Is a Chest Press the Same as a Bench Press?

So, you also ask the question: Is a chest press the same as a bench press? If you also wonder if these workouts are the same, let’s talk about it!

The chest press is not the same as the bench press. They may target the same muscle groups, but they differ in performance and the stabilizer muscles being used. Also, the chest press relies on a machine, while the bench press involves a compound lift.

Read on to know the basic differences between the two.

Is a Chest Press the Same as a Bench Press
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Even though the chest press and the bench press are entirely different exercises, they still have some similarities considering that they are both great at working your chest muscles.

Here are the key points where the chest press is similar to the bench press.

Primary muscles targeted

When it comes to the muscles primarily targeted by the chest press and the bench press, there really aren’t a lot of differences.

The main muscle group targeted by both workouts is the pectoralis major, also called the pecs. These chest muscles are responsible for a lot of the force behind the pushing movements that you do. This is because you primarily get the power from your chest muscles.

The chest muscles are divided into three subgroups which are the upper, middle, and lower pecs. Each of these muscles can be targeted by changing the angle at which you are doing the chest press and the bench press. Lying flat on the pads of the machine or on the bench targets the whole chest area including your upper and lower chest.

But if you want to isolate your upper chest so that it will grow bigger, you have to put the pads on the chest press or the bench of the bench press in an incline position such that your body is at an angle between 15 to 30 degrees. Meanwhile, for those who want to focus more on your lower chest muscles, you have to put the pad or the bench at an angle that makes it closer to the ground at about 15 to 30 degrees down from the flat position of a regular chest press or bench press.

Secondary muscles targeted

The chest press and the bench press are also very similar in terms of the secondary muscles they target.

These secondary muscles may not be the focal points of the workouts. They’re there to help you in performing both the chest press and the bench press.

As such, they are also worked well enough, but not to a degree similar to that of when you isolate these muscle groups in exercises that are dedicated entirely to them.

Read more about these secondary muscles below and how they help in performing your chest or bench press.

Deltoids

The deltoids are also activated whenever you are doing your chest press and bench press. These are the muscles that are found around your shoulders where your arms and shoulders meet.

Your deltoids are also worked because you will be moving your shoulders a lot whenever you are doing your chest press and bench press, and you involve your entire arm muscles in performing these exercises.

In doing both the chest press and the bench press, anterior deltoids are used more than the others. These are the muscles in front of your shoulders and where your upper chest and your shoulders meet. They rotate a lot while you are doing your chest press and bench press and are helping your chest when you are doing these workouts.

Triceps

The triceps are the muscles found in the back of your arms just below the rear shoulder muscles. These muscles are responsible for allowing your arms to extend because of how the triceps are the ones that work whenever you are straightening your elbows.

In case you haven’t noticed, you are fully extending your elbows at the peak of the chest press and the bench press. That means that you are working your triceps a lot in such workouts. Your triceps also assist your chest muscles to have more pushing force you need to perform both the chest press and the bench press.

Biceps

The biceps are the muscles that are in front of your arms and are at the anterior portion. They are responsible for providing arm strength whenever you are bending your elbows against resistance. The biceps also assist your body in movements involving pulling.

There isn’t a lot of resistance involved when you perform the chest press or the bench press. This is because the resistance is at the pushing end instead of the pulling end.

However, as stabilizer muscles, your biceps are the ones helping you when you are both bending and extending your elbows.

Performance

While the chest press and the bench press are performed very differently, there are still some similarities because they are actually hitting the same muscle groups.

In most cases, the chest press involves a machine with a bench or a pad that can be adjusted in several angles for you to hit your chest areas in all sorts of ways. You are then supposed to grab on the handles of the machine and then push them upward against the resistance provided by the machine itself. This is similar to how you are doing your bench press on old-school bench equipment.

Regardless of whether you are using dumbbells or a barbell, the basic premise of a bench press is the same because you are supposed to be pushing the dumbbells or the barbell upward while you are lying on a bench that can be adjusted at different angles to suit your preferences.

While we may have discussed that the chest press and the bench press have certain similarities, they also have some differences.

Performance

Performance-wise, the chest press and the bench press don’t seem like they are a lot different from one another at all. If you merely look at the basic movement, pressing or pushing the weight forward or upward is the same. However, the devil lies in the details because you can see how different they actually are if you try to break down each workout.

The chest press, as mentioned, involves a machine and a bench or a pad that you can both adjust depending on the weight and angle you prefer.

While that doesn’t stray far away from how you do your bench press, you have to consider the fact that you can do a chest press in an instant because you only have to position yourself on the machine regardless of whether the chest press machine requires you to sit or to lie down. All you have to do is to push the handles forward (for a seated chest press) or upward (for a lying chest press).

