Smith Machine Shoulder Press (How to do, Benefits & Alternatives)

Do you want big, muscular shoulders? Smith machine shoulder presses are a great way to get them. Smith machines are relatively inexpensive and can be found almost anywhere (most gyms have one). Smith machine shoulder presses target the deltoid muscles in the upper arm. Smith machines provide the stability that mimics a barbell and controls those who might not feel comfortable with free weights or other exercises. This movement is often programmed for moderate to high reps (8-12+) to build muscle and strength endurance in an upper body-focused workout routine.

Smith machine shoulder presses can be used as an alternative to free weights for those who want to focus on muscle and strength endurance or just feel more comfortable with Smith machines.

How To Do Smith Machine Shoulder Press

  • Lie down on the bench you set up for your shoulder press. Make sure it’s at a 90-degree angle and then lie back, positioning yourself as comfortably as possible while still being able to lift weights overhead without strain or pain in this position.
  • Now the positioning of the bar on the back and under your chin can be adjusted so that you are faced with a straight-on view.
  • Next up is to add the weight you want and sit on your bench.
  • Hold the weights with both hands and bend your elbows slightly. This is where you start for this movement, so make sure to keep it low-key!
  • Keeping your elbows flaring out to the sides, slowly lower the weight below chin height before pausing for a second and then raising it back up without locking them in place at the top.


  • Smith machines provide the stability that mimics a barbell and offers greater control than free weights.  
  • Smith machine targets the deltoid muscles of the upper arm.  
  • Smith machine shoulder presses can be programmed for moderate to high reps (such as 12+) and added into an upper-body focused workout routine.

Alternative Exercises for Smith machine shoulder press

Military press: A free weight exercise that targets the anterior deltoid muscles. This can be done standing or seated.

Upright row: Targets the middle and posterior deltoids and the traps. It can be performed with a barbell or Smith machine.

Lateral raise: Works the medial deltoid muscles. It can be done with dumbbells or cables.

Front raise: Targets the anterior deltoids. It can be done with dumbbells, a barbell, or a Smith machine.

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