Chest Press Questions

I’ve worked my way up to 160 lbs on the vertical chest press machine, so I decided to try a bench press with free weights. I can only do 115 lbs (10 reps). Does a bench press use different muscles or is it a case of getting used to balancing the bar and weights? I’m a big guy and am jealous of the skinny guys pressing 225 lbs. How long should it take to work my way up to that level?

This is probably a dumb question, but did you include the weight of the bar in your calculations? I think they weigh around 50 lbs. 50+115>160

The latter (although the former isn’t exactly wrong). There are two muscular systems in the human body, one for moving weights and one for stabilizing them. Machines are good for training the first, but near-useless for the second. As you’ve discovered, being strong enough to lift a weight but not strong enough to control it doesn’t help much.

Not a dumb question, but yes, I did.

Actually, there’s another possibility. Machines have pulleys in them, and depending on how the pulley is calibrated, the weight you’re actually lifting can be anywhere from the weight of the plates to quite a bit less.

The OP’s experience sounds a lot like mine. I was up to 190 on a seated machine bench bress, or even 210 if I pushed myself, but with dumbbells my best is using 65s, for a total weight of 130#.

With a barbell you should normally be able to handle more weight than with dumbbells, but less than with a benchpress machine, so it sounds like he should have been able to do a little better than 110#, at least extrapolating from my experience, so maybe there’s an issue of technique here.

Are you also being careful where you place your hands on the bar? The Machine usually forces you where to put your hands, but on the bar you can choose anywhere, which can effect the lift as well.

To expand, there’s quite a bit of technique involved in lifting free weights - your stabilizing muscles must be strong, and you have to have the muscle memory and form/technique. This is definitely something to get right at the beginning before picking up lots of bad habits, learning all the technique cheats, and possibly injuring oneself. Good luck.

I’ve noticed that chest press machines vary wildly and the weights are rarely consistant with eachother. On one machine I can push 210 and on another 140.
Free weights are the only way I know I’m consistantly pushing the same weight.