What are Pec Decks?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Pec decks are a type of weight machine that primarily works the pectoral muscles, but as well may work the muscles in the shoulders, and the upper muscles of the back. The pectoral muscles are located in the upper chest. They help to support the chest, and also the movements of the upper arms. Working the pectoral muscles with pec decks can help strengthen these muscles.

Pec decks target the pectoral muscles in the chest.
Pec decks target the pectoral muscles in the chest.

Pec decks machines are seated machines, that generally has an adjustable amount of weight that be attached. The arms are bent at 90-degree angles on either side of the body. The person then uses the pectoral muscles and arms to bring the two arms together in front of the chest in a quarter circle motion.

Often the actual arm portion of pec decks can be adjusted up or down so that one maximizes use of the pectoral muscles when one brings the arms together. Generally, pec decks work best when the elbows are at chest height when they meet. If they meet at face height, work shifts to other muscles, especially those of the arms and shoulders.

An alternative to pec decks is using free weights either in a lying down or sitting posture. One can keep the arms bent or have then straight out from the body. Since using free weights also requires more balance, this exercise may also work the muscles in the arms as the weights are brought together in front of the chest.

Most exercise specialists feel that using pec decks or using free weights provides roughly the same benefits. The advantage to using pec decks over the weights is that this will provide greater stability in the exercise, because it keeps the arms in the appropriate position.

Some exercise machines, like the BowFlex, can be adapted to work in ways similar to pec decks. Alternately, one can purchase pec decks for between 800-1500 US dollars (USD). This is seldom a good bargain since pec decks cannot generally be adapted for other purposes. However, if one wants to splurge and purchase a gym’s worth of exercise equipment, one can of course own one’s own machine.

Alternately, most people use pec decks as part of a workout in a gym. Pec decks are just one of the many machines that isolate and work certain muscles. If one has never used pec decks before, consider asking a gym member or exercise specialist about what weights are appropriate for initial use.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


@EdRick - I've never actually seen a pec deck, probably because I work out in the girl part of the gym (otherwise known as circuit training). But I do a very similar exercise.

Circuit training machines call this exercise a fly, chest fly, or something like that. The difference between this and bench press is that bench press actually works your triceps more than your pecs. The fly will really get those chest muscles. I like to work my muscles in a more natural motion and get the benefit from stabilizing the weight, so I use free weights. I just lie down on a bench, pinch my shoulder blades together, and tuck up my feet - I'm short, and it's very, very important that you not arch your back.

If you're just getting started, I highly recommend a few sessions with a personal trainer. It's not prohibitively expensive, and s/he can help you develop a routine for both weights and cardio that you can stick to. Good luck!


I'm just getting started working out after the birth of my daughter. Yes, I'm a dude. But the ice cream flowed a little too freely in my house while my wife was pregnant! I gained twenty pounds and even our ten-year-old son started to fill out a little. My son is now taking karate lessons and my wife and I joined a gym with child care.

I haven't hit the weight room in a long time, so I'm not quite sure what to do. What's the advantage of using a pec deck as opposed to just doing the bench press? (That one, I remember.)

Post your comments
Forgot password?