Written by
12 July 2006

I know you’ve been using a lot of machines for your chest training because it’s easier on your elbows. I’ve only been training for a few years and don’t have any elbow pain yet, but I’m wondering if maybe I should be using mostly machines to avoid having problems in the future. Or am I being ridiculous?

Yes, you’re being ridiculous! My elbow pain comes from pounding heavy, heavy free weights for 22 years. I built a solid chest with heavy barbell and dumbbell presses on all three pressing angles. Just on the incline barbell press alone, I’ve used four or five plates on each side for at least 10 years. I recall in the summer of 1995, I got 495 on the incline press every single time I trained chest. It worked in the sense that I got all the thickness in the pecs I needed, but it put a lot of stress on my elbows over time and inflamed the hell out of the tendons that attach the triceps to the elbows. Now, I find I can get a great pump and maintain that size by using machines, mainly Hammer Strength. On those, I go up to four or five plates all the time with no elbow pain. But you’re not in my situation, at least not yet. You’re still trying to build size, so you should definitely stick to barbells and dumbbells. You can finish off with a machine press if you like, but the core of your chest training should be with free weights if you need mass in the pecs. Someday, when your chest is as big as you want it to be, you too can probably maintain it with machine work. But you shouldn’t have to worry about that for a very long time.