Smith machine shoulder press exercise

Smith machine shoulder press

Exercise details

  • Target muscle: Anterior Deltoid
  • Synergists: Lateral Deltoid, Clavicular (Upper) Pectoralis Major, Middle and Lower Trapezius, Serratus Anterior, Triceps Brachii
  • Dynamic stabilizers: Triceps Brachii (Long Head), Biceps Brachii (not highlighted in illustration)
  • Mechanics: Compound
  • Force: Push

Starting position

  1. Set the Smith machine bar to upper-chest height.
  2. Secure the Smith machine’s safety pins so that the bar can’t drop and injure you.
  3. Stand under the bar and grasp it using a pronated (overhand) grip that is a little wider than shoulder width.
  4. Unlatch the bar from the rail by rotating it.


  1. Exhale as you press the bar upward until your arms are almost fully extended.
  2. Inhale as you reverse the motion and lower the bar to your upper chest.
  3. Repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions.
  4. Rotate the bar to latch it back onto the rail.

Comments and tips

  • Keep your body still and your head facing forward; don’t look up.
  • Keep your elbows a little forward and not directly out to the sides. This promotes shoulder health.
  • To help you drive the bar upward, keep your wrists straight and directly above your elbows.
  • At the top of the movement, you can shrug your shoulders to raise the bar a little higher. This is optional and will get your upper trapezius and levator scapulae involved as synergists, allowing you to get more out of the exercise.
  • Provided you use the safety pins, the Smith machine shoulder press is safer than the barbell shoulder press, which makes it useful for when you want to go heavy. Otherwise, I’d recommend you use the barbell.
  • See also the band shoulder press, the dumbbell one-arm shoulder press, and the Smith machine seated overhead press.

Smith machine shoulder press video


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