, other machines, and signed posters of young Pam Anderson. (What?!!)

Bottom line

If you feel like a chest fly machine would be useful to you and like the idea of packing a press station and some extra stuff into one machine, the StrengthTech is great value.

If money is tight, versatility for your buck has to feature highly in your priority list.


Dimensions (LxWxH, inches)85 x 61 x 83
Max weight capacity (lbs)210
Increments (lbs)10
Frame (cross-section and thickness)2 x 4, 12 gauge

9 & 10 – Pec deck machine

Who it’s for: For upper intermediate and advanced users.

Dominant muscles: Chest, with an accent on the inner part.


  • Allows you to isolate the chest
  • Greater ROM than chest flies at the finish of the movement
  • Allows for extra contraction of inner pecs


  • Low potential for overload and hypertrophy
  • Tricky to get right and properly stimulate the chest


Chest fly and the pec deck are two different machines.

Sometimes, they’re combined into a single unit, but they’re far from the same.

Two main differences are:

  • Chest flies stretch the pecs and have better overload potential.
  • Pec deck isolates the chest more because of the elbow position, which excludes the shoulders.

A massive common point is that only experienced lifters will know to use them in a way that yields real results.

I could elaborate on that, but there’s no reason to.

  • If you know what I mean, you’re probably in the top tier that can ignore what I said.
  • If you don’t know what I mean, don’t take it personally…there are simply better ways to spend your time and money.

If you do decide to get a pec deck, your choices are limited because most brands have given up.

But there’s still good stuff if you know where to look…

9. Best standalone – Legend Fitness 901

Legend Fitness Pec Deck 901

If you’re an advanced lifter who’s used to the commercial pec decks from your local gym, get the Legend Fitness 901

It’s the closest you can get to the feeling of a commercial pec deck on a home-gym budget.

Beastly frame, premium pulleys, cables, cool colors… the whole nine yards…every bit as good as any deck of pecs.

10. Best budget option – Goplus home gym

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If you’re unsure about whether you need a pec deck but you’re still tempted, I have three tips:

  1. Don’t spend too much on it.
  2. Try to get a machine that also doubles as a chest press.
  3. Only consider it if you’ve got enough space left over for more versatile and useful items of equipment.

Again, units like that are scarce, but they exist – the Goplus home gym is a prime example.

Bottom line

If you’re sure the pec deck is your thing, invest in a serious machine like the Legend 901. If you’re not, compromise with a multipurpose unit like the Goplus.

Specs of the Legend 901

Dimensions (LxWxH, inches)63 x 43 x 76
Max weight capacity (lbs)150 (upgrades available – 200, 250, and 300)
Weight increments (lbs)10
Pulley ratio2:1

11 & 12 – Best seated dip machines – Titan plate-loaded dip and Hammer Strength dip

Who it’s for: Although it’s an easy machine to use, it’s best for advanced users.

Muscles worked: Triceps as primary. Pecs, traps, and serratus anterior as secondary.

Seated dip machine muscles worked


  • Easy to use
  • Good way to build strength for classic dips
  • Cheap


  • One-movement machine


The seated dip is not a chest machine per se – the primary muscle is the triceps.

I’m including it because anything that improves your performance on the dip station is useful.

A dip machine does that.

If the geometry allows you to push straight down and “through the hips,” you’ll hit the triceps, the lower trapezius, the upper back, the front shoulder, and the pec minor (similarly as you would on dips).

That sounds deceptively simple, so I’d only recommend the seated dip machine to advanced lifters.

Beginners can use their money and space more wisely. A dip bar and some resistance bands for assistance, to start with…

Bottom line

Unless you’re an advanced lifter, don’t spend too much on a seated dip machine. Go for something cheap like the Titan Plate Loadable.

If you’re elite and have the budget, get the Hammer Strength dip.

Specs of the Titan seated dip

Dimensions (LxWxH, inches)30 x 27 x 51
Max weight capacity (lbs)200
User weight capacity (lbs)300

13 – Best assisted dip machine – PowerTec Levergym

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Who it’s for: For anyone looking to progress or can’t do full dips.

Dominant muscles: Triceps, pec minor and front shoulder.


  • Allows for controlled progress
  • Doubles as an assisted pull-up station
  • Can be used as a regular dip and chin-up machine


  • Lesser activation of stabilizer muscles
  • Not the most attractive movement


The assisted dip machine can be a means to an end or an as-is unit.

It’s a means to an end if you’re looking for controlled progress to regular dips and chin-ups.

It’s a machine in its own right if you have no plans to do full dips but like the movement and want to benefit from it.

In either scenario, it’s a great way to broaden and thicken the chest by targeting the elusive pec minor.

Bottom line

This Powertec is a simply-designed dip and pull-up machine that works for both beginners and advanced users. There are fancier machines but they do the same thing and cost more.


