Arnold Press: Correct Form & Programming Tips

Gym rats have idolized the good Arnold-Schwarzenegger for many years, so it’s no shock a shoulder press variation named after him has grow to be a staple within the routines of many. This dumbbell overhead press variation has typically been heralded as the important thing to growing boulder shoulders.

And if the Arnold press yields outcomes even near Schwarzenegger-like shoulders, signal us up for together with the train in our common exercise rotation.

This article will focus on:

What is the Arnold press?
What does the train do?
Muscles labored within the Arnold Press
Pros and cons of the Arnold Press
How to carry out the Arnold Press
Variations of the Arnold Press
Programming the Arnold Press

Let’s get into it! Serious shoulder muscle progress awaits.

What is the Arnold press?

To carry out the Arnold press, the dumbbell begins in entrance of your face, palms pointing towards you. As you press up, you twist the dumbbells overhead, ending the motion overhead together with your palms going through away.

This distinctive twist has been touted to focus on all three heads of the shoulder, providing you with Arnie’s shoulders very quickly. And if you wish to totally prepare like him, make sure that to take a look at Arnold’s full coaching cut up. The query is: Should you utilize the Arnold press in your coaching?

What muscle mass does the Arnold Press work?

Above we outlined some frequent claims concerning the Arnold press, however how true are they? To decide the transfer’s effectiveness, we’ve got to first perceive the shoulder’s muscle anatomy.


Arnold press with dumbbells

The shoulder has three foremost heads, all with vastly completely different features. Combining this with the extremely cell ball-and-socket joint makes your shoulder essentially the most cell joint within the physique, with a plethora of motion capabilities and an unlimited vary of movement.

Anterior Deltoids: As the title suggests, the anterior delt is on the entrance of the shoulder. Its main features are shoulder flexion (lifting your arms in entrance of you) and higher arm inside rotation. Accordingly, it’s used predominantly throughout workouts like entrance raises and urgent actions. This consists of each flat and incline urgent, alongside typical overhead presses. You’ll get an important sense of its features after these high entrance deltoid workouts.

Lateral Deltoids: These muscle mass give your shoulders a broad look, capping the delts and serving to to intensify the V-taper and X-frame physique so many are chasing. The lateral deltoids’ main function is abduction, lifting the higher arm sideways away from the physique. This isn’t a perform typically used throughout compound workouts and might solely actually be utilized by means of isolations like lateral increase variations. For extra facet shoulder inspiration, take a look at these finest lateral deltoid workouts.

Posterior Deltoids: They sit on the again of the shoulder. These carry out the precise reverse function of the anterior delts: shoulder extension and higher arm exterior rotation. Rear delts assist with again with rows and pull-downs and are sometimes focused by means of reverse fly variations. There are additionally many rear delt dumbbell workouts that can enable you hit your shoulder targets.

What shoulder muscle mass does the Arnold Press truly work?

What does this imply for the Arnold press? Just like commonplace shoulder urgent variations, the Arnold press works on shoulder flexion. Combining this with the twist and inside rotation throughout the concentric means it hammers the anterior delt. Those are the first shoulder features the Arnold press facilitates.

There is little to no abduction, making any lateral delt work primarily as a stabilizer, a lot the identical as commonplace overhead urgent. As the posterior delts carry out the alternative function because the anterior delt, it would not make sense for an train that assaults the anterior delts to hit them in any significant manner. This isn’t any completely different.

The posterior delts may get some work in stabilization, however that is the place the buck stops. This means the Arnold press is not a whole shoulder silver bullet. It is, nevertheless, a very good compound train to give attention to the anterior delts and triceps that can be utilized rather than overhead urgent variations.

dumbbell Arnold press

Arnold Press: Pros and Cons

The Arnold Press is well-liked for a number of causes: It is a joint-friendly train that will get nice outcomes. Plus, due to dumbbells you may work the complete vary of movement on the shoulder joint, which is nice for mobility. For these interested by additional bettering their vary of movement, take a look at these suggestions for bettering shoulder mobility.


Whether you are in search of an train that is shoulder pleasant or contributes to shoulder muscle hypertrophy with out utilizing ultra-heavy dumbbells, the Arnold Press has received your again (or on this case, your shoulders).

1. It’s higher to your shoulder joints.

The first good thing about the Arnold press is the results of the elbow place twisting the dumbbells. By having your palms face you on the backside of the motion, and with the dumbbells in entrance of your face, the train is usually carried out inside the scapular aircraft. This helps to scale back pressure on the anterior shoulder joint, which is below a number of pressure with commonplace shoulder presses and sometimes contributes to nagging shoulder accidents.

2. The Arnold Press will increase your vary of movement.

First, if you do not know how good your vary of movement is, we advise testing your mobility. Then, as soon as you recognize the place your mobility is at, begin together with workouts that may assist enhance it. Arnold presses may help to extend the vary of movement of the anterior delts by means of a number of strategies. First, twisting the dumbbells and bringing them down in entrance of your face avoids the plain stumbling block of normal shoulder presses: your shoulders getting in the way in which. This is particularly a difficulty once you get stronger and dumbbells begin to grow to be bigger and bigger.

Secondly, sticking within the scapular aircraft, and avoiding the coronal aircraft, may help cut back pressure and discomfort on the entrance of the shoulder (as talked about above). If you discover commonplace shoulder urgent too sore in your shoulders, you in all probability have a tough time on the backside and look to chop the vary quick. Arnold presses can present a pain-free method to obtain a full vary of movement.

Finally, the twist causes exterior rotation on the backside and inside rotation on the high. This caters to the interior rotation perform of the anterior delt, growing stretch on the backside and contraction on the high.

