The machine shoulder press is a machine overhead pressing exercise.

While it’s an excellent exercise for anyone looking to build upper-body strength and muscle, it’s particularly popular among beginners.

That’s because it’s easier to learn and perform than other free-weight overhead pressing exercises, making it ideal for those new to strength training

In this article, you’ll learn what the machine shoulder press is, why it’s beneficial, which muscles it works, how to perform proper machine shoulder press form, the best alternatives, and more. 


What Is A Shoulder Press Machine?

A shoulder press machine is a piece of workout equipment that enables you to perform the shoulder press—an exercise that involves pressing weights vertically overhead.

Although weightlifters of all kinds include the machine shoulder press in their strength training programs, it’s especially popular among new weightlifters. That’s because it requires less balance and coordination than similar free-weight exercises, making it easier to learn when starting out. 

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Shoulder Press Machine: Benefits

The main benefit of the machine shoulder press is it allows you to train several upper-body muscle groups simultaneously, primarily the shoulder muscles and triceps.

It also lets you lift heavy weights safely and progress regularly, making it ideal for gaining upper-body strength and muscle.

The shoulder press machine offers some unique advantages over free-weight alternatives, too.

First, it’s more straightforward for beginners because it requires less balance and coordination than similar free-weight exercises.

And second, it’s easy to set up, so you don’t waste energy or risk injury getting into position the way you might during exercises such as the dumbbell shoulder press or Arnold press.

Shoulder Press Machine: Muscles Worked

The main muscles worked by the machine shoulder press are the . . .

It also works the traps, pecs, and rotator cuff muscles to a lesser degree. 

Here’s how the main muscles worked look on your body:

shoulder press machine

How to Use the Shoulder Press Machine

Follow these machine shoulder press instructions to perform the exercise with proper form.

machine shoulder press

1. Set up

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

2. Press

Drive your feet into the floor and your back against the backrest, then press the handles toward the ceiling until your arms are straight. Avoid excessively arching your lower back or scooting forward on the bench.

3. Descend

Reverse the movement and return to the starting position. To perform each rep through a full range of motion, continue lowering the handles until they’re at shoulder height.

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Seated Shoulder Press Machine: Free-Weight Alternatives

The machine shoulder press is an excellent exercise for gaining muscle and building strength, especially when you’re new to strength training

That said, you should be aware of several free-weight alternatives to the machine shoulder press. 

These exercises require more balance, coordination, and stability than the machine version. Because of this, they train more muscle groups throughout your body, making them slightly better for building strength and muscle. 

The best alternatives to the seated shoulder press machine are: