Step 1

Starting Position: Sit with your back firmly supported against the backrest. Adjust the seat height so that the handles are level with your mid-chest (around nipple level) and the handles are positioned no deeper than chest level (level with the front of your chest). Grasp the handles firmly with a full grip (thumbs clasped around the handles) and maintain a neutral wrist position (i.e., wrists in line with your forearms).  Position your feet firmly on the floor or on the foot rests to stabilize your body.  Stiffen (“brace”) your abdominal muscles to stabilize your spine, but do not press your low back into the backrest. Maintain the natural arch in your low back and avoid arching your back throughout the exercise.  Depress and retract your scapulae (pull shoulders back and down) and attempt to hold this position throughout the exercise.

Step 2

Gently exhale and slowly perform a pressing movement, extending your elbows infront, while maintaining a neutral wrist position, and keep your head aligned with your spine while avoiding any arching your low back.

Step 3

Continue pressing until your elbows are fully extended, but not locked.  Your shoulder blades should continue to make contact with the backrest and not round or bend forward.  Pause momentarily then gently allow your elbows to flex (bend) in a slow, controlled manner while returning the bar back towards the starting position. Repeat the movement.

Step 4

Exercise Variation: To increase the exercise intensity, perform the following variations:

(a) Perform unilateral (one arm at a time) presses

(b) Sit upright off the backrest, which will require a greater effort from your core to stabilize your trunk as you perform the press movement.


Very frequently individuals will press the bar to a point where the shoulder blades round themselves forward and move off the backrest. This promotes instability within the muscles that hold the shoulder blades to the ribcage. While this "push-plus" movement is considered an advanced movement, focus initially on pressing while keeping your shoulder blades flat and firmly positioned against the backrest.

Taking Action with ACE:

Practicing Equity, Diversity and Inclusion as a Health and Exercise Professional

Get Course