I have a multi-gym machine very similar to the one shown. It allows me to emulate a bench press from a seated position, I think this is exercise is called a seated chest press?

I have never done a a real bench press and have very limited experience with free weights generally so in what ways will the two differ? I can imagine safety and psychological differences - you can't drop it on yourself - for a start!

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1 Answer 1


Generally, the main difference between free weights and machines is the use/non-use of stabilizing muscles. When you do any free weight exercise, you have to work to keep the weights on the correct path, whereas machines have fixed paths.

So in your case, if you did a proper Bench Press, you can imagine having to make sure the barbell travels the correct path from/to your chest, without traveling to far to the front (it lands on your stomach) or back (it lands on your face) or tipping over to one side.

With the machine Chest Press, all you have to do is press. If the machine is not uni-lateral (meaning both handles move together), you can even make up for a weak side with the other, promoting imbalances.

This makes free weight exercises more complicated, more "functional" and recruit more muscles. In turn, machine exercises enable you to focus more on the desired muscles.

A web search along the lines of "free weights vs machines" or maybe this article, which I only skimmed over, could get you a more in-depth answer for sure.

  • 1
    that all makes sense, I was wondering as well if there is any difference being upright... there are bench-press machines where you lie flat so would one of those be any different to a seated machine?
    – Mr. Boy
    Oct 18, 2021 at 14:00
  • I have never seen one of those, but if it's just the same thing rotated 90 degrees, it would not make any difference concerning the chest muscles being worked. It would feel a bit different setup wise though, since you'd be lying down and planting your feet on the ground. What does make a difference is the angle in which your arms move in relation to your chest / torso. More "upwards" works the upper chest more, whereas more "downwards" works the lower chest more. Oct 18, 2021 at 20:55
  • You say "bench press...barbell" but a dumbbell bench press is helpful in a couple of ways: It should work the supporting muscles more than with a bar; (Especially if training solo) if coming from resistance machines where failing doesn't mean a risk of dropping the bar on yourself, it's easier to fail safely with dumbbells. Then you've got them right next to the bench for single arm rows - and using the same weight for both exercises can be about right.
    – Chris H
    Oct 20, 2021 at 10:24
  • Chris H, I didn't write anything against the DB Bench Press or about the Barbell Bench Press being superior. I simply used the Barbell Bench Press to illustrate one example of Bench Press vs Chest Press. Also, when people speak of the "Bench Press", they usually refer to the barbell version, and this is how it was phrased in the question. Also, since Mr. Boy was talking about dropping it on himself I assumed he's not speaking about DBs, which as you pointed out (where I also agree with you), would be safer in some regards. This was never a debate about barbell vs dumbbell. Oct 20, 2021 at 14:03
  • @JustinHehli fair enough. I maybe read too much into your sentence that includes "proper Bench Press, ... barbell" (which followed on from very similar wording in the Q). It's certainly possible to drop a DB on yourself bench pressing itis perhaps more . My comment was anyway directed as much at the OP as you, but now I would say it's far more relevant to Mr. Boy than to your answer
    – Chris H
    Nov 3, 2021 at 15:50

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