Are you looking to add some serious muscle to your shoulders and channel your inner Arnold Schwarzenegger? Look no further than the Arnold press, the exercise named after the man himself and revered for its ability to pack on size and strength. This versatile move not only has impressive origins, but it also comes with a host of benefits for those looking to take their training to the next level.
So if you’re looking to build some seriously impressive shoulders and follow in the footsteps of the one and only Arnold, this exercise is definitely worth adding to your workout routine.
Keep reading for all the information you need on the Arnold press, including how to do it, technique tips, benefits, variations, and alternatives, but first, let’s talk about what exactly is this exercise.
What Is Arnold Press?
The Arnold press is a shoulder exercise named after Arnold Schwarzenegger that involves rotating the wrists while pressing dumbbells overhead. It targets the lateral and front deltoids, triceps, and upper back muscles, and is effective for building strength and size in the shoulders as well as improving mobility and stability.
The movement of the Arnold press activates all three deltoid muscles in the shoulder, making it a comprehensive exercise for building the muscles in this area. Another thing that makes this exercise great for getting bigger and stronger shoulders is that it keeps the muscles under tension for longer than other exercises like the barbell press or the overhead press.
How To Do Arnold Press
For the Arnold press, start with a weight you can control for three to four sets of ten to twelve reps. Choose a weight that lets you keep good form throughout all of the sets and reps.
- Sit on an exercise bench with a backrest and hold two dumbbells in front of you at about upper chest level with your palms facing your body and your elbows bent.
- Now, to do the move, lift the dumbbells while turning your hands so that the palms face forward.
- Keep lifting the dumbbells until your arms are straight and above your head. As you do this part of the move, let your breath out.
- After pausing for a second at the top, start lowering the dumbbells by turning the palms of your hands toward you.
- Bend your elbows and pull with your lats to start the movement down. Turn your arms so that the palms face your body. This should happen in a smooth motion and your upper arms should go back to where they started, close to your ribcage. Start the next repetition from where you are now.
- This is one rep, repeat until you’ve done the required number of reps.
Arnold Press Pro Tips
- Keep your back flat against the pad the whole time you’re doing the exercise, and make sure your head doesn’t stick out too far.
- If you feel pressure in your neck or traps while doing the move, you may not be extending your thoracic spine or flexing your shoulders enough.
- Keeping the elbows slightly bent at the top and not fully locked out will help keep the shoulders from getting too tight.
- If you can’t lock your elbows out over your head, it could be because your shoulder blades don’t move up and out enough.
- It’s important to do it in one smooth motion, not by moving your elbows and dumbbells to the side and then pressing them overhead.
What Are The Benefits Of Arnold Press?
Several benefits of the Arnold Press are listed below, making it clear why it is such a popular exercise.
Targets All 3 Delt Heads
The Arnold press engages all three heads of the deltoids, which can lead to increased strength in other movements. When compared to the Arnold press, other exercises like press-ups and bench presses tend to overlook the medial and posterior deltoids.
Working the medial head makes your shoulders thicker and wider, while working the posterior head stabilizes the shoulder joint, improves posture, and helps the big pulling muscles when you do deadlifts, pullups, rows, and farmer’s walks.
Helps In Putting On Lean Muscle Mass
This exercise involves maintaining shoulder tension for an extended period, which has been shown in research to be effective for building lean muscle mass. And as we mentioned, It also targets all parts of the deltoid muscles, making it a suitable choice for increasing muscle size. Research has also shown that anterior and medial deltoid muscles are more active while performing Arnold Press as compared to the overhead dumbbell press.
Increases Shoulder Stability And Improves Posture
The Arnold Press is a unique shoulder exercise that not only helps to build muscle mass and improve shoulder stability, but also promotes good posture. It does this by targeting all three deltoid muscles and helping to restore structural balance in the shoulders.
Additionally, the exercise involves rotational movement that works the stabilizer muscles, and it targets the rear deltoids, which can help to pull the shoulders back into proper alignment. These benefits make the Arnold Press an effective exercise for improving posture and overall shoulder strength.
Arnold Press Variations And Alternatives
Shoulder pain is a warning sign that you should stop the Arnold press and look for another exercise. It’s possible that you need to start by doing Superman holds and banded external rotations to strengthen the muscles in your mid back.
When it comes to working the shoulders, this is one of the tougher options. Here are a few alternatives to attempt if you feel the need for a change in the action:
Standing Arnold Press
The standing Arnold Press is a variation of the seated version that involves the same movement but requires additional core stability. To perform this exercise, you will need to engage your core muscles by tucking your hips and squeezing your glutes while also bracing your stomach.
This will help to stabilize your spine as you press the dumbbells overhead. The standing Arnold Press is a more challenging version of the exercise that can help to further improve your shoulder strength and stability.
Dumbbell Overhead Press
The Arnold Press involves rotation, which can increase the risk of injury to the shoulders for some individuals. If you are concerned about this risk or are recovering from a shoulder injury, the dumbbell shoulder press may be a safer alternative.
This exercise involves holding the dumbbells by your shoulders with your palms facing forward and your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle and then pressing the weights overhead before bringing them back down. The dumbbell shoulder press does not involve rotation and may allow you to lift slightly heavier weights compared to the Arnold Press.
Single-Arm Kettlebell Arnold Press
The single-arm kettlebell Arnold Press is a variation of the exercise that involves using one kettlebell and requires significant stabilization. It is typically performed standing, with the kettlebell in a rack position and the other arm out to the side for balance. As you press the kettlebell overhead, you will need to make a 180-degree rotation, which will engage your obliques, abs, glutes, and shoulders. This version of the Arnold Press is more challenging due to the added stability requirements, but it can help to further improve your shoulder strength and core stability.
The Arnold press is a valuable addition to any upper body training routine, as it stimulates all segments of the shoulders to help you build strength and improve your physique. It is important to pay attention to form when performing the Arnold press, especially if you are new to the exercise.
It is generally best to use lighter weights to ensure that you are able to maintain proper form and take advantage of the range of movement and time under tension. As you become more comfortable with the exercise, you can gradually increase the weight to align with your training goals.
Rahul is a sports and performance consultant. Over the course of his 15-year career in the fitness sector, he has held positions as a strength and conditioning instructor, gym owner, and consultant.
He is deeply committed to assisting people in finding happiness and feeling good about themselves.
Rahul has a master’s degree in exercise science and is a certified NSCA CSCS and CISSN.