Shoulder Press On Machine: How To Use, Muscles Worked & Form

New to strength training or bored by free weights shoulder exercises?

The seated shoulder press machine is a fantastic way to strengthen your shoulders.

It’s guided movement and stable platform make it easier to master proper form and build a solid foundation.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to use the shoulder press machine and the muscles worked during it.

You’ll also get tips to make this machine your best tool for building strong shoulders.

What is a Seated Shoulder Press Machine

The Shoulder Press Machine, sometimes called the “Military Press Machine,” is a staple in gyms and fitness centers worldwide.

This machine is specifically designed to target the shoulder muscles, as it provides a controlled environment for overhead pressing movements. It is an excellent exercise for building the front and side deltoid muscles.

Machine presses are better than free-weight presses because they are stable and safer.

They also offer a choice of handgrips. A neutral grip (palms facing together) focuses more on the anterior deltoid better than a pronated grip (palms forward).  

This exercise requires very strict movement because the bar is fixed to the rack, and the weights can go much lower. This gives the front deltoid muscles a good stretch.

Shoulder Press Machine

Shoulder Press Machine Hand Position

  • Standard Grip (Overhand): Hands slightly wider than shoulder-width. This grip targets the anterior deltoids predominantly, along with engaging the triceps and upper chest to a lesser extent.
  • Neutral Grip (Palms Facing Each Other): Palms face each other (hammer grip). It engages the anterior and lateral deltoids more evenly than the overhand grip. Reduces stress on the wrists and elbows.
  • Narrow Grip (Underhand, Palms Facing Up): Hands close together. It increased focus on the triceps and front deltoids.

Shoulder Press Machine Muscles Worked

The shoulder press machine is a versatile strength training exercise that targets several muscle groups:

Primary Muscles Targeted

  • Deltoids: The deltoids are the major muscles of your shoulder and consist of three sections:
  • Anterior Deltoid (Front): Heavily engaged throughout the press.
  • Medial Deltoid (Side): Contributes significantly to the pressing motion.
  • Posterior Deltoid (Rear): Involved to a lesser extent but still provides stabilization.

Secondary Muscles

  • Triceps: Your triceps extend your elbows and play a significant supporting role in the shoulder press machine.
  • Upper Chest: Assists in the pressing movement, especially in the initial phase of the exercise.

Stabilizing Muscles

  • Trapezius and Rhomboids (Upper Back): Help maintain posture and shoulder stability.
  • Core Muscles: Your core muscles (abdominals, obliques, lower back) engage to keep your body stable during the exercise.

How To Do Shoulder Press With Machine

  1. The seat should be positioned so that the handles are at or below shoulder level when you’re sitting.
  2. Sit with your back straight against the backrest and feet flat on the floor.
  3. Depending on the machine’s design, grip the handles with an overhand or neutral grip (palms facing each other).
  4. Make sure your grip is secure and comfortable.
  5. Inhale and press the handles directly upwards until your arms are almost fully extended. 
  6. Exhale and slowly lower the handles back to the starting position.
  7. This is one rep. Complete as many repetitions as you can fit in a set.
Machine Shoulder Press

Tips and Form

  • Start with a light warm-up set before your heavier working sets.
  • Sit with your back flat against the pad, chest lifted, and core engaged. Avoid arching your back or leaning forward.
  • Avoid hunching your shoulders up towards your ears. Keep your shoulder blades pulled back and down slightly.
  • Your elbows should track slightly forward of your torso, not flaring out to the sides.
  • Keep your head neutral and look straight ahead. Avoid tucking your chin or craning your neck.
  • Maintain a firm but comfortable grip on the handle. Experiment with wide, neutral, and narrow positions to find what works best for you.
  • Use full range of motion, pressing from shoulder level up to about eye level.
  • Try to create a mind-muscle connection and feel your shoulder muscles working instead of just moving the weight.
  • Avoid locking your elbows at the top.
  • Exhale as you press, inhale as you lower the weight.
  • Start with a lighter weight if you’re new to the exercise.
  • It’s wise to have a spotter for assistance if attempting very heavy weights.
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The shoulder press machine is a powerful addition to your workout routine. It helps build strong, healthy shoulders.

Ready to see the benefits for yourself? Next time you hit the gym, head to the shoulder press machine.

Let us know how it goes! Share your suggestions and experiences in the comments below.

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