Dimensions (LxWxH, inches)44.5 x 61.8 x 86.5
Max load (lbs)400
Frame warranty5 years

14, 15 & 16 – Cable machines/tower and functional trainer as a chest workout machine (and three recommendations)

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Pros of a cable machine:

  • Versatility beyond cable crossovers
  • Allows you to choose the angles
  • Allows for some unique exercises

Cons of cable machine:

  • No guidance/support for form
  • Weight increments might be too small for some


A cable machine/functional trainer can be one of the most versatile pieces of equipment you own. And it’s tucked away near a wall, taking up minimal space when you’re not using it.

There’s lots of home gym value here for all fitness levels and body types.

We’ll focus on what it can do for a good chest and upper body workout.

Can it replace free weights?

No. It’s complementary to free weights.

And I’ll leave it at that…I won’t get into the messy topic of free weights vs. machines today.

I’ll limit the conversation to the few advantages of cable machines for chest workouts (especially the unsupported dumbbell flies, which I’m not a fan of).

The few main ones are:

  1. It allows for extra contraction – that extra squeeze towards the end of the movement means a lot for people who have a hard time feeling the chest muscles.
  2. There’s no tension drop at the top, as on the dumbbell fly.
  3. It allows you to move past the body’s midline, which means the peak contraction lasts longer (related to #1).
  4. It’s safer than dumbbell flies.

On the other hand, you get little to no resistance in the stretched position of the chest muscle, which is best for hypertrophy.

That’s why I’m not writing off the dumbbell fly, despite its many flaws.

Verdict – two towers are the best cable setup for chest workouts.

To reap the full benefits of a cable machine for a chest workout, you’ll need a cross-over machine or two cable towers.

I’d go with the latter.

With two cable towers, you can adjust the height from which the cables arrive.

This means you can comfortably do a crossover and an upward chest cable fly on a bench.

Two key takeaways here are:

  1. Control over the cable height lowers the shoulder injury risk, which makes two towers superior to a single crossover machine.
  2. The uprights on a functional trainer are good for standing flies or crossovers but too close to effectively do an upward cable chest fly on a bench.

Bottom line

If you want a budget-friendly option, go with plate-loaded towers like Merax.

If you want the convenience of a selectorized weight stack, go with the Bells of Steel tower.

If you have no plans of doing a bench fly using cables, a good functional trainer will do just fine. I recommend the REP Fitness FT-5000.

Specs of the REP FT-5000

Dimensions (LxWxH, inches)84 x 72 x 45
Max load (lbs)220
Weight increments (lbs)10
Pulley ratio2:1

Buyer’s guide to chest workout machines

There are books written on what I’m about to pack into a 5-minute read.

That means I’ll prioritize clarity over precision and details.

At times, things I say will be approximations that explain the concept plastickly.

First things first…

Three groups of factors you need to consider:

  1. Muscle-related concepts (the basic biomechanics of the chest muscle).
  2. Factors related to goals and fitness level (this is where you choose the machine type).
  3. Factors related to specific machines (once you have the #1 and #2 nailed).

There are also different types of chest machines to consider…

Types of chest machines

Muscle-related concepts – how the pecs work

(and what it means for choosing a machine)

I’ll need you to bear with me for a minute as I get through the simplified biomechanics.

It’s not the most exciting read for most, but it ties right into choosing a good chest machine.


Below is a simplified image of chest anatomy with a few key terms you’ll need to know to keep up.

Anatomy of the chest

We already mentioned that the chest isn’t there just for pushing…be it a barbell or a car.

Its role is to move the arm closer to the body, across it, up and down.

In nature, that action can bring an object closer to your body or push it away from you…and a range of actions in-between.

Attachment points and peak contraction of the pecs

The simple way to explain it is by looking at the attachment points.

Here’s a 3-step visualization:

  1. Imagine a position where the muscle attachment points are furthest apart.
  2. Imagine a position where they’re closest.
  3. The movement that made that happen is one that will result in the “deepest” contraction. That’s subjective and doesn’t always translate to highest activation.

Simply put – if someone asked you to flex your pecs, you’d move your hand across your body.

That’s because of #3 above.

These four points are key:

  1. Chest muscles are attached to the upper arm, the sternum, and the clavicle.
  2. They stretch as the hand moves away from the body and contract as it gets closer.
  3. Contraction is not equal to hypertrophy. In fact, studies show that most hypertrophy happens when a muscle works against resistance in its stretched position (source). This is why ‘negatives’ are so effective for muscle building.
  4. Muscle growth can be boiled down to overloading (muscle damage), mechanical tension (stretching and contracting), and metabolic stress/recovery.

Finally…what it all means for chest machines

It means that a chest machine needs to be good at three things:

  1. Allowing you to effectively and safely overload the chest muscle.
  2. Giving you the range of motion to work the pecs while stretched.
  3. Allowing you to get that peak contraction.
  4. Giving you a uniform resistance through the range of motion (or maximum at the right spots).

It’s never all 4 at the same time.

For example…

The third point only happens on machines with converging arms and cable units with free handles (like a cable crossover).

The fourth is not a must. Some of the best chest machines vary in resistance as you move (we’ll get to that in a second).

The right machine for your goals – ultra-specific tips

If you’re still unsure what to get after this, bookmark this and get back to these 6 points.

