Machine Shoulder Press

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Machine Shoulder Press (Machine Overhead Press)

If you lack confidence to use free weights, try the overhead press on a machine. The shoulder press machine is a common machine to see in gyms and health clubs. There are many different variations by many different companies, yet they all basically do the same. Machine shoulder press mimics the shoulder or military press exercise to strengthen the deltoid muscles. It is less effective bodybuilding exercise than the seated or standing press (with barbell or dumbbells), especially if you are training for sports, because your back is supported by the equipment and so you do not engage your stabilizers. As with all machine exercises, you should only use a machine that adjust to your height and limb length.

Proper Exercise Technique

If you want to build muscle, you have to use heavy weight but the trick is to perform the exercise using proper form.

INITIAL POSITION (SETUP): Select the appropriate resistance on the weight stack. Sit in the machine; press your head, upper back, and hips against the pads; and place your feet flat on the floor. The handles should line up with the top of your shoulders. Grasp the handles with a closed, pronated (palms facing forward) or neutral (palms facing together) grip slightly wider than shoulder width. Adjust the seat so that you are able to extend your arm at the top of the range of motion and can lower the handles down to your shoulders without the weight resting on the stack.

Machine Shoulder Press

Machine Shoulder Press

EXECUTION (ACTION): Extend your arms to press the handles straight up until your elbows are extended but not locked out. Slowly return the handles to the starting position without letting the resistance rest on the weight stack between reps.

Muscles Engaged in Machine Overhead Press

These are the muscles engaged while performing machine shoulder press.

  • MAIN MUSCLES: deltoid (front, middle), triceps (except long head), supraspinatus
  • SECONDARY MUSCLES: deltoid (rear), pectoralis major (upper), trapezius (upper), biceps (long head), serratus anterior, triceps (long head)
  • ANTAGONISTS: latissimus dorsi, biceps, pectoralis major (lower)

Additional Tips & Key Points for Machine Shoulder Press

  • Hold the machine handles with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Adjust the seat height so that the handles are aligned with or above shoulder height.
  • Your arms should be parallel to your body, moving toward your sides as you lower the weight.
  • Position the body with the chest up and the shoulders and head back against the back pad (if possible).
  • Keep your head, back, and buttocks in contact with the pads and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Always slowly lower the weight (under control) until your hands are just above your shoulders so that the moving weights do not touch the rest of the stack, therefore keeping constant tension in the shoulder muscles.
  • Make sure your elbows do not lock when you push the handles overhead. Do not lean back or arch your back.

Exercise Variations

Today you will find that most pressing machines offer various placements for your hands (neutral, wide, narrow, and reverse grip). Alter your grip from time to time to train the muscles from multiple angles.

In order to mimic a behind the neck shoulder press, sit backward on the seat (facing the seat back), and then use the same exercise technique. Sadly we could not find any images for this variation.

A Smith machine can be a good compromise between a bar an easy to use convergent machine.

Smith machine shoulder press

Replacement Exercises

Here is a list of the best free weight exercises for the front deltoid muscles.

Closing Thoughts

Machine shoulder press is a good exercise (for newcomers) to pack on lean muscle tissue onto the shoulders, especially the front and sides of shoulders.

Some people do not like machines because the trajectory is completely guided; however, this rigidity prevents numerous injuries and trauma that you could expirience when using bars or dumbbells.

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