Smith Machine Overhead Press with Men’s Physique Bodybuilder Zac Aynsley

zac anysley machine shoulder press GI workout

Zac Anysley does partial reps on dumbbell lateral raises to use a heavier weight to explode the medial deltoids. 

Zac Aynsley is an inspiring bodybuilder who turned his life around with the power of bodybuilding. Today, he’s a proud Generation Iron athlete with an incredible story about overcoming adversity and transforming his life – Anysley was featured in the Bigorexia film produced by Generation Iron. We got an exclusive shoulder workout of him performing Smith machine overhead press and dumbbell lateral raises. 

As a teenager, Anysley was bullied for being underweight and weak, spending his days indoors playing video games and not eating right. This took a toll on his mental health, leading to dark thoughts and struggles with suicidal ideation. But he refused to give up on himself and found solace in weightlifting. Aynsley says, “Between 10 and 15, I had suicidal thoughts. I’d regularly climb to the top of water towers thinking, ‘Is this the day I’m going to jump?'”

Even when Zac Aynsley got a DJ gig that had him traveling around England and making a lot more money, things didn’t change much. He ate more unhealthily until a trip to a doctor turned things around. There, he learned that his internal organs weren’t healthy and had to make lifestyle changes to keep living.

That was a turning point for this athlete, who immediately registered in a gym. He also discovered Arnold Schwarzenegger and used him as an inspiration to become healthier. Zac Aynsley saw progress in a few weeks, a kickstart for an impressive career. He’s even received compliments from his hero. 

“For years, I had people telling me I was worthless, but here was the Terminator telling me I looked great. It meant the world to me.” 

Zac Aynsley, also called “Mr. Biceps” for his impressive peaks, is known for his hard work and sacrifice. He’s had several TV appearances, book covers, and other features. Generation Iron hooked up with him recently as he prepares to return to the bodybuilding stage. He’s been training with a mentor and 4-time Men’s Physique Olympia champion Jeremy Buendia

In this exclusive training session, Zac Aynsley showed how he builds his impressive shoulders by doing a Smith machine overhead press. He also does dumbbell lateral raises and seated overhead presses. Learn more about how these routines can help you build boulder shoulders and get special tips for maximum gains from Zac Aynsley.

Full Name: Zac Aynsley
Weight Height Date of Birth
185- 195 lbs 6’0” 7/2/1994
Division Era Nationality
Men’s Physique 2010s British

Zac Ansley’s Shoulder Workout – Smith Machine Overhead Press

Smith Machine Overhead Press

Apart from excellent aesthetics, building your shoulders is a great way to strengthen your upper body. Did you know that more than a third of injuries by athletes that are sports-related happen in the upper body and that 29% of those are shoulder injuries (1)? The Smith machine overhead press helps you train your shoulders, improves your stability, corrects your posture, and prevents injury — using this machine eliminates the need for a spotter as it gives you added support.

Doing a Smith machine overhead press builds your deltoid muscles, specifically your anterior and lateral delts. This exercise also works on your triceps, giving your arms more mass. In addition, a Smith machine overhead press is a safer way to induce muscle hypertrophy in your shoulders. Finally, it can improve your ability to do a regular bench press because it keeps you stable and puts more tension on your shoulders. 

Remember to keep your core tight as you press the bar overhead when doing a Smith machine overhead press. Avoid locking your elbows and do each rep slowly to maximize time under tension and protect your elbow joints.

How to do the Smith Machine Overhead Press

The Smith machine overhead press has a fixed path, which is beneficial if you need to isolate your shoulders. You need a bench and your Smith machine to add this exercise to your routine. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to do the Smith machine overhead press.

  1. Set up an upright bench inside the Smith machine.
  2. Sit on the bench and set the barbell so that it’s in line with your chest.
  3. Using an overhand grip, grab the bar at a slightly wider than shoulder-width distance.
  4. Press up slightly to lift the bar off its safety stops. 
  5. Drop the bar to shoulder height, just below your chin. This is your starting position.
  6. Brace your core and push the bar upwards straight overhead till your arms are fully extended without locking out your elbows.
  7. Slowly lower your bar back to the starting position to complete the rep.


The Smith machine overhead press is a great exercise that offers many benefits if incorporated into your routine. Below are some reasons why you should do this exercise. 

Shoulder Growth 

The Smith machine overhead press removes the need for stabilizing muscles and places the focus squarely on your shoulders. This leads to greater muscle growth and broader shoulders. With this exercise, you can build boulder shoulders to get that capped look you’ve always wanted.

Improves the Stability of Your Shoulders

Your delts help to stabilize your shoulder joint. The Smith machine overhead press builds and strengthens your deltoid muscles. This leads to more stability in the area and reduces your risk of injury.