Trust me.

This is as specific as I can be:

  1. If you’re getting a chest machine with bigger chest muscles as the goal, get one that absolutely nails points #1 and #2 above, like the Life Fitness Optima Series Chest Press.
  2. If you’re getting a machine because you have problems feeling the pecs with free-weights, go for something with a converging lift path, like the Hammer Wide Chest press (also great if you’re struggling with upper chest muscles).
  3. If you already have a decent chest workout routine using free weight and want to switch things up, a functional trainer (like the REP FT-5000) will deliver the most value.
  4. If you’re looking to get to the next level and create that low-pec separation, there’s no better way to do it than controlled dips. If you can’t do enough to make it count or want to control the progress, get a seated or an assisted dip machine (like the Titan plate-loaded or the Powertec Chin Assist).
  5. If you’re an advanced lifter looking for new ways to challenge your already bulging pecs, you’re one of the few that can get real value out of a pec deck or a chest fly machine.

    Our primary pick here is the Legend Fitness Pec deck.
  6. If you’re getting a chest machine to spare your shoulders or work around an injury, go with a good chest press…and make sure it’s selectorized, has multiple adjustment points, and allows you to choose the starting position.

Varying vs. constant tension (resistance) – and how to recognize it on gym machines

If you read the conversations in the fitness space, the topic of “uniform resistance” is both beaten to a pulp and misunderstood.

In the words of the legendary Ron Burgundy, “It’s an odd mixture.”

Let’s simplify and demystify it

If you feel that resistance is changing and the machine is “light” at the top or bottom, it’s because of the “moment arm.”

The moment arm is the distance between the force created by the weight and the joint that moves it.

Moment arm of a plate-loaded chest press machine

Here’s how that nerdy talk applies to chest workout machines…

Moment arm on plate-loaded and cable press machines

  1. It’s there on almost all plate-loaded machines with joints.

    The ones that eliminate it have complicated lever mechanisms and aren’t in the home-gym price range.
  2. It’s a much lesser factor on cable machines because the force is redirected through a cable.

    It still exists, but it’s typically a minuscule factor…and depends on where and how the cable is attached.

My take – eight times out of ten, varying resistance is not a deal-breaker for chest machines. It’s there on free lifts, too…it’s how gravity works.


In some scenarios (like a shoulder injury), it can be a good thing.

In others, you can work around it by shortening the lift path.

It’s still important to understand it, though….just so that you know what you’re looking at when choosing a machine.

Below is a video of Eugene Teo explaining it in simple terms.

FAQs about gym machines and chest muscles

Are chest machines good?

Yes, chest machines are good.

The benefits span from better isolation through improved form and safety to precise targeting of pec regions like the upper chest muscles.

They’re not a substitute for weights because staple free-weight chest exercises like the classic bench press show higher muscle activation, especially at higher weights (study).

Can you build muscle using chest machines?

Yes, you can absolutely build muscle using chest machines.

A good chest machine such as our top pick – the Life Fitness Optima Series Chest Press, does a great job combining all three aspects of muscle growth – tension, overload, and metabolic stress.

As concluded by this 2020 comparative study “, training with free weights or machines resulted in similar increases in muscle mass and strength.”

What chest machine is best?

If your fitness level is beginner-to-intermediate and your goal is growth, a chest press machine is the best – our top pick is the Life Fitness Optima Series Chest Press.

It’s the closest it gets to the bench pressing with a few advantages, like an increased range of motion and improved safety.

Other types, like a chest fly machine (e.g. Body-Solid StrengthTech), might be a better fit for specific purposes and advanced lifters.

Other chest workout machines – honorary mentions

If you feel that some machines are missing from our top picks, you’re right.

If a machine type is not on our list, it falls into one of the following groups:

  1. It’s not really/solely a pec machine.

    A good example of this is the Smith machine. You can do chest exercises on it, but it’s not only a piece of chest exercise equipment.

    Also, there’s a Smith machine on some functional trainers, like the Inspire FT2.
  2. It’s rare, niche, and few people would benefit from the mention.

    We intentionally left out chest workout machines like the pullover because it meets all the criteria above. It’s been praised in the past, and the hardcore lifters know about it, but that’s about it.

    Introducing it here would confuse more people than it would benefit.
  3. It’s too expensive for home gyms.

    We only included the expensive stuff when it brings unique value…you know…beyond looking cool.

Chest gym machines – resume and key takeaways

I feel we covered the topic of chest machines in unmatched depth.

I honestly do.

We dug deep, and we unearthed some gems.

A prime example is the Life Fitness Optima Series Chest Press, which hits the nail on the head across all categories that matter for a home gym.

For those who prefer a more versatile piece for less money, we zeroed in on the Powertec multi-press.

If you need a reminder, click here to skip back to the table with the top picks.

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Steve Hoyles is a certified personal trainer and gym owner. Since graduating with his Sports Science degree in 2004 he's worked in the fitness industry, helping thousands of people reach their health and fitness goals. His writing has been read by millions of people in over 200 countries as he inspires to help as many people as possible live a healthy lifestyle.

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