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Friday, March 29, 2013


Recent postings have discussed exercises that are used for one muscle group when it should really be used for another, but there also certain machines that have more than one purpose in the gym, and most really have no idea that even just a small modification of how the equipment is adjusted, can change the muscle that is being targeted.

In Custom Fitness we have talked about equipment adjustment to body sizes, and one of the exercises mentioned was the Peck Deck. After reading that post did you change your “one size fits all” way of thinking and start adjusting the seat of the peck deck to fit you? We have already discussed that the height of the seat determines what muscle is working out, but do you really know what height it should be? What about the position of the handles? Are they in the appropriate place to work out your chest or your posterior shoulders?

Sharing a machine may mean that you will have to increase your rest interval to adjust the equipment to your size, and on some machines it might just be an adjustment to your comfort zone. But in the case of the peck deck, whether it is being used for the front of the body or the back, a slight change can affect more or less the muscle that it is intended for.

The peck deck is used for the chest muscles and the shoulder muscles. When positioning the handles for the chest, just like in the bench press you don’t lower your elbows below the bench the handles should be positioned with your elbows bent at 90ยบ. You can position it back further to stretch out the muscle more, but if there is a heavy load, and some inflexibility, there could be a risk of injury of the shoulders, due to extra frontal rotation when performing the exercise, or even the tear of the chest muscle. This is why posture is important and chest should be wide open. Remember to always return to the initial position so that there is full muscle recruitment. When positioning for the posterior peck deck, the handles should be all the way back so that when you grip the handles, they are straight in front of you and arms are almost fully extended. Remember to keep your arms extended throughout all the movement and not hyperextend your shoulders when going back and adduct (maintain together) the scapula (shoulder blades). Stretching to reach the handles and bring them to the correct starting position will recruit other muscles that you may not want to work especially at the weight level causing strain and damage.

Regarding the height of the seat is important to define the primary activation of chest or shoulders. You see some people not using the seat and performing the exercise while standing. This is to target the chest more without using much of the shoulder muscles. When lowering the seat the shoulder muscle will be more activated and less intensity to the pectoralis major. When doing reverse peck deck, as mentioned before, handles are straight in front of you throughout the set. Difficulty may be increased when lowering the seat so that your elbows will slightly be directed towards the ceiling as they move back.

The speed of the movement is also important. Any movement too fast prevents the muscle contraction from being greater. To activate muscles more, slow controlled movements in the full ROM are necessary. And if there is a need to decrease the distance of the handles during the peck deck or inverse peck deck due to injury or any other reason, attention should be paid to all other adjustments and execution of the exercise.

So when you do the peck deck what are you really working out? The best way to tell is to pay attention to where you feel (not necessarily during the movement), this why you can play with adjustments to test how you can increase intensity.

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