While there aren't many machines that are great for training the chest and pecs, the pec deck is the one exception. When performed correctly, pec deck flys can put a huge burn and progressive overload on the pectorals, leading to a good level of hypertrophy in a muscle group that is hard to target.
While this is a great exercise for beginners, as people grow more experienced in the gym, they will find there are better pec deck alternatives to choose from in the free weights section.
In this article, we will look at these alternatives and examine which are best for which situation.
Table of Contents
- 11 Best Pec Deck Alternative Exercises To Try!
- Benefits Of The Classic Pec Deck Fly Exercise
- Pec Deck Alternative Exercises At Home - Tips For Beginners
- What Muscles Do Pec Deck Fly Substitute Exercises Work?
- Pec Deck FAQs
11 Best Pec Deck Alternative Exercises To Try!
For some people, pec deck flys are uncomfortable or trigger injury pain. For others, they may not be sufficient enough to target their developed pecs enough. If you fall into either category, you might want to consider the following pec dec alternatives.
1. Cable Crossover
Cable crossovers are a great way to increase the size and strength of your chest. Exercises like the bench press that are classed as compound lifts are great, but their multi-joint nature means they are exhausting, you are going to need some exercises that support and isolate, and the cable crossover is a perfect choice.
Bodybuilders love cable crossover machines because they are one of the best for those that want to gain definition in their chest muscles.
To do them correctly, set the pulleys as high as they go, stand with your feet around about shoulder width and bend forwards slightly. Now keep your back neutral and pull both handles across your body and squeeze your chest before returning to your starting position.
Garage Gym Pro Tip - By changing the height of the cable pulleys, you'll work different parts of your chest. Try a few different variations to stimulate your chest muscle fibers.
Required Equipment - Best Cable Crossover Machines
2. Chest Dips
While the bench press is the popular and showy chest move that most people will use as their go-to, experienced lifters often have a different opinion. The chest dip is a brutal move and one that many avoid simply due to the pain it puts them through.
For many experienced lifters, their shoulders get tired before their chest, meaning the chest doesn't get the activation they want.
The chest dip requires exceptional form and stabilization, meaning you engage exactly what you want to engage. They target the outer chest to a huge degree and build explosive strength that translates well into other movements.
This exercise can also be performed on just a set of dip bars or a power tower, which is much easier to set up in a home gym.
Garage Gym Pro Tip - Since you are supporting your bodyweight on your wrists, this exercise might be a good choice for people with wrist issues.
Suggested Equipment - Best Power Tower For Home Gyms
3. Wide Grip Bench Press
The bench press is one of those OG compound lifts that epitomize weightlifting. This is where the big numbers are lifted, where the men are sorted out from the boys. You vs the bar in a brutal struggle for survival.
For progressive overload, there are not many exercises that allow you to clock up the total weight lifted like sets of bench presses, so we highly recommend you include a variant of them in your chest workout.
The wide grip bench press, in particular, activates more of the chest and less of the triceps, which is great for building up mass and strength in the chest.
Garage Gym Pro Tip - For this exercise, you will likely be able to lift more than you would during a close grip bench press as your shoulders and chest are doing more of the work.
Read Also - How To Set Up A Power Rack For Bench Press
Another OG exercise, push-ups, are the easiest exercise to perform in any situation and require no equipment. This means they can be done anywhere.
Push-ups are also regarded as one of the most well-rounded exercises, targeting your chest, shoulders, triceps, and core in a single bodyweight movement.
When trying to build a rock-solid core and foundation that will translate into almost every other area, push-ups are one of the most effective ways to do so.
Remember to start in a high plank, keeping your palms flat and shoulder distance apart. Keep your shoulder stacked above your wrists if possible, and your glutes and core engaged to make sure you avoid injury.
Garage Gym Pro Tip - If you find regular push ups too easy, you can try a variation called prison push ups. You start by standing and then dropping down into a regular push up. Then, standing back up and doing a bodyweight lateral raise with your hands above your head. Like a jumping jack but don't move your feet. Do this as a finisher and you'll certainly feel it the next day.
Learn More - Push Ups Vs Bench Press
5. Incline/Decline Bench Press
Switching up your bench press is a great way to get over plateaus in strength and size. This is best done once you are experienced and happy with your form and strength levels.
