The pec deck machine can be found in most commercial gyms. Developed as a more controlled way to do the dumbbell flye, it allows beginners and experienced trainers alike to perform the flye movement with correct alignment through a safe range of motion.
It also makes it easy to adjust the resistance via its pin selector weight stack.
That’s all good and well when you’re paying for a gym membership. But very few home gyms are equipped with a properly functioning pec deck machine. I say properly function because you can buy multi gyms that feature a pec deck station.
In my experience as a seasoned reviewer of such machines, though, they hardly ever allow for a proper range of motion.
They also put the shoulders in a vulnerable position with a 90 degree bend at the elbow coupled with flexion and external rotation of the shoulder. It’s about as bad a design as you could come up with.
But I’m getting geeky, so read on, we’ll explain what this means in a moment…
Over the decades of my career as a personal trainer, I’ve trained a lot of people in their home gyms. During that time, I’ve experimented with every chest exercise known to man.
When it comes to home-friendly pec deck alternatives, I’ve narrowed it down to eight key moves.
In this article, I’ll share the exact same pec deck alternative exercises I use with my home gym clients to simulate the pec deck experience.
- Is The Pec Deck a Good Chest Exercise?
- Potential Shoulder Stress
- Machine Design Problems
- The Accessibility Issue
- Equipment Needed for the Pec Deck Alternatives
- 8 Pec Deck Alternatives That Replicate The Same Movement Pattern
- 1. Flat Dumbbell Fly
- 2. Plate Pinch Press
- 3. Floor Flye (Eccentric)
- 4. Slider Push Up
- 5. Wide Grip Bench Press
- 6. TRX Fly
- 7. Resistance Band Flye
- 8. Svend Press
Is The Pec Deck a Good Chest Exercise?
The pec deck does a good job of isolating the pectorals and moving them fully through the horizontal plane… when it allows the arms to mimic the movement of the fly.
However, because there is no vertical pushing involved in this exercise, it is limited in its ability to emulate the complete functional movement of the pectorals.
But research does suggest that strength and hypertrophy gains are very similar when using free weights compared to machines.
Potential Shoulder Stress
When most people do the pec deck flye exercise, they tend to allow the elbow to drop so that it is held lower than the hands and shoulders. This causes misalignment and creates an external rotational force to be applied to the humerus/shoulder joint.
This can result in strain on the shoulder.
This factor is influenced by the position of your hands on the handles of the machine. If you hold the handles so that the palms of your hands are facing forward, it will automatically tend to rotate your elbows downward.
This will, in turn, cause the resistance from the machine to force an external rotation of the humerus (upper arm bone). This will strain the shoulder joint.
If you grip the handles so that the palms of your hands are facing downward, it will automatically tend to rotate your elbows upward.
This will allow your elbows to be better aligned with your hands and your shoulders, and the trajectory of your movement, as well as the direction of the resistance. So, it is important to keep your elbows up when you are doing this exercise.
The height of the seat should be set so that your hands and your shoulders are both at the same height.
Machine Design Problems
Another problem with the pec peck is that you are at the mercy of the designer of the machine that you happen to find at your gym.
Most pec deck machines have a cam which provides more resistance at the beginning of the range of motion, with the resistance gradually decreasing as the range of motion nears its completion.
This is a good thing as it coincides with the early phase loading nature of the pectoral muscles (i.e the pecs are strongest at the beginning of the movement).
The vast majority of pec deck machines, though, do not provide enough diminishment of the resistance toward the end of the range of motion.
As a result, when you select a resistance that allows you to complete the range of motion at the weaker end phase, it will probably be too light to sufficiently challenge you during the early part of the rep where your pecs are stronger!
The Accessibility Issue
The biggest problem when it comes to the pec deck machine is getting access to it. While most commercial gyms will have at least one of these machines, very few home gyms will have one.
As I mentioned at the outset, those that do usually feature inferior and quality add-on as part of a multi-gym that will not provide you with a decent training experience.
Equipment Needed for the Pec Deck Alternatives
8 Pec Deck Alternatives That Replicate The Same Movement Pattern
1. Flat Dumbbell Fly
Flat dumbbell flyes needed for exercise:
- Flat weight bench
SMRFT Nüobell 80LB Adjustable Dumbbells
These are the dumbbells we recommend for ‘most people’.
We have spent over 50 hours of research and compared over 100 dumbbells. Adjustable dumbbells make sense for most home gyms as they save space.
The Nüobell dumbbells go all the way to 80lbs per hand. This means they are much more versatile than most 50lbs adjustable dumbbells. You can use these for heavy shrugs, squats and bench press etc.
The main reason they are the top pick is because of their shape. They actually feel like real dumbbells and are not awkward to lift like some others.
How to do the flat dumbbell flye:
- Lie on a flat bench with a pair of dumbbells held above your mid chest, palms facing and the weights touching each other. Your elbows should be slightly bent but locked in that position.
- Hinging from the shoulder joint, bring the weights down and out to the sides until the dumbbells are in line with your torso (do not go lower than this).
- Return to the start position.
