7 Best Pec Deck Alternatives (with Pictures!)

pec deck alternatives

It’s chest day and someone is hogging the pec deck machine – or you just want to shake up your routine; We’ve all been there.

Fortunately, the pec deck isn’t the end all of chest exercises. There are plenty of alternatives available for you to try, some of which surpass the pec deck in terms of effectiveness.

In this article, we’ve listed for you the 7 most suitable pec deck alternative exercises, each of which make use of different training equipment.

What is the Pec Deck – and Why Substitute it?

The pec deck is a closed chain pectoral exercise performed with the use of a pec deck machine.

pec deck movement

While it is perfectly effective and safe in its own right, its linear movement pattern and poor stabilizer muscle recruitment can cause it to be substituted out in a program. Most often, this is done by athletes or individuals who wish to focus more on functional strength and power, rather than pure muscle mass.

What to Look for in a Pec Deck Alternative

Pec deck not cutting it for you? Make sure your alternative fits these aspects – regardless of whether you got it from this article or not.

Pectoral Focus

The main purpose of the pec deck is to work the muscles of the chest. Of course, any substitute exercise should also fulfill the same muscular recruitment – meaning that the pectorals are used as a primary mobilizer muscle.

Occasionally, the pec deck is substituted with an exercise that targets other muscles alongside the pectorals. This is entirely fine, so long as sufficient emphasis is given to the chest as well.

Similar Capacity for Volume

The pec deck is most often programmed as an accessory exercise of low or moderate resistance and high volume. This sort of programming is done in order to maximize hypertrophy of the chest.

Apart from muscular recruitment, any alternative to the pec deck should ideally also share such a capacity for volume. Doing so will not only allow the original purpose of the pec dec to be retained, but also allows for easier structuring of the training program.

Similar Capacity to Act as an Accessory Exercise

While not necessarily a requirement, selecting an exercise that can also function as an accessory movement (i.e. low impact and small number of muscles worked) will help with structuring your training program.

Pec Deck Alternatives

1. Cable Crossovers

The first exercise to look at when alternating out the pec deck is the cable crossover. 

cable crossover movement

Like the pec deck, cable crossovers are a chest-focused machine exercise most often used in the role of an accessory movement.

However, unlike the pec deck, cable crossovers allow for a somewhat freer range of motion to be achieved with little compromise in terms of pectoral muscle recruitment. In addition, the crossover also works the anterior deltoid head and biceps.

Equipment Needed

Cable crossovers will require a cable machine and a pair of one-hand attachments.

Benefits as a Pec Deck Alternative

Cable crossovers are particularly effective as a pec deck alternative because they can do anything the latter exercise can – only in a more natural manner.

While the cable crossover does indeed feature a somewhat different method of grip – groped neutrally with the hands – this can help the lifter control the angle of resistance as needed.

Furthermore, cable crossovers retain the same benefits of being machine-based as the pec deck, making them excellent for novices or individuals just returning to serious resistance training.


Standing upright with two individual cable handles held out to either side, the lifter will lean forwards and brace their core as they draw their hands towards one another. The elbows should be kept low as they do so.

cable crossover muscles used

As the hands come close to touching, the lifter will cross one hand over the other – squeezing their pectoral muscles for optimal recruitment.

With the maximum range of motion achieved, the lifter will slowly return their hands back to either side, thereby completing the repetition.

Remember to switch which hand crosses over the other with each repetition.

2. Dumbbell Chest Flys

For a heavy free weight substitute to the pec deck, one can’t go wrong with the classic dumbbell chest fly.

db chest fly

Dumbbell chest flys feature a similar range of motion and movement pattern to pec decks, only with the lifter lying supine and a somewhat greater intensity per repetition being achieved.

Like the pec deck, the dumbbell chest fly primarily targets the pectorals – but will also work the anterior deltoid head and the biceps to a lesser extent.

Equipment Needed

Dumbbell chest flys require a pair of dumbbells and an exercise bench.

Benefits as a Pec Deck Alternative

The main advantage to picking dumbbell chest flys over the pec deck is in its intensity. 

As a unilateral free weight exercise performed in a lying position, the dumbbell chest fly is significantly more difficult to perform, and will work the chest to a greater extent.

Despite this greater intensity, the dumbbell chest fly is also excellent for situations where a pec deck machine is not available, as it features a nearly identical movement pattern and range of motion.


Lying chest-up atop an exercise bench, the lifter will raise a pair of dumbbells over their chest and arch their lower back for greater stability.

dumbbell chest fly muscles worked

Now in the appropriate stance, the lifter will slowly lower the dumbbells out to the sides, squeezing their pectorals as they do so.

