Machine shoulder press Why and how

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The shoulder press is the basic exercise for bigger and stronger shoulders. You do this with a barbelldumbbells, cables or with a machine. Regarding the latter: almost every gym contains at least one shoulder press machine. In this article you will learn to use it correctly.


Why choose the machine shoulder press? The advantages:

1. You train several muscle groups in your upper body at the same time, especially the shoulder muscles and triceps;

2. You can also safely lift heavy weights, which benefits your upper body strength;

3. The exercise is especially suitable for beginners because it requires less balance and coordination than comparable exercises with free weights.

The latter can also be seen as a disadvantage: you hardly train the small, coordinating muscles. More advanced strength athletes therefore better use free weights, or they do both, for example both the dumbbell press and the machine press.


With the machine shoulder press of course you train your shoulders. Yet with the machine shoulder press you mainly train the front of your shoulders (the front or anterior delts) and to a much lesser extent the side of your shoulders (side delts) and the back (rear or posterior delts).

Therefore, include at least one exercise for the side delts in your schedule, namely lateral raises, and one exercise for the rear delts, for example the reverse fly machine. You can also train the rear delts with back exercises, but one specific, more isolating exercise is a must to get more volume on the side of your body.

In addition to your shoulders, you also train your triceps with the machine shoulder press, albeit to a slightly lesser extent than, for example, with the close grip bench press or with targeted triceps exercises.

The exercise also involves the trapezius, pectoral muscles and rotator cuff to a small extent.


You do the machine shoulder press as follows.


Sit on the seat of the shoulder press machine with your back against the backrest and your feet on the floor. Adjust the chair until the handles are about shoulder height, then grasp the handles with your palms facing away from you.

You can also use a neutral grip on most machines, so the palms face each other. This puts less strain on your shoulders and more on your triceps and other supporting muscle groups. This, in combination with low weights, is especially an option for those who are returning from a shoulder injury or otherwise suffer from shoulder problems.

Furthermore, make sure that your elbows point straight down and not forward or backward.


Inhale and press the handles toward the ceiling until your arms are almost straight. Avoid excessively arching your lower back or sliding forward on the bench. Also avoid leaning forward, because then you involve your chest and back muscles more in the exercise and that is not the intention.

At the end of the movement, the arms are almost straight, but not completely (so don’t lock your elbows).


Exhale and move the weight down until the weights just barely touch each other. A repetition therefore ends when the handles are again at shoulder height.



Do two pressing exercises of three sets for the shoulders every week, with or without machines. Your front shoulders are also extensively trained during chest pressing exercises, such as the barbell or machine chest press. You still have to do some separate exercises for the sides of your shoulders (lateral raises) and the back (rear delt flyes).

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