How To Do Smith Machine Shoulder Press With Proper Form

Do you want to learn about some of the best shoulder press exercises using the smith machine to include in your workouts for a stronger, better-looking shoulder?

Then you should add the best smith machine overhead shoulder presses to your shoulder workout routine. It will help build stronger muscles that make your shoulders bigger and fuller.

Shoulder smith machine Press exercises are those that involve movement around more than one joint simultaneously.

For those of you who have been trying to achieve bigger and stronger shoulders, it is highly recommended that you start performing the Smith Machine shoulder press workout.

In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about how to perform the smith overhead shoulder press correctly. You will also learn its benefits, how to avoid common mistakes, and what are the best variation of it and how to do them. You will also learn some of the best alternatives of it.

Shoulder Muscles Anatomy

In fitness, “shoulder exercises” refers to resistance exercises that target the deltoid muscle.

The deltoid is the superficial muscle that forms the rounded contour of your shoulder. Deltoid is technically a single muscle, but anatomically speaking it has three distinct sets of muscles fibers and muscle bellies, which are referred to as “heads.”

The deltoid muscle of the shoulder consists of three separate sections or heads.


Smith Machine Shoulder Press Muscles Worked

Obviously, you want to know what the smith shoulder press muscles worked are, that determines what day this exercise will fit into your routine. Here are the muscles it works!

Primarily Muscles: Anterior Deltoid

Secondary Muscles: Lateral Deltoid, Triceps Brachii, Supraspinatus, Middle Trapezius and Lower Trapezius, Serratus Anterior

A handful of other muscles worked or play the role of stabilizer muscles during overhead standing smith machine press include your,

Benefit Of Doing Shoulder Press With Smith Machine

Building strong shoulders is proper shoulder strength is crucial for a stronger and healthier upper body, and the shoulder press can produce benefits that translate to your overall gym performance and your everyday life.  

A Smith machine shoulder press workout has many potential benefits. Below are some of the most common reasons why you should use smith machine during deltoid workout.

  • Smith machines Press are very effective at isolating the front, lateral and rear deltoid and due to the ability to change body position and not worry about stabilization. There are also many variations, so you can hone in on other muscles.
  • Smith machines have a catch system, so you don’t need a spotter. This catch system can be used as a replacement for a spotter. You can reposition the weight at any time using the available hooks. 
  • Smith machines remove much of the need to stabilize. For experienced lifters, this means more weight or volume, and therefore, more significant gains. 
  • When performed properly, the smith machine shoulder press can be safer than the standard shoulder press because you have the added support of the secured bar. However, you also have a built-in spotter.
  • Your chances of injuries are reduced because of a lifter’s ability to focus on form and the catch system. Of course, this does not mean there is a zero percent chance of injury. Good form and technique are required for any exercise. 

Best Smith Machine Overhead Shoulder Press Exercises

Here are the best shoulder press exercises that you can do with a smith machine to build muscle mass and strength in your deltoid.

Adding some smith machine press variation to your shoulder workout routine will give you more benefits.

Smith Machine Seated Shoulder Press

The shoulder Press remains the grand-daddy of all shoulder exercises to build big, round shoulder muscles.

The shoulder muscles are strengthened by upright pressing movement. Specifically, the front part of the shoulder (anterior deltoid), but you will use some lateral delt and traps as well.

With the Smith machine shoulder press, you can isolate the front delt more because you don’t have to balance the bar.

Smith machine seated shoulder press has been the favorite shoulder exercise with bodybuilders as it builds muscle fast and is a power move.

Smith Machine Seated Shoulder Press

How To Do Smith Machine Seated Shoulder Press

  1. Sit on an exercise bench and grab a bar with an overhand grip.
  2. Bring the bar over and in front of your head, under your chin, and just above your upper chest.
  3. Now Press the bar straight up overhead until your arms are fully extended but not locked out.
  4. Slowly lower the bar back to the starting position.

Proper Form and Tips

  • Perform a warm-up with 50% weight for 1-2 sets.
  • Always perform the Shoulder Exercises before you perform triceps.

