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

 

 


Flys

Flys


Muscle group:   The chest muscles, the shoulder muscles

Trained muscle:   Chest musclesDeltoid

Focused muscle:   Chest muscles

Fitness level:   Beginner, advanced, experienced

Type of training:   Free weight exercises, machine exercises


 

Flys represent an effective exercise for the chest muscles. The front part of the deltoid will be trained as well in most fly variations. The exercise exists in different forms and can be practised on the fly or cable machine and with dumbbells. Here, we either choose a standing, sitting, or lying position. Beginners should only work out on the fly machine. Advanced and experienced athletes can also train on the cable machine or with dumbbells.

Flys on the machine

Flys on the machine begin in upright sitting position. The entire back touches the cushion of the back rest. Your foot hits the support lever in front of you to bring the resistance handles or cushions forward. Grab the handles actively stabilizing your wrists. The elbows never extend maximally and remain on shoulder level. Close the arms in a controlled movement. Open them again but don’t exceed the shoulder level with your elbows. On machines with resistance cushions you can have your elbows (bent at 90°) rest on the cushions. Intensify the exercise by performing small impulses in the area of highest muscle contraction (closed arms) (see best form of exercise).

Flys on the machine

Flys on the machine

 

Flys with dumbbells

Flys with dumbbells begin in lying supine position on a bench. Either have your legs rest on the floor or bench or keep them in the air. We start with extended arms right above our shoulders. In a controlled movement we lower the arms to the side on shoulder level keeping them almost entirely extended. Stop when the elbows reach shoulder hight and bring the arms back up again to complete one repetition. Small impulses at the lowest point intensify the exercise considerably.

Flys with dumbbells on the bench

Flys with dumbbells on the bench

 

Flys on the cable machine – lying

Flys on the cable machine can be exercised in standing or laying position. Lying we start in supine position on a bench. The legs either rest on the floor or bench or remain raised in the air. The cables come from below and run in one line with the shoulders. Grab the handles on the cables and actively stabilize your wrists. Your elbows never extend maximally. Keep them slightly bent. Both arms close in a controlled movement with the palms of the hands point toward the legs. Have both arms cross in front of the chest in the end position. Smoothly lower your arms again to complete one repetition. Working out in small impulses with crossed arms intensifies the exercise significantly.

Flys, lying on the cable machine

Flys, lying on the cable machine

 

Flys on the cable machine – standing

Flys on the cable machine in standing position can either be trained in shoulder-wide stand with slightly bent legs or in a short lunge. The cables come from above and run in one line with the shoulder joints. Grab the handles and stabilize the wrists actively. Tense your trunk muscles and slightly lean forward with your upper body. The back remains straight. We begin with slightly bent elbows on shoulder level. Pull your arms downward close to your body until they cross in front of your hips. The palms of your hands point toward the body. Bring them back up again to complete one repetition. Small impulses with crossed arms in front of the hips intensify the training.

Flys, standing on the cable machine

Flys, standing on the cable machine

 


Antagonist: Latissimus, Trapezius

Stretching: Chest 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

 

 


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


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