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Whether you’re looking to isolate the muscle in that area or want more of a compound exercise, there are so many different shoulder exercises it can be difficult to know which ones to do and when. The shoulder press machine is a handy piece of equipment that can play an important part in your shoulder workout. Figure out how and why to use it to help you reach your fitness goals effectively.

 
 
 

What is the shoulder press machine?

 

Gym floors are packed with different machines. The shoulder press machine is a fixed resistance bit of kit that sees you press overhead from a seated position. It’s also called the seated shoulder press.

Fixed resistance means that the pattern of motion you take when using the machine is completely fixed. You can’t control how you move the weight; you just follow the motion that the machine allows. This makes it different to using free weights, where the way in which you move them is up to you.

The amount of resistance on the machine can be easily altered, most often by adjusting which weight the pin is sitting at. Or how many plates are loaded onto it.

 
 
 

How do you do use the shoulder press machine?

 

First, hop onto the seat and make sure it’s adjusted to your height. The bars should be at shoulder height. You should be seated comfortably, with your back against the pad, your feet flat on the floor, and your knees bent at a right angle around shoulder width apart.

Hold the bars that are sticking out in-front of you with a strong pronated (overhand) grip. Your elbows will be bent.

Push the weight upwards and over your head. The pattern of movement will be fixed by the machine. Pause at the top, but don’t lock out the elbows.

Lower back down in a slow and controlled motion, and keep the tension of the weight at the bottom ahead of the next rep. Don’t let the weight drop back down onto it’s resting place.

 
 

 
 
 

What muscles does the shoulder press machine work?

 

Surprisingly, the muscles in the shoulders.

Using the machine instead of the free weights makes it a more isolated exercise. This means that there’s only one joint movement involved, and the number of muscle groups being engaged is fewer.

You’re supported by the pads, meaning you don’t need to engage key stabiliser muscles to help you perform it.

It allows you to better target the muscles in the shoulders. In particular, the machine shoulder press targets the deltoids.

 
 
 

Free weight shoulder press vs. machine shoulder press

 

Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to exercising. Some prefer to use the machine and others head for the free weights. It’s important to understand how training with each can differ.

When using the free weights to perform a shoulder or overhead press there’s more full body work required. You’re standing up on your own, and to perform the press, you’ll need to stabilise yourself and engage other muscle groups to help you do this. A free weight shoulder press is much more compound in nature. It requires the support of other, smaller muscles in your shoulders like your rotator cuff. It also calls upon your core and lower body to engage and stabilise you as you perform the movement.

When using a smith machine like the shoulder press, you’re targeting the large muscle groups like the deltoids with more focus. This means you will be able to lift heavier, as weaker muscles won’t stop you performing it. Great if you’re looking to increase strength or muscle growth in one particular area.

So, it all depends on your training goals. Just keep in mind that to develop well-rounded, full body strength and endurance, keeping compound exercise a core part of your routine is the most effective way to go.

 
 
 

What’s a military press?

 

The military press is a type of shoulder press that follows a particular style due to its military origins. You keep your feet together, rather than shoulder width apart. And you push up from a racked position with no momentum. It’s a full-on assault of the shoulder muscles. It’s pretty hard to do and you’ll find you need to lift a bit lighter here.

 
 
 

What’s an overhead press?

 

An overhead press and a shoulder press are pretty much used interchangeably. Sometimes people refer to it as an overhead press when they’re using a barbell, and a shoulder press when they’re using dumbbells. But not always. It depends who you ask.

 
 
 

What’s a push press?

 

A push press and requires a bit of momentum from the lower body to perform the movement. Start with a slight bend in the knees, straighten up and use that momentum to then lift the weight overhead. It engages the core, quads, and glutes, making it more of a full body move.

 
 
 

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