Archive for the tag - chest press

Top 3 Most Effective Chest Exercises!

shirtless chest pressStrong and developed chest muscles don’t just look sexy, they’re essential to a wide-range of everyday activities and can help boost athletic performance. If building chest muscles is in line with your fitness goals, it begs the question: Which exercises are the most effective?

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) enlisted the help of researchers from the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse to study the effectiveness of various chest exercises including the barbell bench press, pec deck machine, bent-forward cable crossovers, chest press machine, inclined dumbbell flys, dips, suspended push-ups, stability ball push-ups and standard push-ups.

For the study, participants included fourteen healthy men between the ages of 18 and 30 for which baselines were established. Electromyography (EMG) electrodes were placed on the pectoralis major muscle of each subject to analyze motor-unit recruitment, firing rate and synchronization. Using this data, researchers were able to determine which exercises resulted in the highest levels of muscle activation.

Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 9.52.10 AMAfter pouring through the data, researchers concluded that the barbell bench press was the most effective exercise. The pec deck machine and bent-forward cable crossovers came in as a close second and third, respectively. (See chart at right for the full listing of exercises.)

If your goal is hypertrophy (muscle size) and if you’re able to commit a to several days of exercise per week, then the barbell bench press can’t be beat.

However, if you’re more interested in overall health, functional strength or don’t go to the gym daily, then don’t write off some of the lower-performing exercises altogether. Though push-ups, for example, don’t result in the highest levels of chest muscle activation, they’re a great exercise that works several different muscle groups and that results in real-world strength.

All of these chest exercises can play a useful role in your workout routine; it’s just a matter of customizing your regimen based on your goals and time commitments.




Is the Smith Machine Good?

Dear Davey,

I am new to working out and recently joined Planet Fitness, but the free weights are very limited. A majority of the exercises that I want to perform use barbells and the closest thing they have is a Smith Machine. How do you feel about the Smith Machine?


Hey Jason,

Congratulations on joining a gym and prioritizing fitness. The first step is always the hardest – and so you’re well on your way to achieving your fitness goals!

As it turns out, the Smith Machine was invented by fitness guru Jack LaLanne – and then later improved by fitness executive Rudy Smith in the 1950s. Basically, the Smith Machine is an apparatus with a barbell that runs vertically along two guided rods. By twisting your wrists, you can rack the barbell on any of the many joints that run along the frame.

Because the barbell runs along rods for guidance, the idea is that it’s a safer alternative to typical squats which are often performed in a power cage. Because the Smith Machine helps stabilize the barbell, lifters can generally use heavier weights – and no spotter is required.

It sounds good on paper, but the reality is quite different.

Proper Form and Bar Movement

Whether you are using the Smith Machine for squats, bench pressing or shoulder lifts, one must consider that – in real life – barbells rarely follow a straight vertical path. Our bodies are all different and we all have varying flexibility, imbalances and bodily dimensions. As we squat, for example, there is constant shifting and balancing as we perform the exercise.

Because the Smith Machine takes a one-size-fits-all approach, there is additional strain placed on joints, tendons and ligaments to accommodate the straight vertical path. Over time, this can create discomfort or even injury.

Stabilizer Muscles

A friend of mine switched from the bench press to the Smith Machine. On the bench press, he could lift 200 pounds. Within a month or two, he was up to 240 pounds on the Smith Machine’s chest press. This seemed like great progress – until he went back to the bench press. He could only lift 180 pounds, meaning he had actually lost real-world strength.

The Smith Machine gives a false sense of progress because it does all the stabilizing work for you. The bench press, for example, doesn’t just involve your chest muscles. Smaller stabilizer muscles must also work to help balance the bar – and this is a good thing. For real world strength, those stabilizer muscles are absolutely necessary. When using a Smith Machine, you cut them out of the picture.


I’d keep my distance from the Smith Machine and stick with free weights whenever possible. Though your gym may not have barbells, there are many effective dumbbell exercises that you can use to train your muscles effectively. Down the road, if you find that the lack of equipment is limiting your results, it may be time to find a new gym.