September 21, 2021 8 min read

The Arnold Press is a popular shoulder exercise for many bodybuilders and weight lifters. The exercise was created by and named after Arnold Schwarzenegger himself. This exercise comes with plenty of measurable benefits. If you want to explore this exercise and what it can do for you, read on. First, take a look at  how to do a standing Arnold Press.

If you are trying to become a bigger weightlifter, there might be no better role model than Arnold Schwarzenegger. The bodybuilder with seven Mr. Olympia titles designed many of his own training exercises. His unique twist on the overhead press has proven to be so effective at building muscles that the exercise has been appropriately named after him, as in the Arnold Press.

Which Muscles Does the Arnold Press Build?

The Arnold Press is essentially a shoulder exercise, but it also targets all three of your deltoid muscles, instead of just one or two of them. These kinds of exercises can be done with high loads or training volumes to help produce the types of overall strength and muscle and gains that you might be looking for.

As a compound exercise, the Arnold Press is similar to a dumbbell press because it works your anterior, medial, and posterior deltoids as the primary muscles. Your traps and pecs will also need to do some work, along with your triceps in a secondary role. If you are trying to build full and rounded shoulders, you’ll need to incorporate this exercise into your routine.

Benefits of the Arnold Press

So now that you have a little more information about what the Arnold Press actually is, let’s take a look at a few of the special benefits that this fairly simple exercise can offer you in your weightlifting journey.

    Lean Mass Development

      When performing this exercise, your shoulders spend a lot of time under a great deal of tension.

      There have been studies that show a link between time under tension and the development of lean mass. And especially because this type of exercise trains all of your deltoids, it has been shown as one of the best options for building a lot of bulk.

        Shoulder Stability

          A special thing about the Arnold Press is the mid-lift twist. This rotational movement puts your stabilizer muscles to work, which can greatly improve your shoulder stability over time. The exercise requires your shoulder joint to rotate under a heavy load. Because of this, you need some existing shoulder stability to do the Arnold Press safely. In the standing version of the Arnold Press, your core stabilizers work hard as you press the weight overhead.

            Improving Your Posture

              Another Arnold Press benefit is improving your posture by restoring the structural balance through your shoulders. Having proportionally balanced strength and mass really contributes to great posture. The Arnold Press trains your rear-deltoids, which are partially responsible for pulling your shoulders back into position to look as impressive as possible.

                Shoulder Mobility

                  Compared to other shoulder exercises, the Arnold Press requires a wide range of movement because it includes a rotation through your shoulder joints as well as an overhead press. This gives your shoulder joints unrestricted movement. If you already have an existing level of shoulder mobility, the Arnold Press is a good way to help enhance and maintain it.

                    Builds Strength

                      The benefits mentioned above can all help you gain strength, so strength gains are another benefit of the Arnold Press. No one exercise alone will be the solution to all of your bodybuilding problems, but a combination of the right ones will always be a good answer. If you would like to build more strength in your shoulders, this exercise can really be a good one to start doing.

                      How To Do the Arnold Press

                      To benefit from any exercise, you need to perform it correctly. Shoulders can be particularly prone to injury, which can often arise as a result of poorly performed exercises. So to do the Arnold Press correctly, take a good look at all of these instructions before you get started. For a seated Arnold Press, first sit on a bench. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at the top of a bicep curl position and have your palms facing you.

                      Closeup of a fit Filipino guy doing Seated Arnold Shoulder Presses

                      Push the weights up overhead while twisting the dumbbells 180-degrees. Finish in an overhead press with your palms facing away from you.

                      A brawny and muscular asian man trains delts at the gym. Regular or Arnold Dumbbell Presses.

                      Slowly bring the weights back down to their original position, with your palms facing you. On the way back to the original starting position, stop when your upper arm is parallel to the ground. Make that your endpoint. Hold it there for a few seconds, and then push back up into your next repetition. This will increase the time your deltoids spend under tension.

                      For the standing Arnold Press, you’ll be performing the same movements, but the exercise presents more stabilizing demands on your core. As you push the dumbbells overhead, you will need to use your core to stabilize your spine. A good way to do this is to tuck your hips underneath you and squeeze your glutes. Also, brace your stomach as if you are expecting to receive a punch there.

                      You can also try a single-arm kettlebell Arnold Press, which is also done in a standing position. One of the main challenges of this exercise is the amount of stabilization it requires, so if you sit down, you will miss out on half of the effort. Start with the kettlebell in a rack position. Your other arm can be out wide to your side. Make a 180-degree rotation as you push the kettlebell up overhead. This will use your obliques, abs and glutes, as well as your shoulder muscles.

                      The half-kneeling single-arm Arnold Press is a good way to build balanced strength and mass. The half-kneeling position requires your core to be involved. To perform this exercise, go into a half-kneeling position with a dumbbell in one hand. If you are starting with your left arm, then you should be kneeling on your left knee. Tuck your hips underneath to encourage a neutral spine. Avoid leaning back as you push the dumbbell overhead.