The seated version is the one that is most different from a bench press because the movement is more like pushing a weight up a ramp instead of how a bench press is supposed to work, which involves you having to push a weight off the ground against gravity.

Stabilizer muscles

We have mentioned and discussed that both the chest press and the bench press target the same primary and secondary muscle groups whenever you are performing these exercises.

However, because of how different they are in the actual performance, there are some differences in terms of the muscles used.

In terms of the stabilizer muscles being used, your shoulder muscles and arm muscles are working together to stabilize your body while you are doing the workouts. However, more stabilizer muscles are involved in performing the bench press than the chest press.

A chest press minimizes the need for stabilizer muscles because the machine stabilizes your position for you so that all you have to do is to push the weight forward or upward. You are no longer required to make sure that your shoulders are stabilized correctly.

Meanwhile, when you look at the anatomy of the bench press, you would notice how it involves more stabilizer muscles.

A barbell bench press requires you to keep your shoulders stable so that the bar doesn’t move in all sorts of different angles as you are pressing it upward from your body. On the other hand, because each of the muscle groups in your right and left sides is isolated when you are using dumbbells for bench presses, you are incorporating more stabilizer muscles to make sure that the dumbbells don’t move around forward, backward, and sideways while you are pressing them up during the actual performance of the bench press.

While the chest press also requires that you keep your spine neutral, you are not really engaging your core muscles a lot. This is because there is no need to stabilize your body so much as the machine does it for you.

On the other hand, you have to keep your core engaged the entire time in the bench press for your entire upper body to stay stable.

Difficulty

At this point, you probably already have the idea regarding which between the chest press and the bench press is the more difficult workout.

The short story is that the chest press is naturally the easier workout, while the bench press is the more difficult one to do.

The chest press is easier to do than the bench press because you don’t need to use more stabilizer muscles. The machine stabilizes the rest of your body for you, so all you have to do is to focus on the pressing part. It basically allows you to isolate your chest muscles so that you can reduce the pressure on your other muscle groups.

On the other hand, the bench press is more difficult because of how it requires you to use more stabilizer muscles to perform the workout safely.

You also have to consider the fact that the possibility of injuring yourself is higher in a bench press because there aren’t a lot of safety measures put in place as opposed to a chest press that keeps your body safe from the weights.

While the chest press may be the easier of the two workouts, it does have its advantages over the bench press.

  1. The chest press is better for beginners because it doesn’t involve a lot of muscle groups and because of how it allows them to learn the basics of how to do pressing workouts properly. On top of that, it is generally easier to do because all that the beginner has to do is to sit on the machine and do the workout.
  2. You are better off using the chest press if you are strapped for time because of how the prep work is eliminated. Using the chest press only involves you sitting or lying down on the pad or the bench and then choosing the appropriate weight and angle that is right for your workout.
  3. The chest press is good for isolating your chest muscles because it decreases the pressure on all of your stabilizer muscles. This works great for those who may want to remedy imbalances in their muscles because of how the chest press doesn’t involve your arms and shoulders as much as the bench press does.
  4. If you are suffering from shoulder pains, the chest press is the better choice for you because it reduces the pressure felt by your shoulders.
  5. It is much easier to overload your workout using the chest press because of how much safer it is to use than the bench press. You can just adjust the weight on the machine to the highest possible that you can lift and then do your workout without fearing the possibility of your chest muscles giving out and injuring yourself with a bar falling on your body.

The bench press also has its own benefits.

  1. The bench press builds more power and is better at developing your muscles compared to the chest press because of how difficult it is to do. You would notice that carrying 100 pounds in a bench press is a lot more difficult than pressing 120 pounds on a chest press machine.
  2. Doing bench presses is better for bodybuilders because it is a compound lift that works a lot of different muscle groups together with your chest area. That means that you are able to work and build more muscles in the other areas of your body when you are doing this workout. At the same time, it also best for those who are training for size and power.
  3. Bench presses burn more calories because it requires you to work more muscles in the process and because of how much more difficult it is compared to the chest press.
  4. The bench press is a much more natural workout because of how you are taught how to do the exercise in the most optimal way for your muscles and because of how the movements you do when you are bench pressing is much closer to the regular movements you do on a day to day basis.

The chest press is an easier chest workout to do compared to the bench press because it uses fewer stabilizer muscles. It relies on the machine to stabilize your entire body.

Both workouts target the same muscle groups, but they are performed differently.

I would suggest the chest press for beginners because it doesn’t involve a lot of muscle groups.

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James Wright

James (36) has been working out since he was 15 years old. He has a home gym where he pumps iron, does bodyweight workouts and boxing. He likes sharing his experiences with others who want to build a better physique.

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