Slightly Safer

Speaking of injuries, the Smith machine overhead press is safer than the barbell overhead press counterpart because it requires less balancing. This machine also has safety stops; you can easily re-rack the barbell if necessary. 

Carryover to Exercises Like Bench Press

Smith machine overhead presses build and strengthen your shoulders and triceps. These muscles are also important when doing exercises like the bench press. Strengthening them with the Smith machine overhead press will lead to better form when doing the bench press.

Easier on the Lower Back

The Smith machine offers better support for your lower back because the Smith machine uses a fixed bar path that stabilizes your torso. This reduces the need for lower back strength to press the bar overhead. 

Smith Machine Overhead Press Alternatives

Are you planning to do the Smith machine overhead press but aren’t quite sure the Smith machine will always be accessible at your gym? Then, here are some alternatives that are also great for your shoulders.

Barbell Overhead Press

The barbell overhead press is a free-weight version of the Smith machine overhead press, except it uses a barbell. This exercise also mainly targets and builds your shoulder muscles (2). It also works on your triceps and traps and increases your upper body strength. Compared to the machine version, it’ll activate your stabilizers and core. 

Dumbbell Lateral Raises

Dumbbell lateral raises also isolate and target your shoulder muscles (3). To do this routine, you hold dumbbells in both hands and raise them in a plane, known as a shoulder abduction. 

Resistance Band Overhead Press

Not at the gym and don’t have access to weights? You can use resistance bands to do the overhead press, too. Just secure it under a chair or connect it to an anchor and start to press.

Pike Pushups

Pike push-ups allow you to use your bodyweight to build your shoulders. This exercise also works on your triceps, pecs, and core.

The Rest of Aynsley’s Workout 

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

zac anysley machine shoulder press

The dumbbell lateral raise works primarily on the medial deltoids in the shoulders because, during this shoulder exercise, you lift your arms to the side. It’s considered an isolation exercise and is easy to do as you only need dumbbells. You can do this exercise at home or the gym if you find a pair of dumbbells.

The dumbbell lateral raise is a great way to build strong boulder shoulders. This helps you improve at any activity you need strong shoulders, such as pressing movements like bench press. 

While using too much weight is not advised for this exercise, there is a trick for lifting more than you usually would with it. Zac Aynsley achieves this by doing partial reps since the weight is heavy and his elbows are bent. Small nuances like this can often lead to significant changes when building your shoulders. 

Also, remember that more weight leads to greater tension and, thus, more muscle hypertrophy. But you must keep a neutral back and engage your core for each rep. 

Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press


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A post shared by Zac Aynsley (@zacaynsley)

While overhead presses are great for a shoulder workout, the seated overhead press is a version that deserves a spot in your shoulder workout. This exercise allows you to lift heavy weights safely and is vital for shoulder muscle growth. You can also easily have a spotter support you like Zac Aynsley does in this video. 

The seated overhead press doesn’t require as much balancing as the standing version, which allows you to focus your training more on the muscles. It emphasizes your delts, traps, triceps, and upper chest muscles. Using a dumbbell like Zac Aynsley does is great because it allows for a greater range of motion than a barbell

Doing seated overhead presses with dumbbells trains each side of your body to fix any imbalances and makes a strong combo when combined with the machine shoulder press. Plus, research shows overhead presses are a great way to prevent shoulder injuries (4). In addition, trying different hand positions stimulates your muscles from different angles when doing the seated overhead press.

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  1. Enger, M., Skjaker, S. A., Nordsletten, L., Pripp, A. H., Melhuus, K., Moosmayer, S., & Brox, J. I. (2019). Sports-related acute shoulder injuries in an urban population. BMJ open sport & exercise medicine, 5(1), e000551.
  2. Coratella, G., Tornatore, G., Longo, S., Esposito, F., & Cè, E. (2022). Front vs Back and Barbell vs Machine Overhead Press: An Electromyographic Analysis and Implications For Resistance Training. Frontiers in physiology, 13, 825880. 
  3. Campos, Y. A. C., Vianna, J. M., Guimarães, M. P., Oliveira, J. L. D., Hernández-Mosqueira, C., da Silva, S. F., & Marchetti, P. H. (2020). Different Shoulder Exercises Affect the Activation of Deltoid Portions in Resistance-Trained Individuals. Journal of human kinetics, 75, 5–14.
  4. Niederbracht, Y., Shim, A. L., Sloniger, M. A., Paternostro-Bayles, M., & Short, T. H. (2008). Effects of a shoulder injury prevention strength training program on eccentric external rotator muscle strength and glenohumeral joint imbalance in female overhead activity athletes. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 22(1), 140–145.
Terry Ramos
As a personal trainer and writer, Terry loves changing lives through coaching and the written word. Terry has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and ISSA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.