Calf Machine Shoulder Presses

There are many variations of the shoulder press...barbell, dumbbell, machine, sitting, standing, etc.

One of the things that a lot of these have in common is that when your shoulders are tweaked (i.e. injured, unstable or just "not quite right") many of these pressing variations can cause pain.

Now, in some cases, you actually shouldn't try and push the issue. Overhead pressing simply may not be a good movement pattern for you.

In other cases, you may just need an alternate exercise that doesn't put the shoulder joint in positions that do cause may be able to press overhead after all!

That's where this exercise comes's an overhead press done on a standing calf raise machine.

(You may be able to also do this exercise on a normal standing shoulder press machine if the handles are position in close enough - you'll see what I mean when you see the exercise in action).


Even though I'm a big proponent of using free weight whenever possible, this variation has a number of benefits over the normal shoulder press with free weight, especially as relates to "tweaked" shoulders.


1. The weight is stabilized but you can still move your body relatively freely to find the best path of movement. This is important because one of the main issues with machine presses is that you're more "locked in" to the movement. You have to follow the path that the machine follows.

This exercise (done standing), while stabilizing the load for you, allows you to shift your body around under that load to still find the right movement path for your shoulders. Granted, it's not as free as free weight, but if your shoulders aren't up for full stabilization duties, this is a good option.


2. This exercise is performed with arms pointing forward, which better "packs" the shoulder joint than "elbows wide" pressing (i.e. normal pressing). This helps better stabilize the joint and, I find, helps reduce and eliminate pain and discomfort from the pressing movement.

Granted, this arm positioning does tend to throw more focus on the front delts, so you will need to take that into account with other exercises you're doing...basically, don't do any front raises. You can also work with this by moving your body under the weight as you come to the top, which helps put tension onto the lateral and rear delts as well.


3. You'll be performing this exercise with an open palm. I find this actually helps increase muscle activation in the delts, similar to fat grip training and bodyweight training.



How to do the Shoulder Press on the Standing Calf Raise Machine:

Start with a fairly light weight until you get an idea of how much load the leverage of the calf machine will put on you.

Stand in front of the machine with a staggered stance then put your palms under the shoulder pads of the calf machine. If you have a shoulder press machine with the handles close enough in, you can mimic this position (hands 4 to 6 inches apart).

How to do the Shoulder Press on the Standing Calf Raise Machine

Now press up. Your core and legs will work to stabilize the body. Shift your body as needed during the movement.


A post shared by Nick Nilsson (@nicknilsson1) on


As you press up and the shoulder pads come up higher than your head, push your body forward underneath the weight. This will help activate the lateral and rear delts. This also gives a straight line of support through your entire body (i.e. you can draw a straight line from my hands down through my back leg.)

How to do the Shoulder Press on the Standing Calf Raise Machine

Lower the weight back down, shifting your body back then repeat.

One of the other benefits of this one is that you can set the machine down in between each rep and reset your shoulder position. You can do continuous tension if you want to, but you do have the option to reset on each rep.

You'll also notice this elbows-forward version gives you a tremendous range of motion in the shoulder also involves the triceps to a significant degree as well.

It's very quick to set up and very straightforward to perform.


Bottom line, if your shoulders give you trouble either through injury, pain or discomfort and normal shoulder press with free weights is not an option for you, this version might be worth a try.

It may allow you to do overhead pressing again.

In addition, if your shoulders are fine, this is a GREAT shoulder pressing option to hit your delts with a different movement pattern.

Try the Two-Phase Barbell Shoulder Press to match the strength curve of the overhead press exercise and build strength fast.



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