Bench Press: Free Weights vs. Machines

In many large gyms, which called themselves “fitness” or “SPA”-centers, useful area is occupied by machines. Simple barbells are remained only a little place. Many of these machines are aimed at imitation of chest press. But the point is could they replace both flat and incline/decline bench press? Or does growth of pecs provide only by free weights workout? 

To tell the truth, machines are result of working of very clever people. These people make experiments with mechanisms to provide special group of muscles the same load they have during free weights training. But the other question how differ the quality of this research in different companies because all machines are not alike.

One day smart guys decided to compare what was better, a machine or a barbell. As usual, they created two focus-groups. The one trained its pecs with chest press machine called ‘Universal’, the other exercised with barbells. And what were the results? It was obvious. People who trained with barbells had more powerful and mass pectorals muscles. But the difference wasn’t so great and remarkable. And when the smart guys compared the efficiency of workouts with barbells and ‘Hammer’ chest press machine, it was the same.

Does it mean that trainings with machines and with free weights are equal? Unfortunately, no, it doesn’t. Why?

All because of benefit of workout with weights and machines depends on sportsman’s level of experience. Thus, basics with free weights give good increase but almost useless for beginners.

The reason is that beginners take lower weights, but in basic exercises load is distributed among several groups of muscles. And as a result, pecs has only little part of whole load. But it can’t give you large increase. So the machines are more useful for beginners.

But when you use the machines you should know about submerged facts Too. Starting to train you need to find the most convenient body position for your(!)self. But beginners are not good in feeling their bodies. This may cause wrong seat height and angle. Therefore it is better to ask help from experienced instructor or workout partner.

As to the jocks, they are staying one-step higher than beginners and, actually, understand more or less what they are doing, how and what for. Therefore it is not difficult for them to get maximum benefit from the machine. Now, of course, plates and bars will be thrown at me, but this is true. Nobody forgets about barbell, it is effective for pecs’ increase but only with force sets. And these sets can be done only with assistant. As a consequence, individual bench press training with barbells is almost useless for pecs’ growth. But since almost all advanced jocks like to train solo, it makes no sense to continue.... To summarize, it is better for advanced jocks and men’s bikini athletes to use machines during their workouts. Furthermore, there is a feature about pecs’ increase. It begins from the training with weights more than 120 kilograms. Few people can press at least one hundred kilos without a spotter. 

Now, let’s talk about elite, experienced athletes. These guys are working together with their associates, who always can help with force reps. Moreover, experienced athletes train with extremely heavy weights about 140-160 kilos. With such weights pectorals muscles get enough load even during flat bench press exercise. I.e. workouts with free weights for elite bodybuilders are indispensible a priori. 

Besides, there is one more factor. Bodybuilders have all their groups of muscles developed equally. They haven’t bias towards one or two groups of muscles. Hence they no need to care about additional trainings for week muscles. They have more global task, to recruit more muscle mass. Only basic exercises can tackle with this. Of course, bodybuilders use the machines to load separate muscle or its segment but only when preparing for the competitions.