Elbows and wrists forward on the starting position . . .
The elbows go back, and you don't lock out on top.
I want to share an exercise with you that has so much good in it that it becomes a wonderful exercise when done correctly even though the original piece of equipment is considered almost useless.
The piece of equipment to which I refer is the Universal Multi-Station. You know the ones I mean: The slowly rusting monstrosity standing in the middle of the weight room with several work stations on it. It has a lat pull on one end which isn't bad, a funny seated leg press next to it, then a bench press, some kind of a big pulley station and finally a seated press. The individual stations aren't bad it's just the whole concept of a "Jungle Gym" has given way to individual machines in the health clubs of today.
Let's concentrate on the seated press for the purpose of this article. There are several things to recommend this exercise. Even though manufacturing these chrome giants has passed into antiquity. Paramount Exercise Equipment Company for example has selected a few of the exercises and improved upon them to such an extent that they are truly superior exercises. In fact, some of these single station machines can provide a benefit which free weights cannot. The seated shoulder press machine is one of these sleeping giants. It can be incredibly effective building immense shoulders if done in the right way.
Let me share a conversation I recently had with Russ Boyd the other day in my Health Club. It went something like this . . .
"Larry, I have been trying to add size to my delts and I would like your advice. Your delts are so thick, how did you build size on them? My clavicle width is okay but I just don't seem to be able to get the kind of massiveness I want. Do you have any suggestions?"
Russ Boyd has one of the most impressive sets of shoulders anyone would want. Granted most of his size comes from the width of his bone structure, but even so it was ironic that Russ would ask Larry Scott, who does not have a wide bone structure, how to build his delts.
"Russ, are you kidding. You have great delts."
"Yeah, they are wide, Larry, but you have thickness . . . not only that but you have about two inches of pure muscle on the outside of your delts. I notice my bone structure comes right out to the end of my deltoid. How did you build all that size right on the outside of the shoulder?" he asked.
"Come here, Russ, I am going to show you something you are going to love," I promised, as I led him over to the Universal Machine and set him down at the seated press station. This movement is terrific for building delts, Russ. In some ways it is even better than dumbbells. Of course you will go stale on this a lot faster than dumbbells but until that happens you can really make some quick gains. Notice the revolving plastic handles? You will need the moveable handle in order to get the elbow rotation which is so necessary to fire the side delts.
"Oh, wait a minute, Russ, let's get another bench, that bench is too high. I want you to be sitting so your hips are at least as low as your knees, or even lower if possible."
"Why is that," Russ inquired.
"Because if your hips are higher than your knees you will be tempted to press a little with your legs rather than with your delts. Besides, it just feels better. Here, use this bench. Slide it a little closer so you are just barely touching the knees on the weight stack. This will place the bars perfectly over the delts exactly where they should be. Now try that. Doesn't that feel better than the higher bench?"
"All right, grab the plastic grips with the thumbs on the same side of the bar as the fingers (false grip), palms facing forward. Now I want you to press the weight about 5 or 6 inches and no further. Any further will start to work the triceps but even worse you will begin to irritate the shoulder joint. If you just use the lower third of the press, it won't cause inflammation of the shoulder like full lockout presses do. Okay, go ahead and press the bar. No, not like that, Russ, you start the press with the elbows forward s far as they will go. Then, at the same time you press the bar upward you need to throw the elbows back as far as possible. Go ahead, try it again.
"No, that isn't it, Russ. Here, let me show you."
I then seated myself at the machine and tightened up my weight belt another notch. (Paramount's single station machine has a back support so you don't need to worry about hurting your back). All right, here's what I mean," I said as I pressed the bar, at the same time rotating my elbows correctly through the exercise.
Oh, I see. Let me try it again," Russ urged.
"That's close, Russ, but you have got to throw those elbows back further on your way up. If you don't throw the elbows back on the way up, you won't be able to work the side delts. Most of the pressing movements for deltoids work only the frontal deltoid. It's only because the side delts are pulling the elbows back that we can build width in this exercise."
"Oh, I see," he said. "You actually throw the elbows forward at the bottom of the exercise to give you the momentum to throw them back at the top of the movement."
"Yes, that's it Russ, now you got it! All right, now for the second benefit of using the machine. The deltoids love constant tension and they thrive on descending weights. A machine will allow you to change weights in just a couple of seconds, so multi-set work is a breeze. If you have a set of fixed dumbbells you can change dumbbells easily, but you have to use so much energy lifting the dumbbells up into position and setting them down again. With a weight stack you can use every bit of energy just building delts. Start with a weight you can just make about 6 reps with, the ideal number of reps for building size. Do 6 reps, drop the weight, and do another 6 reps, drop the weight and repeat this process until you have done 6 sets of 6 reps. Go ahead and try it."
I watched as Russ ground out his series of elbow rotating presses on the machine.
"Wow, that is simply great, Larry. I can't believe the pump," he said as he checked out his pump in the mirror behind the press machine. "This is terrific, let me try that again."
"Isn't it fantastic," I rhapsodized with him. Elated to see that he too was having the same fun with the exercise that I was. Leaving Russ with his new toy, I parted with: "Russ, there are a couple of things you need to remember. First, this exercise works best after the delts are a little tired, and second, the intense burn and pump will only last for about a week and then the movement will begin to lose its effectiveness. When this happens, go back to the dumbbells for a while to refresh the delts, then you can return to the machine again. You will be able to build some monster delts using this concept. Deltoids were always my weak point, Russ. So I had to always be on the lookout for special for special ways to pack on mass. This system is one of the best of which I am aware."