The hammer strength chest press is a great chest exercise for a solo lifter, beginner, or athlete rehabbing a shoulder injury. The chest press machine works many of the same muscles as the bench press, but has a lower risk of injury and does not require a spotter. The bench press is a better workout for overall muscle engagement because it requires stabilizer muscles to perform properly. However, it has a higher risk of injury than the chest press machine and is more difficult for beginners to master.
Does Chest Press Work the Same Muscles as Bench Press?
Both the traditional flat bench press and the hammer strength chest press primarily activate the pectoralis major (pecs) muscles, which are the large muscles that make up the bulk of your chest. In addition, both exercises recruit your triceps and shoulders. However, the chest press machine places less of a load on your anterior deltoids (the muscle on the front of your shoulders). This can be great if you are prone to shoulder injury from the bench press.
- The pectoral muscles are the main muscle used in both chest press and bench press.
- Both exercises also activate the triceps and anterior deltoids.
- The chest press places reduced stress on shoulder muscles.
- The bench press uses more muscle groups to complete the compound lift.
The bench press recruits more secondary and stabilizer muscles than the chest press. Not only will your core muscles and your serratus anterior (the muscles below your armpits) work hard to stabilize the weight during the bench press, you’ll also use your quads and glutes to drive the barbell up. While the chest press isolates the pecs, a correctly performed bench press is best classified as a compound movement that works several muscle groups.
Can You Build Muscle with the Hammer Strength Chest Press?
The hammer strength machine is an excellent muscle-building tool. It allows you to move a lot of weight with your chest as the primary muscle. This translates to muscle mass gains when you perform the exercise correctly. Although there is a tendency in the weightlifting community to look down upon machine lifts, many are highly advantageous. Don’t ignore the benefits of adding the hammer strength chest press to your workout routine.
Hammer Strength Chest Press vs. Bench Press: Chest Exercise Showdown
Whether you’re new to the gym or an experienced lifter, it’s important to weigh your options in order to maximize your workout. Below, we’ll list the pros and cons of both the traditional bench press and the hammer strength machine chest press, then deliver a verdict on which one to use when and why. For the purposes of this comparison, we will be stacking the flat barbell bench up against the seated hammer strength chest press.
Hammer Strength: Pros
The chest press enables many lifters to move more weight than they can on the bench press. This not only prevents plateaus, but it also puts your pectoral muscles under positive stress. In turn, more positive stress translates to gains in muscle mass and strength. Plus, the chest press machine does not require a spotter to perform, so you can use it even if you don’t have a spotter. For many beginners, it’s much easier to learn on the chest press before moving to the bench.
- Most athletes can lift more weight with chest press than on bench.
- It’s safe to use without a spotter.
- Easier for beginners than learning how to bench.
- Decreased injury risk compared to the bench press.
- Great for rehabilitating a shoulder injury.
One of the biggest positives of the chest press is its decreased risk of injury. The bench press form is complex and takes a lot of patience and practice to master. Beginners risk injury by jumping into the bench press from the start. Additionally, because the hammer strength chest press reduces the activation of the shoulder muscles, it’s a great choice if you are recovering from a shoulder injury. You can safely build strength without aggravating your injury.
Hammer Strength: Cons
Perhaps the biggest knock on the hammer strength bench press is that it inhibits a free range of motion. Rather than the weight following a natural path, it swings on a hinge. This can make the exercise feel uncomfortable or even painful for some lifters. Additionally, the machine stabilizes the weight. So, you’ll ignore building important stabilizer muscles in your chest, shoulders, arms, and core when you use a chest press machine.
- Less natural range of motion compared to bench press.
- Recruits fewer stabilizer muscles than bench press.
- May result in less overall chest muscle activation.
- First rep form and starting position can be difficult or uncomfortable.
As we’ll see once we examine the bench press, the flat bench routinely knocks other exercises out of the park when it comes to activating your chest muscles. So, there’s an argument to be made that the bench press simply provides a better chest workout than the hammer strength machine. Additionally, some lifters find the chest press machine hard to use with good form. By beginning at the lowest point of the exercise, it’s difficult to get set, tense your chest muscles, and push the chest press on the initial repetition. In contrast, the bench press begins at the top of the motion, which allows you to stretch and engage your muscles from the first rep. This could be one of the reasons the bench press works the chest so well.
Bench Press: Pros
When compared to the dumbbell bench press and the Smith machine bench press, the barbell bench outperforms competitors in scientific studies. Although these studies do not pit the bench press head-to-head against the hammer strength bench press, they continually show the barbell bench is the best way to engage your chest muscles. This may be because the barbell bench press allows your body to move naturally and because it recruits so many stabilizer muscles to balance the weight.
- Best chest muscle engagement of common chest exercises.
- Allows a natural range of motion.
- Engages key stabilizer muscles.
- May allow for more muscle and strength gains than the chest press machine.
Because your triceps, shoulders, serratus anterior, and pectoral muscles are all engaged in controlling and stabilizing the weight throughout the bench press movement, your body experiences very high levels of muscular engagement during the exercise. In layman’s terms, your body works harder benching than during other chest exercises. So, while you may be able to move more weight on the chest press machine, you’ll get a better chest workout (and more muscle development) from doing the barbell bench press.
Bench Press: Cons
The bench press is responsible for quite a few shoulder injuries. Although this can sometimes be chalked up to bad form, there’s no denying that the flat bench works your shoulders more than the chest press machine. If you’ve had past shoulder injuries, or are currently recovering from one, the bench press is not the best choice.
- Increased injury risk vs chest press.
- You’ll move less weight and may plateau.
- Not safe for solo lifters.
- Unfriendly to beginners.
Because the bench press is so challenging for your entire body, it’s harder to progress on the bench vs the chest press. You may plateau, which can halt your muscle and strength gains. Now, add in the facts that the bench press cannot be safely performed without a spotter and that beginners often struggle to dial in good form. Pretty soon, you’ll see why many lifters head for the chest press machine rather than the bench.
Which is Better: Chest Press or Bench Press?
In general, we recommend the bench press over the chest press. Why? Because the bench press is scientifically proven to work your chest extremely well, and the purpose of these exercises is to build a bigger chest. However, there are other factors to consider:
Choose Chest Press if:
- You do not have a spotter to assist during bench press.
- You are prone to shoulder injury.
- You need to build strength and skill before bench pressing.
Choose Bench Press if:
- You have a gym partner or work out at a gym where other members are willing to spot you.
- You are willing to dedicate time and practice to developing proper form on the bench press.
- You want to perform the chest exercise that provides the most benefit for your chest muscles.
- You do not have chronic shoulder injury.
Make no mistake—both exercises will build a bigger, stronger chest. While our philosophy is generally to choose exercises that allow for free range of motion, there are many cases where the chest press is simply the better choice for you than the bench press. Additionally, since both are great exercises, don’t be afraid to use both in your routine.