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If someone mentions bench press, your mind likely goes to the flat-bench exercise that involves pushing up a weighted barbell. But many fitness facilities offer a machine that allows you to perform the bench press exercise from a seated position. The seated machine version is a good choice for beginners and older individuals who are concerned about holding weighted implements over their heads.
The seated bench press puts you in a sitting position with two handles located just outside each of your shoulders. Before beginning, adjust the seat height so that these handles line up with the horizontal line of your chest. Select the amount of weight you'll be lifting by placing the pin into the stack of weighted plates. Sit with your back firmly against the pad and your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Grasp the handles so that your elbows are flared out to your sides. Push the handles away from you until your arms are fully extended. Control the handles back to the starting position by bending your elbows and allowing them to flare out again. Stop just short of the weight stacks touching so that there's constant tension on your arms, and then go into the next repetition.
Just as in regular bench press, the seated machine version primarily develops the major muscle in the chest. The pectoralis major originates at your sternum and then shoots up to each shoulder where it inserts at the top of your upper arms. This allows it to pull your arms toward the centerline of your body, which is anatomically referred to as horizontal adduction. In addition, your deltoids, which are the major muscles in the shoulders, contribute by flexing the shoulder joints, and your triceps brachii extend your elbows as you push the handles away from you.
Doing the seated bench press on a machine allows novice and elderly lifters to master the pressing movement and develop their upper body safely. There's no concern about lack of coordination or dropping the weights. A spotter is recommended whenever lifting free weight implements such as dumbbells or barbells, but the seated machine exercise can be performed safely while you're on your own.
Although the seated bench press machine is a safer exercise, you should make an effort to eventually transition into the free weight version of the exercise. Training with free weights is more ideal than working out on machines because they require greater coordination and recruit surrounding stabilizing muscles. Free-weight exercises also more closely mimic movements that you do during athletics and daily life activities, which means the strength and abilities you develop during your weight-training workouts will more efficiently transition into real-life performance improvements.