Once the upper arms are parallel to the sides of the chest, the lifter will once again draw the dumbbells upwards and together – thereby completing the repetition.

3. Resistance Band Chest Flys

The resistance band chest fly is (as the name implies) simply a chest fly performed with the use of resistance bands. This is done in a standing position with either a pair of resistance bands, or a double ended one.

banded chest fly

Like the pec deck exercise itself, the banded chest fly is a multi-joint closed chain exercise that fits the role of an accessory movement – meaning little to no alteration in programming will be needed.

Furthermore, like other chest fly variations, the banded chest fly hits the anterior deltoids and biceps alongside the pecs.

Equipment Needed

This particular alternative will need a pair of resistance bands or a resistance band with two distinct ends, as each hand must be moved individually from the other.

Benefits as a Pec Deck Alternative

It doesn’t get more simplistic and convenient than the resistance band chest fly. Short of calisthenics exercises, there are no alternatives to the pec deck that are as accessible.

Accessibility notwithstanding, the banded chest fly is also excellent for achieving a freer range of motion, and does not require you to be seated to perform the exercise.


Anchoring the bands to an object at approximately chest-height, the lifter will grip the opposite ends in both hands and face away from the anchor point. If the bands lack tension, take several steps forwards.

muscles used to band chest fly

Leaning the torso slightly forwards and bracing the lower body, the lifter will begin the repetition by drawing their arms together – bending the elbows as little as possible so as to reduce biceps recruitment.

Once the hands are pointing straight forwards, the lifter contracts their chest muscles and allows the resistance to slowly pull their hands back to their sides. From this point, the repetition is considered complete.

4. Machine Chest Flys

While the two are often confused, the machine chest fly and the pec deck are in fact two distinct exercises – of which may be used as substitutes if needed.

chest fly machine

The machine chest fly features a nearly identical movement pattern and range of motion to the pec deck, but otherwise involves little to no bending of the elbows. This maximizes pectoral muscle recruitment at the cost of reduced maximal resistance.

Like its counterpart, the machine chest fly emphasizes the pectorals while also recruiting the anterior deltoid in a stabilizing capacity. However, in addition, the serratus anterior will also be used in a lesser capacity.

Equipment Needed

The machine chest fly will require its namesake machine.

Benefits as a Pec Deck Alternative

Machine chest flys are excellent at acting as a 1:1 substitute to the pec deck – especially in regards to gross pectoral muscle recruitment, where the machine fly exceeds the pec deck.


Sitting with the machine, the lifter will grip both handles at either side as they push their chest outwards and retract their shoulder blades.

chest fly muscles used

To begin the repetition, the lifter will simply contract their pectorals and draw their hands together.

Once the lifter’s arms are extended before them, they will slowly return the handles back to their original position at the start of the repetition – thereby completing it.

5. Chest Dips

A calisthenics compound movement that targets more than just the pecs – the chest dip is the ideal alternative to the pec deck for individuals without access to any other sort of equipment.

chest dip

Chest dips work the pectoral muscles in a similar range of motion to the pec deck, but will also work the triceps brachii and anterior deltoids to a significant extent. This may require some alteration in training programming, and a marked reduction in total volume as well.

Equipment Needed

Chest dips are traditionally performed on a pair of parallel bars, but alternative equipment may also be used.

Benefits as a Pec Deck Alternative

Chest dips allow for significantly greater intensity than the pec deck – especially in regards to how much weight is being lifted, and how well muscles are being recruited. 

In addition, performing chest dips is significantly more accessible (although not easier) than a pec deck machine is.


Suspending themselves between a pair of parallel bars, the lifter will contract their core and incline their upper body as they retract their shoulder blades.

chest dip muscles used

Now ready to perform the repetition, they will bend at the elbows and slowly lower themselves until their upper arms are just shy of parallel to the floor.

From this point, the lifter will push through their palms and contract their chest – rising back to the starting stance. Once the arms are extended once more, the repetition is considered to be complete. 

6. Elevated Push-Ups

For lifters with truly no equipment whatsoever – the elevated push-up can act as a stand-in for the pec deck.

incline push up

Elevated push-ups are simply conventional bodyweight push-ups performed with the hands elevated off the ground, allowing for a wider range of motion in regards to the chest muscles.

Unlike the pec deck, elevated push-ups are performed in a plank position, and will target the triceps, anterior deltoid head and serratus alongside the pectoral muscles. This means that they aren’t quite programmed in the same role and volume as pec decks, and are a less than ideal alternative in comparison to others.