Swapping your position from horizontal to incline or decline will allow you to put more strain on different parts of your chest. Obviously, the incline will allow you to train your upper pecs more, and the decline will put more strain on the lower.
When trying these lifts out for the first time, we recommend going low on the weights, don't expect to be able to lift your flat bench weight. You should also seek the help of a spotter. The movements do feel weird, to begin with, and a dropped barbell is no fun for anyone.
Garage Gym Pro Tip - Along with a spotter, you should always have the safety bars or straps on the rack. It's always important to put safety first.
Related Article - 8 Decline Bench Press Alternatives
6. Sliding Push Up
Once you are experienced with regular push-ups, you might want a little bit more stimulation to shock the body into further growth. The sliding push-up is an advanced bodyweight modification of the push-up. It places a considerable strain on the chest and core, especially the rib cage stabilizer muscles.
To do these, get into the traditional push-up position with your hands stacked under your shoulders and place one hand on an exercise slider. Extend that arm fully and then push-up using the other arm.
This is a tough exercise and should only be done by people with a strong core and experience as it has a high chance of injury when done wrong.
Garage Gym Pro Tip - If you don't have exercise slider, you can use a towel to allow you to slide across the floor.
Read More About - Diamond Push Up Benefits
7. Cable Fly
The cable fly is like the evolved, more serious version of the pec dec. With the pec deck, the machine runs on tracks which make it very stable and take away a lot of the work of the stabilization muscles.
On the other hand, the cable fly requires you to brace your core and keep your stabilizers engaged. Your arms are much wider, and the strain is much higher. This is the perfect progression move for those that are beginning to get to grips with the mind-muscle connection and want a little bit more from their workout.
Garage Gym Pro Tip - For this exercise, many athletes use a functional trainer like the one pictured below. If you don't have one, you can also use resistance bands.
Try This Product - XMark Functional Trainer Review
8. TRX Fly
If you are lucky enough to own a TRX trainer or your gym has one, the TRX fly is exceptional for building muscle and size. Suspension-style trainers have become increasingly popular worldwide, and when performed correctly, we can see why.
Using a TRX will allow you to isolate your pecs in a way that you can't get through a dumbbell or a machine. To keep stable, you will utilize those tiny muscles and stabilizers that you don't even know you have.
The TRX fly is almost like a mix between a push-up and a cable fly, with you using your body weight to induce the burn and the progressive overload. Make sure you don't use explosive movements here; time under tension is key for growth and to prevent injury. When done correctly, your muscles will be engaged the entire time, creating a burn that is hard to beat.
Garage Gym Pro Tip - Calisthenics exercises, like this one, are excellent for creating a great mind-muscle connection and pushing you past plateaus on your big lifts.
Learn More - Calisthenics Vs Gym Body
9. Resistance Band Fly
When recovering from injury or on the move, you don't need to neglect your chest. Active rest and resistance work are the perfect compliment to an injury and can even be used at the end of workouts when you want more burn but don't have the energy for high-intensity lifts.
All you need for this is a resistance band with a decent level of resistance, or if you only have a light band, double it over. Hold the band at shoulder width and perform the fly motion. Don't let your hands bounce back in the middle.
Garage Gym Pro Tip - You can place the resistance band around your back while standing or you can anchor it to a door.
See Also - Best Resistance Bands For Garage Gyms
10. Gironda Neck Press
The Gironda neck press, which is commonly referred to as the guillotine press, is a hardcore chest exercise designed to give you unprecedented gains. It requires a large amount of skill and experience and should not be underestimated. If you have shoulder or rotator cuff problems, we advise you to stay away.
For those that are interested, here is how you do the Gironda neck press:
Firstly, set up your bench as if you were going to do a normal flat bench press. Next, grab the barbell with a suicide grip, which is without thumbs, as wide as you possibly can.
Now you are going to lift your feet up and off of the bench, engaging your core and holding them up, so your chest is isolated to the highest possible degree.
Next, you lower the bar like in a traditional bench press, but instead of lowering it to your chest, you lower it to your neck like a guillotine. Hold for a second, then expand and lift to the starting position.