Smith Machine Shoulder Press Variations

If you’re tired of doing shoulder presses on the Smith Machine, or you want to add some variety to your next upper body workout, the shoulder press can be done in many different ways that each have their own benefits.  

1. Standing Smith Machine Shoulder Press

The Smith Machine standing overhead press is a compound movement that effectively builds size for the entire shoulder complex and also helps strengthen the core muscles.

It is a safer alternative to the traditional standing shoulder press because you do not have to stabilise the weight as much.

The Smith machine shoulder press is safer than the barbell shoulder press, which makes it useful for when you want to go heavy. You need to use the safety pins, of course.

Standing Smith Machine Shoulder Press

How To Do Smith Machine Seated Shoulder Press

  1. Set the Smith machine bar to upper-chest height.
  2. Stand under the bar and use a pronated grip that is a little wider than the shoulder width.
  3. Unhook the bar from the rail by turning it.
  4. Exhale as you press the bar straight up overhead until your arms are fully extended but not locked out.
  5. Inhale as you reverse the motion and slowly lower the bar back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Proper Form and Tips

  • Don’t look up, keep your body still and head facing forward
  • To help you lift the bar upward, keep your wrists straight and above your elbows.
  • Always wrap your thumbs around the bar to achieve a secure grip.

2. Seated Smith Machine Behind The Neck Shoulder Press

A smith behind-the-neck press is an exercise that targets your shoulders. The standard military press and the overhead dumbbell presses hit more of the anterior head of the deltoid, which is often stimulated a lot even during the bench press.

Behind the neck press, on the other hand, stimulates all the three heads of the shoulder, It also recruits the triceps, traps, and rhomboids.

The seated behind-the-neck shoulder press with the Smith machine is not recommended, especially if you are a beginner. The reason is that, bringing the weight behind your neck under heavy load may place your shoulder joint in a position where it can get damaged.

If you do not have a fair amount of shoulder mobility, it is not recommended to perform this smith machine shoulder exercises.

Seated Smith Machine Behind The Neck Shoulder Press

How To Do Smith Machine Behind The Neck Shoulder Press

  1. Put a bench under a smith machine.
  2. Set the Smith machine bar to the height of your shoulders when you sit on the bench.
  3. Elevate the bar overhead by fully extending your arms while breathing out.
  4. Hold the contraction for a second and lower the barbell back down to the starting position by inhaling.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Proper Form and Tips

  • Don’t bounce the bar off your neck. Perform the exercise in a slow and controlled manner.
  • Before you start this motion, pull your scapula back to give your shoulders some support and room to move.
  • Perform a warm-up with 50% weight for 1-2 sets.
  • Keep your elbows flared out, in line with the shoulders or slightly behind.

3. Standing Smith Machine Behind The Neck Shoulder Press

The behind the neck press is an exercise that has slowly gained a bad reputation. It’s an exercise that can hurt your shoulders if done wrong and put you in a vulnerable position. But if you do it right, it can be a workout that uses a lot of the muscle fibers in your deltoids.

The main benefits of the standing smith press variation include increased abdominal activation and the ability to remove the weight without a spotter.

Standing Smith Machine Behind The Neck Shoulder Press

How To Do Standing Smith Machine Behind The Neck Shoulder Press

  1. Set the Smith machine bar to a few inches above head height.
  2. Use a pronated grip that is slightly wider than the shoulder width to hold the bar.
  3. Unhook the bar from the rail by turning it.
  4. Exhale as you press the bar straight up overhead until your arms are fully extended but not locked out.
  5. Inhale as you reverse the motion and slowly lower the bar back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Proper Form and Tips

  • Don’t let your head drop too far forward as you lower the barbell.
  • Perform the exercise in a slow and controlled manner.

Training Volume (Reps and Sets)

The Smith-machine overhead press is good for both high and low repetitions.

If you are focusing on strength, then you should perform 5-8 rep sets. However, if your main goal is muscle growth, then reps of 8-12 are likely optimal because they allow you to accumulate training volume faster.

