Shoulder presses

Shoulder presses


Muscle group:   The shoulder muscles, the chest muscles, the arm muscles

Trained muscle:   Deltoid, Chest muscles, Triceps

Focused muscle:   Deltoid

Fitness level:   Beginner, advanced, experienced

Type of training:   Free weight exercises, machine exercises


 

Shoulder presses represent a very effective exercise for the front part of the deltoid muscle. Most variations also work out the chest muscles (especially the upper part), the triceps of the arm, and the upper part of the trapezius.

Shoulder presses

Shoulder presses exist in different variations. Basically we can distinguish between the front press and the neck press. Within the versions we could either work out on the machine or with free weights, like a barbell or dumbbells. Beginners should only work out on the shoulder press machine. Advanced and experienced athletes could also train on the multi press machine, racks, and with free weights.

Shoulder presses to the front

Shoulder presses to the front begin in upright sitting position. Your back rests on the back cushion of the bench. Grab the barbell slightly wider than shoulder width. The elbows point outward. Tense the trunk muscles and actively stabilize the wrists. Press the weight upward until your arms are almost extended. Lower the barbell again until your elbows have just passed shoulder height. The bar will be on the level of your mouth or nose right in front of your face.

Shoulder presses to the front on the incline bench

Shoulder presses to the front on the incline bench

 

Shoulder presses to front can also be performed sitting without back rest or in standing position. Especially here, it is important to keep the trunk muscles tensed and the pelvis erected to prevent a hollow back.

Shoulder presses to the front, free back

Shoulder presses to the front, free back

 

The exercise on the machine doesn’t require stabilization work since the resistance is moved in a fixed construction, what makes the training easier. The execution is similar.

Shoulder presses to the front on the machine

Shoulder presses to the front on the machine

 

Shoulder presses to the neck

Shoulder presses to the neck also have the same execution. But we now lower the weights toward the neck. Here, it is necessary to lean forward with the head slightly. Also keep the trunk muscles tensed and the back upright. In the lowest position the bar will be on the back of the head, but never below ear level.

Shoulder presses to the neck on the incline bench

Shoulder presses to the neck on the incline bench

 

Shoulder presses to the neck, free back

Shoulder presses to the neck, free back

 

Shoulder presses to the neck on the rack

Shoulder presses to the neck on the rack

 

For shoulder presses with dumbbells we don’t move the weights to the front or neck. The weight sits rather centered on shoulder level.

Shoulder presses with dumbbells

Shoulder presses with dumbbells

 

Also the exercise bench press trains the deltoid, especially in the incline version. In all variations of the shoulder or bench press don’t lower the bar too far. If your elbows go to far below shoulder level the pressure for the soft tissues of the shoulder joints gets to high what could cause complaints or injuries in the shoulder.


Stretching: Shoulder stretches

 

 


Bench press

Bench press


Muscle group:   The chest muscles, the arm muscles, the shoulder muscles

Trained muscle:   Chest muscles, Triceps, Deltoid

Focused muscle:   Chest muscles

Fitness level:   Beginner, advanced, experienced

Type of training:   Free weight exercises, machine exercises


 

Bench press is one of the basic exercises in the weight training area, together with squats, deadlifts, and pull-ups. It probably is the most popular chest exercise. It also represents a training for the triceps of the arm and the front part of the deltoid. The exercise is familiar with push-ups.

Bench press

The bench press exists in different variations. The exercise can be practised with barbell, dumbbells, or on the machine. For the training with barbell and dumbbell we can choose between different bench adjustments to work out regular or inclined bench presses. The exercise on the machine is usually practised in seated position. Beginners should only exercise machine bench pressing. Advanced and experienced athletes can practise with free weights.

Bench press basic execution

The regular bench press is performed on the flat bench with barbell. We start in supine position with the barbell right above our eyes. We can either remain with our feet on the floor, cross one leg on top of the other, or raise both from the ground. Pleas note that to prevent a hollow back it is better to lift the legs. But this requires more balance and is especially difficult with higher weights. Grab the barbell slightly wider than shoulder width and actively stabilize your wrists. Tense your trunk muscles and press your lower back onto the bench. Now lift the barbell out of the holders to have it floating on your extended arms above your shoulders. In a controlled movement lower the weight toward the chest (not the throat) performing a slight bow. Bring it back up again to complete one repetition. Working out with narrower grip increases the activation of the triceps.

Bench press on the flat bench with barbell

Bench press on the flat bench with barbell

 

Bench press – special note

Deep bench presses especially with higher weights strain the shoulder joint capsule and ligament structure significantly. The head of the bone of the upper arm (humerus) presses forward against these soft tissues when the elbow passes the shoulder level. This bears the risk of injuries. To avoid complaints and injuries it is recommended to not lower the barbell until it touches the chest. Stop a few centimetres above the chest as soon as the elbows reach shoulder level and bring it back up again. Investigations by Buskies W., Boeckh-Behrens W. (2009) showed that a training of deep bench presses doesn’t increase the effectiveness and does not lead to better strengthening or muscle building effects.

