Smith Machine Shoulder Press
Shoulder presses can be done with a bar, dumbbell, a machine, or a Smith machine. You should analyze the advantages and disadvantages of each version and then decide which one best meets your needs. Of course, you could use several variations. However, we do not recommend switching versions during the same workout because this could confuse your nerve signals. It’s better to stick to a single type of press in each workout. In this post we’ll teach you how to perform Smith machine shoulder press safely and effectively.
Proper Exercise Technique
STARTING POSITION (SETUP): Position an adjustable bench to 90 degrees or use a low-back bench, and place it within the Smith machine so that the bar lowers just in front of your face. Sit on the bench with your feet flat on the floor and your back flat against the bench. Grasp the bar just outside shoulder width and
unlatch it from the safety supports. Lower the bar to just below your chin.
MOVEMENT (ACTION): Contract your shoulders and extend your arms to press the weight up until your arms are fully extended but not locked out. Slowly lower the bar back to the starting position.
Additional Tips & Key Points
- Grasp the bar in an overhand grip (knuckles facing back) with your hands slightly more than shoulder-width apart.
- Your elbows should be parallel to your body, moving toward your sides as you lower the weight.
- If your head gets in the way as you lower the bar, you can turn it to one side.
- Breathe in as you lower the barbell and out as you complete the lift.
- Common mistakes: arching the lower back, seat back set improperly, using too much weight (you can lift a lot with this machine) and locking the arms at the top of the lift.
Smith Machine Shoulder Press VS. Machine Shoulder Press
At first glance, this front deltoid exercise may appear to be identical to the machine shoulder press, but it has certain advantages. First, you can start the exercise from above. You can also choose the width of your grip. And if you are training alone, all you have to do is twist the bar to lock it at any height. Finally, the movement is always vertical. On other machines, it is angled slightly. The feeling of balance provided by the Smith machine in this and other exercises may encourage you to lock your elbows at the top of the lift with your arms fully extended. Never allow yourself to do this.
Smith machine behind the neck shoulder press.
Position a low-back bench or an adjustable bench to 90 degrees, and place it within the Smith machine so that the bar lowers just behind your head. Sit on the bench with your feet flat on the floor and your back flat against the bench. Grasp the bar just outside shoulder width and unlatch it from the safety supports. Lower the bar behind the head to lower-ear level. Press the bar straight up overhead until your arms are fully extended but not locked out. Slowly lower the bar back to the starting position.
- 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)
You can easily replace Smith machine shoulder press with any other front deltoid exercise that generates shoulder pressing movement.
- Seated dumbbell shoulder press
- Seated barbell shoulder press – front military press
- Variable-grip dumbbell shoulder press
- Single-arm landmine shoulder press
- Convergent machine shoulder press
- Seated behind the neck barbell shoulder press
A Smith machine can be a good compromise between a bar and easy to use convergent machine. With a Smith machine, the bar can go in front or behind your head, but with the same disadvantages as a regular bar. Firstly, the face (especially the chin and the nose) interferes with the trajectory of the bar. Secondly, if you lower the bar behind the neck you stretch the shoulder joint roughly. And finally, because the hands are grasping the bar, they cannot come together during the contraction as is the case with dumbbells. This last limits the range of motion.
One strategy when using a Smith machine is to touch the bar in the middle of your head. The range of motion will decrease, and you must be careful not to crash the bar in the middle of your head. However, this strategy will allow you to do the following:
- Maintain the trajectory along the proper axis for shoulder work.
- Lift heavy weights.
- Avoid abusing your shoulder joint.
Therefore, dumbbells are are always the best choice for doing shoulder presses. They have numerous advantages over a bar, convergent machine, and Smith machine. Therefore, Smith machine shoulder press in not the best solution.