Choosing a Shoulder Press: What Should You Know?

Whether you're building a home gym or setting up a commercial gym, a shoulder press is an essential piece of equipment. Unlike barbell or dumbbell lifts, lifts performed with a shoulder press don't require additional stabilization. This makes a shoulder-press machine ideal for those recovering from injuries or for those who want to specifically target certain muscle groups. Here's what you need to know before purchasing one.

How do you choose a weight mechanism?

Generally, these machines come with two different weight options—selectorized or plate loaded. Which one you choose is up to you, although each type has its pros and cons. Selectorized machines only let you lift as much weight as the machine comes with, while you can typically load an impressive amount of weight onto a plate-loaded machine. That said, plate-loaded machines do not come with weight plates. You'll need to use your own.

Is versatility a concern?

If you're stocking a home gym, you might prefer machines that can target several muscle groups. For instance, some shoulder-press machines let you adjust the bench incline enough that you can perform an incline shoulder press to hit your anterior deltoids and your pectoral muscles. Of course, if you run a commercial gym, you might prefer to have a separate incline shoulder press.

Isolated or not?

While this isn't a hard and fast rule, most plate-loaded presses fully isolate each arm. This type of design helps you identify any strength discrepancies on your right side versus your left. Most selectorized presses require the user to press upwards while holding two handles, and those two handles move a single block of weight. Neither is necessarily better or worse than the other, but this is an important preference to take into account while shopping.

Are there ways to save?

Particularly if you're shopping for a shoulder press machine online, there are several ways you can save money. Here are a few types of deals to look for:

  • Open box: Open box machines are often significantly less expensive than brand-new ones, but they often have not been used at all.
  • Used: While you'll want to look closely at listing photos to ensure there's no existing damage (often, the black vinyl on very old benches may be worn), buying a used machine is also a great way to get an excellent piece of workout equipment for less.
  • Older models: While the design of the shoulder press hasn't changed drastically over the years, many gym owners and fitness enthusiasts are drawn to newer, sleeker models. By purchasing an older piece of equipment, you may be able to save a significant amount of cash.