Bench press variations

Bench presses can also be performed on the incline bench with either positive or negative angle adjustment. The execution stays the same. Also the workout on the multi press machine is possible. Here, we have to perform less stabilization work since the weight bar runs in a fixed construction. Due to that the intensity decreases what allows us to work out with higher weights.

Bench press inclined

Bench press inclined

 

Bench press negative

Bench press negative

 

All versions of the bench press can also be performed with dumbbells. Here, we have to perform more stabilization work what allows us to only train with lower weights only.

Bench press with dumbbells on the flat bench

Bench press with dumbbells on the flat bench

 

Bench press with dumbbells on the incline bench

Bench press with dumbbells on the incline bench

 

Bench press on the machine

Bench pressing on the machine is performed seated. Sit upright and choose the highest seat adjustment to have your shoulders above the level of the handles (most effective). The entire back touches the back rest. Hit the support lever (if available) with your foot to bring the weight handles forward. Grab the handles actively stabilizing your wrists. Bring your elbows up toward the outside to have them in one line with your wrists and shoulders. Against the resistance you extend your arms almost completely. Bring your arms back until your elbows reach the shoulder level (not further back, see “special note” above). After the last repetition of the set bring back the weight handles using the support lever with your foot again.

Bench press on the machine

Bench press on the machine

 


Antagonist: Latissimus, Trapezius

Stretching: Chest stretches

 

 


Tricep press

Tricep press


Muscle group:   The arm muscles

Trained muscle:   Triceps

Fitness level:   Beginner, advanced, experienced

Type of training:   Free weight exercises, machine exercises


 

Tricep press is a very effective exercise for the triceps muscle of the arm. We have quite a large range of different variations we can choose from.

Tricep press

Tricep press can be performed in many different ways using different pieces of equipment. We can choose between a standing, sitting, or lying position as well as if we would rather like to work out on a machine or with free weights, like a dumbbell or a curl bar. Beginners should start at the tricep press machine. Advanced and experienced athletes can also work out on the cable machine and with free weights.

Tricep press on the machine

Sit down in the tricep press machine. Adjust the rotating axis of the machine so that it is in one line with your elbow joints. Keep your back straight resting on the cushion behind and the abdominal muscles tensed. The backsides of the upper arms rest on the cushion in front of you. Grab the handles firmly and stabilize your wrist actively. From that position stretch and bend the elbows alternately.

Tricep press on the machine

Tricep press on the machine

 

Tricep press – standing on the cable machine

The standing tricep press on the cable machine is practised with either shoulder wide feet or in a short lunge. We face the machine and stand close to it so that the cable is running straightly when we pull it. Grab the rope or V handle tightly and stabilize your wrist actively. Tense the muscles of the trunk and fixate the elbows on the sides of your body. From that position you stretch and bend the elbow joint alternately.

This version of the tricep press is more effective when the elbows bend not farther than 90°. When you work with a rope you could increase the intensity by pushing your arms to the sides when the elbows are stretched. It is recommendable to stand close to the machine and keep the cable running straightly. The farther we are away from the machine, the more the latissimus will be activated and the less the triceps. The upper arms will be pulled toward the machine and it is hard to hold them on the body.

Tricep press standing on the cable machine

Tricep press standing on the cable machine

 

Tricep press – overhead

For overhead tricep presses we either sit down on a bench with straight back. Or we stand with our feet shoulder wide and our knees slightly bend or in a short lunge. From that position we either work one-armed with a dumbbell or with both arms with a dumbbell or curl bar. Smoothly and controlled we lower the weight toward the neck and up again.

Keep your back straight during the entire set and the muscles of your trunk tensed. To prevent complaints don’t relief the muscle tension when the elbow is bent. Keep your wrist stabilized and the upper arm steady. In the one-armed version you could use your free arm to stabilize the working arm from the front or behind.

Tricep press sitting

Tricep press sitting

 

Tricep press – lying

Lying tricep presses could be performed with curl bar or on the cable machine. With curl bar we lay down on a bench. You could either bring up your legs or place your feet on the bench or the floor. Tense your abdominal muscles. The pelvis erects and your lower back pulls toward the bench to prevent a hollow back. The upper arms always remain in a perpendicular line and you bend and stretch the elbow joints alternately. Actively stabilize your wrist.

On the cable machine we lay down in supine position with our head pointing toward the machine. Our heel press into the floor. Tense the abdominal muscles and erect the pelvis. The lower back pulls toward the floor to prevent a hollow back. The head lies on the floor. The upper arms remain on the sides of our body. From that position we stretch and bend the elbow joints alternately. Best would be to use a rope so you can go further down with your forearms pushing to the sides.

Tricep press lying

Tricep press lying


Antagonist: Biceps

Stretching: Tricep stretches

 

 


Dips

Dips


Muscle group:   The chest muscles, the arm muscles, the shoulder muscles

Trained muscle:   chest muscles, triceps, deltoid

Focused muscle:   chest muscles, triceps

Fitness level:   Advanced, experienced

Type of training:   Own body weight exercises, free weight exercises, machine exercises


 

Dips represent an effective exercise for the chest and triceps that can be performed in different ways and intensities. But there is also a high risk of serious injuries that comes along with dips.

