How to Do a Seated Chest Press: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do a seated chest press to help with chest and arm strength and endurance, plus modifications to make it easier or harder.

Published Date: Sep 12, 2023

When it comes to improving strength and combating ongoing musculoskeletal (muscle and joint) pain, you might be overwhelmed by the number of exercises you can try. While incorporating a variety of movements, activities, and exercises into your day is great, one exercise may be of particular benefit if you are looking to target your chest, arm, or upper back area: the seated chest press. 

Here, we’ll take a closer look at the many possible benefits of the seated chest press, plus how you can incorporate it into your movement routine and modify the exercise to your current fitness level. 

Our Hinge Health Experts

Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist and Clinical Reviewer
Dr. Peterson is a Hinge Health physical therapist who focuses on developing clinical exercise therapy programs and member education.

What Is the Seated Chest Press?

The seated chest press is an exercise that, as the name implies, primarily targets the pectoral (chest) muscles, but it also has the added benefit of engaging the shoulders and triceps. There are many ways to perform this exercise, such as by using free weights or a chest press machine at the gym. You can also use resistance bands to perform a chest press exercise, which is what we’ll show you below. 

What Muscles Does the Seated Chest Press Work? 

No matter how it’s performed, the seated chest press primarily targets the muscles of the chest and arms. More specifically, it works the: 

  • Pectoralis major (chest). This is the primary muscle targeted by the chest press. It is responsible for the movement of the humerus (the long bone in the upper arm) across the chest.

  • Triceps brachii. Found in the back of the upper arm, this muscle assists in extending the elbow during the pressing phase of the exercise. 

  • Anterior deltoid. Sitting at the front of the shoulders, this muscle works when you press your arms forward during the seated chest press. 

Other muscles that are engaged to a lesser extent include the: 

  • Serratus anterior, which is situated more laterally on the rib cage and helps with moving the shoulder blades forward and side to side.

  • Biceps brachii, or the front of the upper arm. 

  • Rotator cuff muscles, which are a group of four small muscles in the shoulder that help stabilize the shoulder joint during pressing movements.

  • Middle and lower trapezius and rhomboids, which are located in the upper back and play a role in stabilizing the scapula and the upper back. 

Seated Chest Press Benefits

The seated chest press helps strengthen the chest, shoulders, and triceps, which are all critical muscles for many everyday activities. By improving strength in these areas, the seated chest press can make many daily tasks easier and less painful, including:

  • Pushing objects. Whether it’s pushing a heavy door open at the mall, sliding furniture, or rolling a loaded shopping cart, having strong muscles makes pushing objects easier and can help you avoid injury.

  • Lifting and carrying. While you may use your leg and back muscles more when carrying heavier objects, your chest and arms have to assist, especially when carrying something close to your body (like a heavy box or a toddler). 

  • Placing items on high shelves. This requires you to extend your arms, which involves chest and triceps muscles.

  • Household chores. Vacuuming rugs, scrubbing surfaces, mopping floors, and doing yard work all involve pushing motions that benefit from a strong chest.

  • Driving. Believe it or not, turning the steering wheel and other driving actions can be more comfortable with stronger chest and arm muscles.

  • Recreational activities, especially certain sports. Playing sports like basketball, tennis, or even pushing off in swimming can benefit from a stronger chest.

Seated Chest Press: Exercises and Modifications 

The information contained in these videos is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or treatment for any specific condition. Hinge Health is not your healthcare provider and is not responsible for any injury sustained or exacerbated by your use of or participation in these exercises. Please consult with your healthcare provider with any questions you may have about your medical condition or treatment.

Seated Chest Press

Seated Chest Press

Seated Chest Press

Seated Chest Press

To do a seated chest press: 

  • Start by sitting in a chair. 

  • Wrap a non-looped resistance band (also known as a therapy band) around your upper back and hold each end of the band with your hands. 

  • Keep your arms relaxed at your sides with your elbows bent at 90 degrees. 

  • Extend your arms straight out in front of you at chest height to stretch the band. 

  • Relax your arms back to the starting position. 

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Seated Chest Press Modifications

Seated Chest Press Modifications

Seated Chest Press Modifications

Seated Chest Press Modifications

To make the seated chest press easier:  

  • Perform the exercise with more slack in the band. 

  • Use a lighter band when performing the exercise. 

To make the seated chest press harder: 

  • Use a heavier band to add resistance. 

  • You can also adjust the placement of your hands on the band to add resistance when you extend your arms. 

You can apply one of the above modifications to make the exercise easier or harder, or multiple modifications at once. 

How Hinge Health Can Help You

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program. 

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you.  

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. 

See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.

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References

  1. Muyor, J. M., Rodríguez-Ridao, D., & Oliva-Lozano, J. M. (2023). Comparison of Muscle Activity between the Horizontal Bench Press and the Seated Chest Press Exercises Using Several Grips. Journal of Human Kinetics, 87, 23–34. doi:10.5114/jhk/161468

  2. Pectoralis major. (n.d.). Physiopedia. Retrieved from https://www.physio-pedia.com/Pectoralis_major