Shoulder Press Machine Grip Positions

Use the shoulder press to work your shoulders and triceps.
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Most commercial gyms carry at least one type of shoulder press machine. A standard shoulder press consists of a cushioned seat with a back support, an adjustable weight stack attached to a cable and a set of handles. You perform the exercise by sitting on the seat and pressing the weight directly overhead. As the name implies, the main muscle worked is your shoulders. You can change the focus of the exercise, however, by changing your grip position.

Pronated Grip

Most machines have a default setting of a pronated grip, with your palms facing straight ahead. The main benefit of using the pronated grip is that it's the same grip you'd use if you were to press a barbell overhead. Therefore if you're using the machine shoulder press as an ancillary exercise for boosting your free-weight press, a pronated grip is your best option.

Neutral Grip

A neutral grip is similar to a pronated grip, only your hands are turned inward, so your palms are facing each other. A neutral grip often feels more comfortable, as it puts your shoulders in a more natural position, but the neutral grip also places less stress on your shoulder joints, claims trainer J.C. Deen of If your gym's shoulder press machine doesn't have specific neutral grip handles, you could use the arms of the machine instead.

Close Grip Presses

If one of the machines at your gym has the option to do so, you may also wish to experiment with close grip presses. A close grip will still work your shoulders, but places more focus onto your triceps muscles. You'll probably find a neutral grip more comfortable when using a close hand spacing, though you can perform it with your hands pronated, too.


Changing your grip position doesn't make seated shoulder presses and more or less effective. The best option is to experiment with different grips and find what you prefer. You should also consider shoulder pressing using barbells and dumbbells as well. According to a report from the University of Illinois, free-weights have a better carryover to everyday life and work more supporting muscles than machines do.

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