Arnold Presses: How To, Muscles,…

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You don’t have to stick to regular shoulder exercises to see results. Find out what you need to know about the Arnold press.

Arnold presses, named after Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a shoulder press variation where you start with your hands at chest height and hand palms towards your body.

As you press the weights you use upward, you twist your wrists so that you continue in a shoulder press.

Due to the extra rotation, Arnold presses engage the back part (posterior/rear) of your deltoids (the main shoulder muscle) slightly more compared to a shoulder press.

You also go through a larger range of motion which is generally beneficial for muscle growth.

Keep in mind that Arnold presses involve an extra injury risk for your shoulders. Especially if you use a suboptimal technique.

How to do an Arnold press

While this always applies, you want to pay extra attention to warming up your shoulders before Arnold presses. For example, with arm circles.

Additionally, you need dumbbells or other compact weights that allow you to rotate your wrists easily.

With these things in mind, take the following steps to do an Arnold press:

  1. Stand upright with your feet in a position that feels stable. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and hold your hands right in front of you at shoulder height with your hand palms pointing back.
  2. Raise the dumbbells slowly by elevating your upper arms and stretching these. Twist your wrists 180 degrees outward throughout this motion. Additionally, move your upper arms somewhat outward when they reach shoulder height.
  3. Lower the dumbbells back to starting position in a controlled motion by reversing the previous step.
How to do an Arnold press

To do Arnold presses with good form you need to keep a few things in mind.

First of all, you don’t want to move your elbows outward too fast. This can put your shoulders in a position with higher injury risk.

Secondly, you want to keep your spine more or less straight not arched back.

People who have issues with this can do seated Arnold presses.

Since Arnold presses involve a certain injury risk and require some getting used to, you likely want to start your first few attempts with light weights.

Arnold presses muscles worked

Arnold presses mainly work the three parts of the deltoids (front, middle, back) (shoulders), triceps (back upper arm), trapezius (upper shoulders/neck), and a variety of other scapular muscles.

You can also say Arnold presses work your core muscles to a certain extent since these keep your upper body upright.

One of the things that stands out in Arnold presses is that they work all three parts of the deltoids.

Another advantage for muscle growth is that your muscles go through a big range of motion in Arnold presses

Keep in mind that the same resistance training principles still apply.

To see results from Arnold presses, you still need a good workout program that implements enough resistance, reps, and sets.

Arnold press vs shoulder press

The shoulder press is the most standard option when it comes to shoulder workouts.

This movement mainly focuses on the front and middle deltoids, triceps, and trapezius.

Additionally, you can say the Arnold press involves a larger range of motion for the front deltoids.

On the flip side, Arnold presses are more technically challenging and involve a certain extra injury risk.

Arnold press benefits

Arnold presses will likely not double your gains but they can still be a good exercise that offers helpful benefits. Some of these include:

  1. Stronger muscles: By working your muscles with enough Arnold presses you can grow and strengthen them.
  2. Can reduce injury risk over time: The Arnold press movements involve an injury risk during the exercise but this can also lead to more strengthening of muscles that reduce your injury risk in the long term.
  3. Can make your shoulders bigger: Many people will consider the bigger shoulder muscles Arnold presses offer as a benefit.

The benefits of Arnold presses are not unique but they could be enough to convince you to do this exercise.

Potential risks

The main thing to keep in mind when doing Arnold presses is to make sure you don’t move your elbows outward too fast or too far.

This can put your shoulders in a position with higher injury risk.

If you have shoulder injuries or sensitive shoulders you may want to stick to other compound shoulder exercises.

Any pain could be a sign that your Arnold press technique is suboptimal, that you need less intense workouts, and/or that you need to do other exercises first.

Arnold press alternatives

You could also conclude that you don’t like certain aspects of the Arnold press.

In that case, you can consider some of these Arnold press alternatives instead:

  • Shoulder presses
  • Lateral raises
  • Bent-over reverse fly
  • Reverse cable crossovers
  • Pike pushups
  • Upright rows

Which of these exercise options you will prefer depends on details like what you want to work and what exercise equipment you have available.

Are Arnold presses a good exercise?

Arnold presses can be a good exercise for working the three deltoid heads, the triceps, the trapezius, and a variety of scapular muscles.

You do want to keep in mind that Arnold presses involve a certain injury risk for your shoulders.

This makes it so you really want to pay attention to using a good form and potentially even turning to other shoulder exercises instead.

Besides that, you still need to keep the standard weight lifting principles in mind.

That means using enough weight and doing enough repetitions for your training goals.


Is the Arnold press better than the shoulder press?

The Arnold press is not necessarily better or worse than the shoulder press.

What option best is for you depends on details like your training goals and preferences.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.