What Is an Arnold Press: Muscles Worked & Technique

man performing Dumbbell Arnold Press

The Arnold Press is named after the well-known Arnold Schwarzenegger. The exercise is a tremendous upper-body workout. The Arnold Press requires a proper form to be used. This article reveals the Arnold Press technique and its benefits.

What Is an Arnold Press?

The Arnold Press is a great variation of the regular Shoulder Press. It targets the triceps, delts, and shoulders. You need a pair of dumbbells to perform Arnold Presses. The exercise includes rotational movements while you press the weight up. The Arnold Press improves shoulder stability amping up a range of muscles.

Man doing Arnold Press with dumbbells

Arnold Press Form

Unlike the regular Shoulder Press, the Arnold Press targets medial deltoids more. That’s a good exercise to level up your Press with.

The Arnold Press is usually performed seated. Place a dumbbell in each hand. Bring the weights to the shoulders in front of you. Bend your arms to set the weights with palms facing you. That’s your starting point.

Twist the arms laterally so your palms facing out. Raise your arms to do the overhead motion. At the top position, your palms are looking forward. Hold for a second and get back to the start point. Rotate the weights in a reversed way. Your palms are facing you again. That’s one rep. Do 6-10 reps per set.

man performing Arnold Presses

Arnold Press Muscles Worked

So, what does Arnold Press work? The Arnold Press tones your shoulders immensely. The exercise hits anterior, lateral, and posterior deltoids. This makes the Arnold Press a highly efficient upper-body exercise.

Arnold Press Benefits

The Arnold Press is advantageous for working all three deltoid muscles: front, side, and rear delts. Arnold Presses hit the medial and posterior deltoids. While most upper-body exercises can’t reach these muscles. Thus, the exercise should be included in the shoulder workout.

The standing Arnold Press helps to improve your posture. As you keep your back tight while pushing the weight overhead. Unlike the regular Overhead Press, your muscles are under tension even longer.

The Arnold Press requires a rotational move that might be risky. If you’re struggling with any shoulder injury, contact your doctor or trainer if this exercise is safe for you. Poor performance may lead to issues with the shoulder joint. And recovery takes a solid time.

Arnold Press Variations & Alternatives

Seated Arnold Press

1. Seated Arnold Press

This is the most common Arnold Press Variation. You need a bench and a pair of dumbbells to perform the exercise. The proper form is described above.

Standing Arnold Press

2. Standing Arnold Press

Grasp a dumbbell in each hand and stand up. Bend your arms to the shoulder level. Your palms are facing your shoulders. Brace your core and start pushing the weights up. While lifting, rotate the dumbbells sideways. So your palms are looking forward now. Keep raising the weights until your arms are fully extended.

Make a pause for a second. Then start lowering your arms in a reversed motion. Get back your palms looking at your shoulders. That’s one rep. Do 10-12 reps per set.

If you have lower-back issues, it’s safer to perform the Seated Arnold Press instead. Bring a bench with a backrest to support your spine. Beginner sportsmen are recommended to start with lighter weight. Choose weights that are lighter than those you use for the Dumbbell Overhead Press. Add the load gradually. Once you try the Arnold Press, you can adjust the equipment.

woman performing seated Overhead Press

3. Dumbbell Overhead Press

There are two variations – seated and standing Shoulder Press. It’s up to you what option to choose. Grab the dumbbell weights and lift them up with your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle. The items are by your shoulders. That’s your start position.

Extend your elbows raising the dumbbells upwards. Press the items overhead slowly. Then return to the starting position. Make sure your back isn’t arched too much. Otherwise, you’ll end up using upper chest muscles instead of shoulders.

The Shoulder Press is an excellent dumbbell workout to add some strength. Do 10-12 reps per set.

woman is doing Bench Press at gym

4. Bench Press

You need a bench and a pair of dumbbells to perform such an exercise. The bench press is highly efficient even with minimum weight. It works out chest and shoulders greatly. That’s an efficient exercise before starting lifting heavy barbells.

Lie on a bench with your face up. Your feet are flat on the floor. Hold a weight on each hand above your chest. The dumbbells are parallel to the chest. The elbows are bent with palms facing out.

Press the weights upwards keeping your arms straight. Make a pause for a second. Slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting point. Do 10-12 reps per set.

Seated Overhead Press with a Barbell

5. Seated Overhead Press with a Barbell

Seated Overhead Press variation helps to get a bit of stress off your lower back. Plus, it ensures you don’t engage your lower body to shift the weight. Such an option is more joint-friendly.

Place a bench in a power rack where the bar is placed. The barbell is set so you can reach it when you sit. Load some plates if needed. Unrack the bar with a pronated grip (with palms looking out). Lower the barbell to the top of your chest. Then raise your arms overhead to lockout. That’s one rep. Do 10-12 reps per set.

man doing seated Overhead Press

Arnold Press vs Shoulder Press

Comparing the Arnold Press vs Dumbbell Shoulder Press, the first one is ideal to get the most out of your shoulders. The rotational movement provides a greater range of motion. The Arnold Press hits the front, side, and rear delts. The Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press primarily works the front delt. The Shoulder Press requires you to use heavier weights than when you do the Arnold Press.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Press Benefits Revealed

The Arnold Press is a tremendous workout to amp up your delts. The exercise requires a little equipment, which is a plus for a home gym. You need a pair of dumbbells to do the Standing Arnold Press. For a seated variation, get a bench with back support. Though Arnold Presses are highly efficient, the exercise may be risky for your joints.

In the battle between the Arnold Press vs Military Press, the first one requires a rotational move. This provides a solid range of motion. You can do more reps with a heavier load with the Military Press. Start with the Military Press first and then do the Arnold Press with lighter dumbbells.

Looking for other shoulder exercises? Try the Windmill! It can be performed with a kettlebell or barehanded. Here’s a detailed guide on how to do the Windmill exercise.

Image Source: advancedhumanperformance.com, coachmag.co.uk, shutterstock.com.