Equipment Needed

Elevated push-ups will require no equipment other than a pair of plyo blocks or similarly sturdy objects.

Benefits as a Pec Deck Alternative

Elevated push-ups allow lifters to work their chest muscles to a similar range of motion to pec decks – but without the need for any amount of equipment. The elevated push-up can even be performed with a pair of particularly thick books, if needed.

In addition, elevated push-ups are excellent for acting as a comparatively more intense and wider-reaching exercise than the pec deck.


Entering the standard push-up stance with the hands set atop the elevated blocks, the lifter will contract their core and squeeze their glutes as they begin the repetition.

incline push up muscles

To do so, the lifter will bend at the elbows and lower their chest between their hands, stopping once reaching the limit of their shoulder and pec mobility.

From this point, the lifter will then push through their palms as they rise back upwards – thereby completing the repetition.

7. Wide Grip Bench Press

Finally – if no other alternatives are available, it is possible to reach a similar level of pectoral emphasis with the wide grip bench press.

wide grip bench press

The wide grip bench press is a multi-joint free weight exercise that targets not only the chest, but also the deltoids and triceps as well. 

Although the bench press and pec deck are quite different in terms of mechanics, range of motion and load distribution, the wide grip variation allows for the pec deck’s chest emphasis to be replicated in a similar manner.

It goes without saying that the bench press will require restructuring of the training program if used as a pec deck alternative, and may not be entirely feasible as an accessory movement unless performed with very little weight.

Equipment Needed

The wide grip bench press will require a rack, a barbell and a set of weight plates.

Benefits as a Pec Deck Alternative

In truth, there is little that makes substituting the pec deck with the wide grip bench press advantageous. It’s more of a last resort sort of thing – or if you have no other chest exercise in your workout.

However, in comparison, the bench press is significantly more intense and effective at building muscle than the pec deck. This is especially true for gross pectoral strength and explosiveness. 

Furthermore, the bench press targets nearly every push muscle found in the upper body simultaneously – making it a boon for individuals who started off with the pec deck, but want to progress further.


To perform a repetition of the wide grip bench press, the lifter will lie face-up as they pin their scapula beneath their torso – arching the lower back and contracting the core, but also keeping the glutes against the bench. This is the standard arched bench press stance.

wide grip bench muscles used

Now in the correct stance, the lifter will set their hands wider than shoulder-width apart along the bar before unracking it. They will slowly lower the bar towards their chest, bending the elbows but keeping them close to their sides as they do so.

Once the barbell is atop their chest, the lifter will squeeze their pectoral muscles and push through their palms, pushing the barbell back over their torso.

When their arms are extended once again, the repetition is considered complete.

Keep in mind that this is a wide grip bench press, meaning that the hands are meant to be set wider than would be seen with a traditional bench press. While greater pectoral muscle recruitment will be elicited, it also means that you may want to lower your working weight as you acclimate to this change in grip.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How Do You Do Pec Decks Without the Machine?

It’s not quite possible to do pec decks without the use of a pec deck machine. However, it is possible to perform a similar exercise known as the chest fly – of which can be done with resistance bands, dumbbells or even its own respective machine.

Is the Chest Press the Same as the Pec Deck?

Pec decks and chest presses are two entirely separate exercises. 

The chest press involves a horizontal source of resistance being pressed away from the torso. In comparison, the pec deck’s resistance is more radial and will involve the lifter drawing their arms towards their midline, rather than extending them.

Is the Pec Deck the Same as the Pec Fly?

Almost – but not quite. Unlike the pec deck, the pec fly involves little to no bending of the elbows, and often with the pectorals as the sole mobilizer muscle.

Final Thoughts

Keep in mind that while we’ve listed the most generally effective alternatives in this article, we haven’t listed every alternative. If your needs are more specific or you have special requirements, it might be a good idea to keep searching.

And as always – remember to follow proper form, and to seek out professional coaching prior to making big changes to your training routine.


1. Solstad TE, Andersen V, Shaw M, Hoel EM, Vonheim A, Saeterbakken AH. A Comparison of Muscle Activation between Barbell Bench Press and Dumbbell Flyes in Resistance-Trained Males. J Sports Sci Med. 2020 Nov 19;19(4):645-651. PMID: 33239937; PMCID: PMC7675616.

2. Fleck S.J., Kraemer W. Designing Resistance Training Programs. 4th ed. Human Kinetics; Champaign, IL, USA: 2014.