Please ALWAYS use a spotter for this exercise, as it could be deadly if you have no help and cannot lift the bar.
Garage Gym Pro Tip - I cannot stress this enough; this is a VERY difficult exercise and should only be attempted by experienced weightlifters and never without help.
Related Article - How Does A Barbell Not Tip Over?
11. Svend Press
With chest and triceps, there are so many pushing movements and twists that your rotator cuff can take a beating. To combat this, you might want to introduce the Svend press, a mass-building chest movement that puts minimal strain on the rotators.
It's an easy move to do too. Simply grab a decent weight plate between your palms and, starting at your chest, extend your arms straight, keeping the tension on your pecs. Reverse the motion to get back to where you started.
Garage Gym Pro Tip - You can even do this exercise on an incline or standing if you want to add some additional movements to your routine.
Related Article - How Many Weight Plates Do I Need?
Benefits Of The Classic Pec Deck Fly Exercise
You won't find any machines that can target the pecs as well as the pec deck; they isolate the pecs exceptionally well and are the perfect gateway into training your chest and building beginner strength.
As well as this, you also get some great activation in the deltoids, which are another tough muscle to hit, through bringing your arms together.
Through hypertrophy, your muscles will grow stronger and larger through using the pec deck, and with the movement being so simple and intuitive to complete, anyone can do them. If you have a limited range of motion or joint pain, you can change the angle to allow for this, making the pec deck very forgiving.
When getting ready for the larger scarier lifts like the bench press and overhead press, gaining confidence and the mind-muscle connection is needed. The pec deck is an easy way to start building both.
Pec Deck Alternative Exercises At Home - Tips For Beginners
If you are really on a shoestring and only have your home space and no equipment, don't worry, you can still get a great level of activation and overload from simple bodyweight exercises and DIY equipment.
Firstly, you could look at building some DIY dumbbells using water jugs and sand or cement. They are easy to build and will allow you to do most normal gym exercises.
If not, we highly recommend that you start a solid press-up pyramid routine. Press-ups are perhaps the best exercise that you can do without equipment.
Some great programs include the UK Marine Force program, which is a great way to build colossal chest strength and will quickly result in the ability to do huge numbers of press-ups.
What Muscles Do Pec Deck Fly Substitute Exercises Work?
The first muscle that you engage with the pec deck is the pectoralis major, the muscle that attaches near the collar bone and at the bottom of the breastbone. During pec deck flys, you activate the lower region of this muscle to a high degree and, to a lesser extent, the upper portion.
This muscle is much flatter and has a thinner profile, allowing it to sit underneath the pectoralis major. Here, the pectoralis minor does its job in assisting and stabilizing your pec major throughout the pec dec fly and prevents you from lifting your shoulder.
This muscle is located on the side of your chest, directly above your ribs, and is used for stabilization. The stronger this muscle, the stronger your swinging and punching motions will be. Serratus anterior is worked in almost every chest movement.
In the front of your shoulders, you have your anterior deltoids, commonly known as the front delts. These muscles help you flex and rotate your shoulder and are activated during pec deck flys.
Pec Deck FAQs
Is a pec deck the same as a dumbbell fly?
The pec deck works on a rail system that helps you stabilize. This makes it easier than a dumbbell fly and less effective as you do not need to engage your stabilizer muscles. You will, however, be able to lift heavier weights on the pec deck.
Is the pec deck better than bench press?
No. The bench press is a compound lift of the highest prestige and should be the cornerstone of any chest routine, in our honest opinion.
Which is better: a pec deck or cable crossover?
Pec decks are generally only best for beginners; other exercises like the cable crossover are more effective and are the natural progression for people who are gaining experience in the gym and progressing well.
Why are pec decks considered bad by some gym lovers?
Because of their rail system, they are seen as an ineffective workout, one that is reserved for newcomers to the gym primarily.
The pec deck is a great introduction to working out the chest. It is perfect for those who have never built the mind-to-muscle connection in their pecs and will provide the ideal foundation for lifters to move into the more serious exercises like bench presses and dumbbell flys.
Hopefully, you know about all of the alternatives now you have read this article. If you are growing bored with the pec deck, consider trying one of them out and be prepared to see serious results.
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