Located in Sterling, VA (703) 421-1200

The Chest Press - by Matthew Romans

The Chest Press is a staple of the Total Results exercise experience, and is usually one of the first two exercises that we teach to prospective clients during an initial consultation (the other being the Leg Press). We incorporate it very early on because it is one of the easiest to learn, is a somewhat familiar movement, and because it's a very important exercise. It is a horizontal pushing movement that encompasses the entire ventral upper body musculature (pertains to the front or anterior of the structure) . The primary mover of this exercise is the pectoralis (chest muscle), a muscle that performs the functions of flexion and adduction of the humerus (upper arm bone). The secondary muscles involved are the anterior deltoid (front of the shoulder), which medially rotates and flexes the arm, and the triceps (muscle on the back of the arm), which is largely responsible for extension of the elbow.

Our machine is designed differently from most traditional Chest Press machines, or even a well-designed MedX machine, for that matter. Most Chest Press machines that you see in commercial gyms have a movement arm that tracks horizontally, while MedX Chest Press machines track horizontally and in a slightly upward fashion while converging at the end of the positive phase of the movement. Our machine's movement arm tracks in a downward or descending fashion; we believe this enables us to involve the lower part of the pectoralis muscle, as well as the abdominal muscles much more effectively. The Chest Press has gently curved movement arm handles to allow for greater comfort, but we can also use sponges or hand pads if necessary. To maximize safety and effectiveness, a seat belt is used to restrain the pelvis and contain reactionary force. If a client has shoulder issues, your instructor can "gap" or move the starting position of the movement arm a notch or two forward to reduce irritation to the joint. The machine's cam is designed to make the resistance feel heaviest near the bottom out (where you possess the greatest amount of strength), and lightest in the most contracted position (where your strength is at its lowest level).

The key to maximizing your performance on this exercise is to focus on depression of your scapulae (shoulder blades). Elevating (raising) your shoulder girdle is the most common form discrepancy that we see on this exercise, and it places a greater demand on the smaller and weaker triceps at the expense of the chest muscles. Since the chest muscles are the muscles we really want to target, we want to engage them as much as possible by depressing the shoulders throughout the exercise. The seat should be set in such a way that the movement arm handles are just below the armpits, and the seat belt should be snugly fastened. The elbows should be at approximately a 45 degree angle from the rib cage. Movement will commence from the bottom out position, and the client should take six to seven seconds to completely straighten the elbows. From there, the client will take a few more seconds to perform a slight torso slump that permits the shoulder blades to come off the back pad. An upper turnaround will be performed and the weight will be lowered to bottom out, upon which the next repetition will start. Once momentary muscular failure has been reached, the client should continue to push for an additional five to ten seconds before easing gradually off the effort.

If joint irritation makes a traditional dynamic movement unfeasible, this exercise can be performed as a timed static contraction. In this case, the movement arm is pinned off somewhere in the mid-range of the movement and more weight is put on the weight stack than can possibly be moved. The client will then push against the immovable object for ninety seconds, increasing the intensity of effort in thirty-second intervals. Our Chest Press machine can also easily accommodate negative-only protocol, an off-shoot of our philosophy where the instructor hands off the movement arm to the client at the most contracted position and the client performs the negative (or lowering) portion of the movement.

The Chest Press can fit the tallest adult as well as the most diminutive pre-adolescent 10 years of age or older, although in the latter case an elevation pad may be required. This exercise is a key component of any balanced exercise routine, where we strive to give equal attention to pushing and pulling exercises as well as upper and lower body musculature.

Posted June 18, 2019 by Tim Rankin