benefits of the shoulder press machine are many:
improved shoulder strength and muscle mass, no
need to kick dumbells up to your shoulders, increased
many gyms are sorely lacking when it comes to
shoulder press machines. They may not have one
at all or one that simply doesn't work well.
would you say if I were to tell you that you can
not only very easily make your own shoulder press
out of common gym equipment, it actually works
even better than machines specifically designed
for shoulder pressing!
How To Build The Power Rack
Shoulder Press Machine:
order to build this, you'll need two Olympic Bars
(one bar will do if you don't have two but you'll
then you'll have to do the exercise one arm at
a time), a power rack and some weight plates.
Nothing fancy here.
you'll be using the two bars, set inside the rack,
as levers. You'll be outside the rack to either
the left or right side, facing in, pushing up
on the ends of the two bars as though they were
the handles of a machine.
maximize the effectiveness of this exercise, we'll
need a rather specific setup. Once you know how
to set the exercise up, you'll find it's just
as quick as any other rack exercise setup.
by setting a flat bench beside the rack, with
the end about a foot from the side of the rack.
This is what you'll be sitting on as you do the
exercise. Next, we'll be setting the height of
your safety rails in the rack. The height will
vary somewhat, depending on how tall you are.
on your bench, facing the rack, and set the safety
rail right in front of you to a little above your
shoulder height. The other safety rail should
be set about 2 feet higher than this rail. Having
the other end higher is necessary for proper and
safe functioning of the movement. The two Olympic
bars should not go much higher than horizontal
at the top of the movement. This is especially
important if the safety rails on your rack are
smooth metal. If the bars go higher than horizontal,
you may end up sliding them forward rather than
the two bars on the rails in the rack, about shoulder-width
apart (approximately 2 feet). They will be angled
down towards the bench at about a 35 degree angle.
order to ensure that the bars don't slide, pull
the collars of the bars against the top safety
rail. I also highly recommend putting a 10 pound
weight plate on the ends with a collar to toally
eliminate the possibility of the bar slipping
The two bars
are set in the rack with one end higher
than the other.
You will be
pushing on the bottom ends of the bars,
using the top ends as the fulcrum of the
shows the higher end of the bars.
Note how there
are two 10 pound weight plates on the end
to keep the bars from sliding down and that
the collars of the two bars are butted up
against the safety rail.
This is the
lower end of the bars. You will want to
use smaller-diameter weight plates such
as 5's, 10's and 25's so that you can bring
the bar closer at the top of the movement.
Be sure you've
got VERY tight collars on these ends as
the weight plates can slip down due to the
angle of the bars.
a practice rep without any weight plates on the
lower ends to make sure the setup feels good.
Sit on the end the bench and place the heels of
your hands under the ends of the two bars. Now
wrap your fingers around the ends of the bars.
You may have to lift the bars up a little to get
into the start position.
a shoulder press movement from there. Start with
your hands in the normal shoulder-width position.
As you press up, bring your hands together overhead
in an arc.
freedom of movement is one of the most valuable
benefits of this set-up. Most machines don't allow
you to do this--they lock your hands into position
like a barbell, increasing the stress on your
do allow this freedom of movement but it's very
difficult to get very heavy dumbells up into position.
With this exercise you get the best of both worlds...the
ability to use more weight, like a machine, and
the increased freedom of movement like dumbells.
it's time to add some weight to the bars. Use
smaller sized plates (5, 10, and 25 pounders,
at the most) so you don't bang them together at
the top. If the plates are larger, you won't be
able to bring them together as close, which will
limit the effectiveness of the exercise.
adding weight conservatively - remember, you're
also lifting the weight of the bars as well.
Start by setting
a flat bench to the side of the rack, facing
in towards the rack.
hands around the ends of the barbells.
This is the
mid-point of the exercise.
Note how the
press is basically exactly like a machine
or barbell shoulder press.
At the top
of the movement, you will bring your hands
together overhead, just like with dumbell
This is one
of the big advantages of this exercise.
It allows much greater freedom of movement
than barbells but with the greater stability
and more convenient start position of barbells
is EXTREMELY important that you use very solid
collars on the bars on the lower ends. The bars
are at a steep angle and the potential for the
weights to slide off is great. Check for signs
of slippage between sets (gaps between the weight
plates and the bar collars).
the seated shoulder press as you normally would
on a machine. You've now got yourself a shoulder
Why This Exercise Is So Effective:
I mentioned above, one of the major benefits of
this setup is the freedom of movement you get
with the bars. Unlike machines and like dumbells,
you are able to bring your hands together at the
top of the movement.
advantage of this setup over a regular machine
or barbell is the independent movement of the
bars. This eliminates the problem of the stronger
side helping out the weaker side too much and
creating strength imbalances. It also allows you
to perform both one arm presses and alternating
arm presses very easily.
possibility of using more weight, like a barbell
or machine, without having to get those weights
up to shoulder position on your own power, like
with dumbells, is a tremendous advantage as well.
shoulder press machine is hard to find. Why not
build your own machine that actually works better!
All you need is a couple of bars and a rack.
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