Dips

Dips can be performed on the dip machine at the gym, the bars, a bench, or the floor. The most popular version would be on the bars working out with your entire body weight. This type should only be practised by experienced athletes. In starting position your arms rest close to your body on the bars with tight grip. The rest of your body is hanging in the air. From that position bend and stretch your arms alternatingly to the back performing up and down movements with your body. Keep your trunk, abs, shoulders, arms, and chest tensed at any time during the exercise. Please do never stretch the elbow joint maximally.

Dip variations

Dips could also be practised seated at the dip machine. This version can already be performed at an earlier training level but is not suitable for complete beginners. Please adjust the weight according to your physical conditions. For more variety the exercise can be performed with your arms resting on a bench or the floor.

Dips bear the risk of shoulder injuries. Especially the structure of the capsule and ligament of the shoulder front are stressed significantly as soon as the upper arm exceeds the shoulder level. You should stop the down movement at an elbow angle of 90°. Even better would be working out with a higher angle.


Antagonist: Latissimus, Trapezius, Biceps

Stretching: Chest stretches, tricep stretches

 

Dips on the bars

Dips on the bars

 

Dips on the bench

Dips on the bench

 

Dips

Dips


Tricep Kickbacks

Tricep kickbacks


Muscle group:   The arm muscles, the shoulder muscles

Trained muscle:   Triceps, deltoid

Focused muscles:   Triceps

Fitness level:   Beginner, advanced, experienced

Type of training:   Own body weight exercises, free weight exercises


 

Tricep kickbacks are a very good exercise for the backside of the upper arm and the back part of the deltoid. It is not even necessary to work out with weights to achieve a high intensity.

Tricep kickbacks

Tricep kickbacks can be performed on a bench at the gym or on a mat on the floor. On a bench you would kneel with one leg on the bench and the front of your body lying on the back rest. The other leg stands beside the bench on the floor. Working out with one arm you would hold on with the other arm on the back rest to stabilize your body. The working arm is raised straight back to the maximum. Choose a rest angle that allows you to kick back with your arm up to the horizontal line (longest lever) to activate the triceps maximally. Also adduct your arm as much towards the body as possible.

Tricep kickbacks variations

Tricep kickbacks are practised most intensely by remaining with your arm on the horizontal line just performing small up and down movements in the area of highest muscle contraction. Without extra weights clench your fist and actively stretch your arm maximally to achieve highest muscle tension. Further intensify your workout by using extra weights, like dumbbells or on the cable machine. It is recommendable to train both arms to the same time (might not be possible at the cable machine). This method safes time and makes it easier to keep the body straight.

Tricep kickbacks can also be performed dynamically bending and stretching the forearm. The upper arm remains on the horizontal line. The elbow is bent to an angle of 90° and stretched back up again to the horizontal line. This version is less intense. Working out on the floor it is more difficult to stabilize the body. Keep the back straight and your abdominal muscles tensed.


Antagonist: Biceps

Stretching: Tricep stretches, shoulder stretches

 

Tricep kickbacks variations

Tricep kickbacks variations

 

Tricep kickbacks variations

Tricep kickbacks variations


Push-ups

Push-ups


Muscle group:   The chest muscles, the arm muscles, the shoulder muscles, complex exercises

Trained muscle:   Chest muscles, Triceps, Deltoid

Focused muscle:   Chest muscles

Fitness level:   Beginner, advanced, experienced

Type of training:   Own body weight exercises


 

Push-ups represent an effective exercise for the chest muscles. Also the triceps of the arm and the deltoid receive a quite intense workout with this exercise. You can perform push-ups anywhere you would like to and just need your own body weight to practise.

Push-ups

Push-ups are performed most intensely with your hands narrowly aligned to each other and your arms as close as possible to your body. Start in prone position with your tiptoes pressed towards the floor. Your hands rest close to each other on the floor. The fingers point straight forward with the thumbs touching each other. Your head is facing the ground right above your hands. The entire body is aligned in one straight line. From this position you bend and stretch your arms alternatingly performing up and down movements. Please don’t let your hips and pelvis sag. Hold your abdominal muscles tensed and your back straight during the entire exercise.

Push-ups variations

Push-ups become more intense by letting your feet rest in an elevated position (e.g. on a bench) or by shifting your weight further towards the front. Small up and down movements in the area of high muscle contraction intensify the workout even more. It is also possible to work out with extra weights (e.g. in a backpack). Here, please watch your back very carefully. You could also perform one-armed push-ups by shifting the weight to one side.

Push-ups become easier by practising on your knees instead of your feet. To further lower the intensity you could bend your hip joint and bring up your butt so your arms and knees move closer towards each other. The easiest version of the push-up is performed obliquely against the wall. Choosing a wider hand position would make it even easier but would make the push-up less effective.


Antagonist: Trapezius, Latissimus

Stretching: Chest stretches

 

Push-ups

Push-ups

 

Push-up against wall

Push-up against wall

 

Push-up on knees

Push-up on knees

 

Push-up, legs elevated

Push-up, legs elevated

 

Push-up, weight on one arm

Push-up, weight on one arm