Flat Dumbbell flye muscles worked:
- Front deltoids
2. Plate Pinch Press
Equipment needed for exercise:
- Weight plate
How to do the plate pinch press:
- Stand with a weight plate held between your hands at chest level with your elbows bent and the edge of the plate against your body.
- Press your hands together forcefully as you push your arms out to full extension while keeping your arms parallel to the floor.
- Bring the arms back to the start position, continuing to press inward throughout the movement.
- Repeat for the desired rep count.
Plate pinch press muscles worked:
- Front deltoids
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3. Floor Flye (Eccentric)
Equipment needed for eccentric floor flye:
How to do the eccentric floor flye:
- Place a pair of dumbbells on the floor. They should be about 20% heavier than you would normally use for dumbbell flyes.
- Get down on the floor, sitting on your butt with your knees bent directly behind the dumbbells. Grab hold of the dumbbells and roll back so you’re lying on the floor with the dumbbells held at arm’s length.
- Bend your elbows slightly and keep them locked in that position.
- Perform an eccentric fly by arcing your arms down to the floor.
- Press the weight back up to the start position.
Eccentric floor flye muscles worked:
- Front deltoids
4. Slider Push Up
Slider push up needed for exercise:
- Sliders (or hand cloths)
- A slick floor (polished timber or tiles)
How to do the slider push up:
- Lie on a slick floor in the standard push up position with sliders (or hand cloths) under your palms. In the start position your hands should be close together with the thumbs touching, feet shoulder width apart and body forming a straight line from the neck to the ankles.
- Slowly lower into the bottom push up position. At the same time, slide your hands apart. In the bottom push up position, your hands should be under your shoulders.
- As you push back up to the start position, slide your hands back together.
- Repeat for the required rep count.
Slider push up muscles worked:
- Front deltoids
5. Wide Grip Bench Press
Equipment needed for the wide grip bench press:
How to do the wide grip bench press:
- Set the appropriate weight on the bar.
- Lie on the bench with your feet planted firmly on the floor. Maintain a natural back arch with your hips and shoulder blades on the bench.
- Grab the bar about three inches wider than shoulder width.
- Unrack the bar and bring it out over your mid-chest.
- Lower under control until your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
- Press back to the start position.
Wide grip bench press muscles worked:
- Front deltoids
6. TRX Fly
Equipment needed for the TRX Flye:
- Suspension trainer
This is the suspension trainer that we recommend for ‘most people’.
We have spent compared over 50 of them and ran them against our criteria.
It’s robust, very high quality, easy to adjust and pack away.
The main reason it gets our top spot is because of its versatility. The adjustable feet straps and rubber handles allow you to do more movements than other trainers that don’t have these features.
How to do the TRX flye:
- Connect the suspension straps to an overhead anchor and stand directly under it.
- Grab the handles with a palms facing grip and extend the arms in front of your chest with a slight bend in the elbows.
- Keeping your arms locked in the bent elbow position, lean forward as you extend your arms out to the side. By the time the arms are out to the dies, your body should be at a 45-degree angle to the floor.
- Return to the starting position under control.
TRX Flye muscles worked:
- Front deltoids
7. Resistance Band Flye
Resistance band flye needed for exercise:
How to do the resistance band flye:
- Place a resistance band anchor at the top of a doorway and close the door. Loop a resistance band through the anchor and stand facing away from the door, holding the handles with palms down grip.
- Move about two feet away from the anchor point so the band is taut.
- Keep your hands together and elbows slightly bent at the starting position. Lock your elbows in that position.
- Pivot from the shoulder joint to move your arms out and back in an arcing motion. Stop when your arms are in line with your body.
- Return to the start position under control.
Resistance band flye muscles worked:
- Front deltoids
Want more chest-focused alternative exercises? Check out our 5 genuine alternatives to dips by a certified PT.
8. Svend Press
Equipment needed for the Svend press:
How to do the Svend press:
- Lie on the bench with a pair of dumbbells extended above your mid chest at arm’s length. Have your hands close together so that the dumbbells are pressing into each other.
- Lower the weights to your chest, forcefully push inwards.
- Continue this inward pressure, push back to the start position.
Svend press muscles worked:
- Front deltoids
Pec Deck Alternatives: The Bottom Line
The pec deck is a very good exercise to isolate the pecs and move them through their horizontal range of motion. If you work out at home, though, you needn’t splurge on one of these machines.
There are some excellent pec deck alternative exercises that will provide just as good as isolating the pecs and horizontally extending and contracting them.
In this article, I’ve detailed the eight top pec deck alternatives that I’ve developed over a lifetime of personal training.
I recommend testing all eight of them out on your body and then narrowing them down to the two or three that give you the best results in terms of pec activation and pump.
They mimic the movement pattern of the pec deck effectively, but they also activate the stabilizing and supporting muscles more effectively too. Not only are these exercises more accessible therefore, they’re also better!
Add these moves into your workout so that they follow your heavy-pressing exercises.
Want to build tree trunk quads but need to avoid squats? We’ve got you covered with our top 5 hack squat alternatives.