Ridiculous Exercises: Seated Chest and Shoulder Press

There are a lot of ridiculous things going on in gyms out there, things I feel compelled to speak out about, and against. This week’s rant will focus on the ridiculousness that is the seated chest and shoulder press, in all inefficient iterations.

First of all, anyone who has been a regular (or even semi-regular) visitor to the site knows that I am not a big fan of machine-based exercises. They are inefficient and ineffective and in every way inferior to their free-weight and body-weight exercise brethren. Name a “weight-stack machine” and I’ll give you a better machine-less exercise.

And while not all exercise machines are equally putrid, you’d be hard pressed to come up with worse exercises than the seated chest and shoulder press machines. Next time you’re in the gym take a minute and watch someone use these exercise machines. A quick set of 10-repetitions followed by a rest period that invariably is too long, repeated over and over. Not a very “exercisey” looking experience.

And then there’s the element of form. Most people figure that since it’s a machine, all you have to do is sit in it and let ‘er rip. There’s no need for any pesky technique or proper form, right? That’s why exercise machines were invented, so there’s no need to worry about form, right again? Wrong, I say, very wrong.

People (read “guys”) rarely have the seat in the proper position, which puts unnatural and excess stress on everything from the wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck, etc; rarely work through a proper, full range of motion; almost always have way too much weight on the machine. Whether a weight stack or a plate loaded variety, the seated chest and shoulder press, just like most exercise machines, encourage people (read “guys”) to pile more weight on the machine than is necessary.

In between sets on these machines you see people (read “guys”) going through the whole “my-shoulders-are-killing-me-so-I-have-to-stretch-them-out” routine. Windmilling, pulling the elbows back and stretching the chest, and holding on to something while straightening out the arm and turning away. Gee, do you think the exercises might have something to do with the shoulder pain?

If you want to bench press, use dumbbells, and do proper push-ups. If you want to do shoulder presses, stand-up and use dumbbells. For both of these exercises you can perform one- and two-handed variations, which will have a wide-range of developmental benefits.

The excess weight combined with overall crappy form makes for a worthless exercise. Not to mention the absurd notion that sitting down while pressing your arms out perpendicular from the body is in some way building meaningful strength and developing muscle. The seated chest and shoulder press machines are a lesson in fitness futility.


  1. april May 9, 2011
  2. Tatianna May 23, 2011
  3. Richard June 19, 2011
  4. Sal Marinello June 21, 2011

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