What Are The Best Smith machine overhead press alternative

Before we deep dive into the best smith machine shoulder press alternatives. We must remember, a good smith press alternative will be able to satisfy the following criteria:

1. Activate the deltoid muscle groups which is trained in the smith overhead press

2. Isolate the muscle groups during execution

3. Train the shoulder muscle through a longer range of motion

1. Military Press AKA Overhead Press

If you’re looking for a straightforward alternative to the smith shoulder press to add to your routine, the Overhead Press are a great staple exercise to get you started.

The military press is used primarily to build the deltoid muscle. It also indirectly targets the other muscles of the shoulder, your triceps, and your core. Since the military press is completed standing up, it involves a lot of core strength to help stabilize the spine while pressing weight overhead.

2. Arnold Shoulder Press

Arnold Shoulder Press is an excellent shoulder exercise for muscle building. When it comes to the best compound shoulder exercises with the best range of motion for shoulder muscles, Arnold’s press stands out from the crowd.

It gives a wide range of motion as you lower the dumbbells well down in front, giving that maximum stretch that other shoulder exercises lack. You could add the Arnold shoulder press as an alternate to the seated Smith press.

3. Cable Shoulder Press

If cable setup is available, you should try cable shoulder press as an alternative to standing smith machine press to build size and strength.

Even though you might not see many people using the cable machine for shoulder presses, it is a fantastic exercise to mix in your shoulder workout for extra variety.

The angle of the cable overhead press can help recruit new muscle fiber that’s not engaged much with other types of shoulder presses because the force is pulling down behind you.

Know More About: Best Cable Shoulder Workout & Exercises For 3D Deltoids

4. Pike Push Up

If you are searching for an alternative to smith overhead shoulder press that you can easily do at home, then pike push-ups is the best option for you.

Pike Push-ups aka shoulder push up is a variation of the push-up that increases strength and stability in the shoulders and triceps. 

Performing the exercise in a more upright position will target the deltoid more than the chest.

Frequently Asked Question

Free Weight Press Vs Smith Machine Shoulder Press

  • Free-weight shoulder exercises also allow for a more natural arc of movement because you’re not constrained by a machine.
  • The Smith machine presses will offer a safe path of motion and safety latches if you get stuck. The Smith machine presses will offer a controlled path of motion and safety latches if you get stuck.
  • Free-weight dumbbell or barbell presses require the most help from shoulder stabilizer muscle groups. This helps strengthen muscles that are often difficult to target, such as the rotator cuff, which can make you stronger and less susceptible to injuries.
  • The smith machine relies on fewer stabilizer muscles, but this benefit comes with the tradeoff that smaller, weaker muscles will not interfere with your strength. This means you can lift heavier weight.
  • Even though barbell shoulder presses with free weights are your best exercise for building muscle, switch between the two exercises regularly to get the best of both worlds. 
  • Don’t rely exclusively on the Smith machine; otherwise, your stabilizer muscle groups will become weaker, leaving you weaker in the long run and at a greater risk for a shoulder injury.

Is The Smith Machine Press Good For Shoulder

There are many benefits to using the Smith machine for shoulder press workouts. The Smith machine overhead press exercises tend to be safer because it requires less balance. Plus, you can use the safety stops or rack the weight if you get stuck.

It also allows you to lift more weight than you can with free weight shoulder press exercises.

Can you use Smith machine for overhead press?

Yes you can use smith machine for overhead press, it one of the best exercises to build bigger and stronger shoulder.


You can perform numerous shoulder press with the smith machine that can build muscle and strength. The constant tension placed on your muscles through a range of motion, allowing progressive overload to take place, leading to strength and muscle gains.

Some exercisers will go their entire lives without training on a Smith machine. They think that the Smith machine press will hurt them, even though they’ve never used one.

The reality is that when used correctly, this much-maligned piece of gym equipment can be very useful, especially if your goal is hypertrophy. They allow you to train to failure in relative safety and leave you free to focus on lifting and lowering the weight and not balancing or stabilizing it.

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