                      Getting the Most Out of Your Shoulder Workout

                      Many lifters do not get the most out of their Arnold Presses. To achieve better results, keep your arms away from your torso instead of letting your elbows drop in towards your ribs at the bottom. By keeping your elbows further in, you are able to get a greater mechanical advantage which will allow you to lift more weight and build much more upper body strength. 

                      You might look stronger when you are doing this, but the mechanical advantage will move weight away from your delts and ease the tension. You will get more out of less weight if you keep your elbows up a little more.

                      The constant tension alternate method can be done with lots of different exercises, but it works especially well for your delts. Just keep a static position with one limb while moving the other limb dynamically. This method works best when the static limb is held in a position where the tension is high. 

                      For example, we recommend holding the dumbbell at the top of an Arnold Press because of the vertical direction of the load and leverage factors. When held statically at the bottom and with your elbows kept away from your ribs, tension is kept high.

                      Doing Arnold Presses like this helps to create an occlusion-like effect, which enhances the release of local (IGF-1, mechano growth factor) and systemic growth factors (HGH).

                      Another helpful way to add extra bulk and power is with our Mass Stack in combination with your strength training and possibly even a personal trainer. If you are trying to lose body fat, you might consider the Ultimate Shred Stack.

                      A Few More Questions About The Arnold Press

                      So now you know a little more about what the Arnold Press is, what muscles it works, what some of its benefits are, and how to do several variations of it. Let’s also consider a few of the other features of this very beneficial exercise when it is seen in the context of a full body workout.

                        How much weight should I use?

                          Due to the range of movement and time under tension in the Arnold Press, it is best to do the exercise with lighter weights. This especially true for those who are only starting with this exercise. Start with light weights to make sure your form is correct, and then move on to heavier weights.

                          Be sure to align the weight you use with your overall training goals too.

                            How many repetitions should I do?

                              Again, due to the demands of this exercise, it is best done over more repetitions using less weight. Between 10 to 12 repetitions would be a reasonable starting point. Of course, you can do fewer repetitions if you are using a heavier weight, but the Arnold Press works best with light weights and higher reps.

                              If you are interested in learning more about how many reps you should ideally be doing for all types of exercises,take a look at some of this  helpful advice.

                                Is the Arnold Press going to be bad for your shoulders?

                                  If you have no existing shoulder injuries and good mobility, there is no reason why this exercise would be bad for your shoulders. If you feel any shoulder pain while doing the Arnold Press, be sure to assess your technique first. If it seems to be your mobility that is holding you back, then rather work on that and come back to this exercise a little later on.

                                    Is the Arnold Press better than a regular shoulder press?

                                      While some lifters may swear by the shoulder press, others may be much more partial to the Arnold Press. Regular shoulder presses work your anterior deltoids harder than the Arnold Press, but they don’t deliver the amount of posterior and medial delt attention that the Arnold Press does. It all comes down to your personal training goals and what other types of exercises you are including in your workout routine.

                                      Building Some Solid Muscles

                                      The cells of your muscles are almost like little engines because they can only produce so much force until they are pushed to the limit. Muscles can only move so much weight and do so many repetitions of a movement before they stop working.

                                      Pushing your muscles to the limit can cause bodily adaptations that will increase muscle endurance, burn higher amounts of fat, and sometimes even lead to muscle growth. 

                                      If you are an experienced weight lifter or even if you are just getting into bodybuilding, your muscle cells will continue to adapt, and it will take more work for them (with a shorter rest time) to get to the level of complete fatigue. The muscles of the most experienced weightlifters do not usually reach this level of fatigue until close to the end of their workout.

                                      Some Closing Observations

                                      With exercises as effective as the Arnold Press, you can really see some tangible results in a short amount of time. As you will soon find out, the press variations of this exercise will really work your entire shoulder. Each deltoid muscle gets thoroughly used to help produce a more rounded appearance to the front of your shoulders.

                                      You don’t have to go too heavy with any of your weights to achieve the kinds of excellent results you are looking for with the Arnold Press. The exercise keeps your muscles under a high amount of tension longer than barbell presses and standard overhead presses do, so even with lighter weights, you will still be stimulating a whole lot of new muscle growth.

                                      The Arnold Press also uses often neglected muscles and will help you with other lifts. The anterior deltoids tend to get plenty of work from press-ups and bench presses, but the medial (lateral) and posterior (back) often get neglected. However, the Arnold Press works all these evenly along with the stabiliser muscles, helping draw back the shoulders for a straight posture and also helping you with big pulling moves such as deadlifts, pull-ups and rows.

                                      Warming Up Before Training

                                      Shoulder exercises like this caninduce  hypertrophy and directly build these major muscles. If you plan to do the Arnold Press regularly, you will need to warm up correctly each time you attempt a shoulder workout. This will help reduce the risk of injury and lower back pain.

                                      Always include a lot of rest, a good amount of time on warm-ups, and a nutrition element in your workout plan. Your results will always be based on these variables, and also on how well you recover from your workouts.To allow your body enough time to recover, you should rest for 24 to 48 hours before training the same muscle groups. 


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