The Beginner’s Guide to the Rotary Chest Press

By Brittany Risher |

Strengthen your chest, triceps, legs, hips, and core with this classic exercise.

The seated chest press is popular for a reason: It works! The easy-to-use machine not only strengthens your chest and triceps, but also engages your legs, hips, and core—when you know how to use it. Follow this guide from SilverSneakers fitness expert David Jack.

Ready to get started? Here’s how to perform each movement. As always, safety is key. The exercises here may be different or more advanced than those you’ll experience in a SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition, an injury, or balance issues, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.

Step #1: Set Your Weight

Use the pin to select a light weight on the weight stack to start. Once you learn proper form and feel comfortable using this machine, you can add more weight.

Step #2: Push the Foot Pedal

Press the foot pedal down with one foot. This will help you safely place your hands on the handles with an overhand grip. Whether the handles are fixed or adjustable, you’ll know you’re in the right position when your forearms point straight ahead. Once your hands are set, remove your foot from the lever.

Step #3: Push Feet into the Pegs

Actively push your feet into the footrest to activate your legs and hips—a bonus! Keep tension in your legs throughout the entire exercise.

Step #4: Press Hands Forward

Keeping your back against the pad, push the handles away with strength until your arms are fully extended. With control, return to the starting position, pulling your shoulder blades together at the bottom of the movement.

Step #5: Push Back into the Pad

As you press the handles to straighten your arms, think about slightly pushing your back into the pad, like you’re trying to push it away from you. This will help activate your core—another bonus! Aim for 10 to 15 reps using a light weight to start.

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Want More of a Challenge? Do This

Once you’re comfortable on the rotary chest press, there are a few ways you can ramp up the intensity.

Increase the weight. Start by moving the pin one slot lower or adding a single weight plate to the top of the stack. Remember, it’s normal to do fewer reps when you increase the weight, so don’t worry if can only finish 10 good reps instead of your usual 15.

Increase your total number of reps. If you’ve been doing three sets of 15 reps (45 total), you could do three sets of 20 reps (60 total) or four sets of 12 reps (48 total). There’s no hard rule for how many additional reps you need to do. Every bit of extra effort counts.

Try the “single-single-double protocol.” This works your body independently and keeps your core engaged. Here’s how to do it: Do a chest press with only your right arm, then only your left arm, and then both arms. Repeat.

However you choose to challenge yourself, always focus on proper form. If you ever feel too tired or that your form is compromised, stop. Safety always comes first!

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