When it comes to undertaking a shoulder session and targeting the anterior deltoids, there’s simply no better exercise than the shoulder press. The shoulder press itself is an exercise that can easily be manipulated and altered to bring about variation. Not only can it be undertaken with specific machines and free weights to include both dumbbells and barbells, but it can also be carried out using the smith machine.

The Smith machine is a piece of equipment, commonly found in most gyms up and down the country. It consists of a barbell fixed within steel rails, allowing only vertical movement. It can be used for a variety of exercises, one of those being the shoulder press. The beauty of the smith machine is that it gives the feel of undertaking free weights with a barbell, whilst at the same time allowing the stability of a fixed machine.

There may be a number of you sat reading this article and thinking to yourselves, there’s absolutely nothing new or varied about performing the shoulder press exercise on the smith machine, and you’d be absolutely right! The variation itself comes from your body positioning.

Normally, during the shoulder press with the smith machine, an inclined bench is used by the individual, which is sat on throughout the movement. This provides you with a stable base to push against during the upward phase of the movement and supports your torso region throughout the exercise. Now here comes the variation; completely remove the bench and adopt a kneeling position instead!

Not only will this dramatically reduce the amount of weight you can press, making you work harder than ever, and make you feel like you’ve never undertaken the shoulder press before, it will also exert numerous other benefits which didn’t previously exist when the bench was present. Firstly, with the bench you had the ability to exacerbate the curvature of your lower back during the lifting phase to assist the movement. This is no longer available in the kneeling position as you are required to maintain a much more rigid, neutral positioning throughout the exercise.

Secondly, with the bench present you did not need to really activate your core as the bench offered protection and support throughout the movement. By simply removing the bench, you and your core region are now required to be at the top of your game in order to provide a solid foundation from which you produce the shoulder press itself. Any weakness in the core region will ultimately result in a loss of energy potential during the actual lift itself. So what is expected of you during the kneeling smith machine shoulder press?

How To Perform The Kneeling Shoulder Press
  1. Place a mat on the floor before kneeling directly in the middle of the smith machine.
  2. Ensure the bar is placed at approximately chin height and loaded appropriately.
  3. Grasp the bar with an overhand grip just wider than shoulder width apart.
  4. Disengage the bar from the rack. This is your start position.
  5. Press the bar upwards until your arms are extended overhead.
  6. Slowly lower the bar in front of you to approximately shoulder height.
  7. This is one repetition. Repeat until desired repetitions are completed.
Kneeling Shoulder Press Video

Final Word

This exercise variation can be considered advanced and requires you to consciously activate your core muscles throughout. As a result this should not be attempted by novices or those individuals experiencing back related problems.

So there you have it, a simple yet effective way of adding variation to your standard smith machine shoulder press routine. Next time you’re in the gym and have a shoulder session planned, why not give the kneeling variation a go and see how you get on.