3. You don’t have to raise as heavy.

The last good thing about the Arnold press is that it reduces the quantity of weight required. Some of you may really feel this could fall into the drawbacks part. That may seem to be an odd “benefit” however it could genuinely be helpful. The first motive is {that a} lighter dumbbell is simpler to get into place to press. Once you might have developed first rate overhead urgent power, the toughest a part of dumbbell shoulder presses can typically be merely kicking the weights up into place. This is inefficient from a muscle-growing perspective. You ought to be exerting your self attempting to coach and fatigue the goal muscle mass, so you may construct muscle and acquire mass.

Instead many lifters discover themselves leaving reps (and priceless shoulder coaching stimulus) on the desk just because they’ve wasted vitality wrestling the dumbbells as much as their shoulders. For these trying to optimize your stimulus to fatigue ratio, cut back warm-up time, side-step accidents, and obtain muscle hypertrophy, lighter weight for comparable stimulus are an enormous bonus.

Arnold Press muscles worked


The Arnold Press is a good pain-free transfer for a lot of, however everyone seems to be particular person. You might have shoulder ache, a earlier shoulder harm, or a muscle imbalance that will trigger ache. If so, it’s essential to not work by means of harm, ensuring to repair muscle imbalances that exist and proper any points inflicting ache.

Fortunately, there’s additionally an important substitute train you are able to do as an alternative (extra on this in a bit!).

1. Arnold presses could cause shoulder ache for some.

Arnold presses might assist keep away from shoulder points for you however enhance them for others. Internally rotating the shoulder could cause different shoulder points for some. Just like with some other train, it’s essential to discover what works for you and permits you to prepare pain-free.

2. Lighter weights are required.

You want to make use of a lighter weight. And whereas we mentioned the advantages of lighter weights above, there’s additionally a draw back to utilizing lighter weights. Supporting muscle mass get much less stimulus, so muscle mass just like the triceps won’t get by means of the identical quantity of labor. This makes Arnold presses barely much less “compound-y” than commonplace shoulder presses.

How to do the Arnold press train

Arnold press dumbbell

Arnold presses are a straightforward variation that gained’t take lengthy to grasp. Set up simply as you’ll for a shoulder press, with an train bench vertical (or as near vertical as you normally carry out shoulder presses).

You can observe the identical kind for each the standing Arnold press and seated Arnold press. Your shoulder muscle mass will get the identical nice exercise whether or not you are sitting or standing. If you carry out it standing, begin with ft hip width aside. As a facet word, sitting on a bench presents extra again assist if in case you have decrease again points (should you’re coping with again issues, these workouts may help relieve low again ache).

For your beginning place, you need two dumbbells, one dumbbell in every hand. Start with the dumbbells barely in entrance of your face, together with your palms going through towards you and elbows bent.
You need to twist the dumbbells so your palms are going through away from you as you press up. The secret’s to time the twist so it ends similtaneously your urgent motion finishes. The eccentric portion of the train is identical in reverse. At the highest of the motion, your palms face ahead.
Starting from overhead and palms going through ahead, or away from you, decrease the dumbbells whereas rotating your palms to face towards you. You need your palms to be totally going through you on the backside, the twist ending similtaneously the dumbbells attain the underside.

You need to keep away from going too heavy with this motion, because it’s harder than a regular shoulder press. Going too heavy will place unneeded stress on the interior rotators and, like a daily shoulder press, will in all probability result in an arched again and diminished vary of movement.

Finally, keep away from the frequent mistake many make when attempting to do the Arnold press. This mistaken variation occurs when lifters break the Arnold press into two distinct sections.

Rather than rotating the palms from towards them to away in an even-paced move all through the rep they carry out a regular shoulder press – with the addition of bringing the dumbbells collectively in entrance of their face on the backside.

Then they rotate all of them the way in which out once more earlier than initiating the press again up. This massively reduces the burden you need to use with none notable muscular advantages. It could be helpful in some rehab conditions, however actually to not pack on shoulder mass.

Variations of the Arnold Press Exercise

 Arnold press shoulder

Variations of this motion appear slightly unusual to debate as it’s only a variation itself. However, there’s one overhead press variation that’s extra shoulder-friendly than each the Arnold press and commonplace barbell and dumbbell overhead presses: impartial grip dumbbell presses. Otherwise often known as the hammer press, you may carry out this transfer unilaterally or bilaterally.

To do the impartial grip dumbbell press, begin together with your elbows pointing ahead, palms going through each other, and elbows consistent with your shoulders on the backside.

Press up in a single movement by straightening the arm. The dumbbells ought to transfer in a straight line, persevering with upward till your arm is totally straight. Lower your dumbbells to the beginning place by bending at your elbows.

This retains you within the scapular aircraft, with out the stress that inside rotation could cause. For those that battle with shoulder troubles, this could be a variation you may make use of to nonetheless goal the anterior delts with out the frustration of nagging accidents.

If you’re presently doing Arnold presses or need to swap them for one thing, choose an overhead press you are able to do pain-free, and have a very good reference to. The seated army press is one other nice train for hitting the shoulders and correcting poor press kind.

Programming Guidelines for the Arnold Press

Figuring out the place to place this train is straightforward – wherever you might have regular shoulder urgent actions! The following tips all assume you’re doing 6-8 (or extra units) of urgent (flat and incline) per week, cut up over 2 or extra classes.


Anterior delts contribute closely to urgent, so flat and incline bench press quantity rely in the direction of anterior delt quantity. This means you possible require 2-6 units of direct work per week on high of your commonplace chest work.

We suggest a most of 4 units from Arnold urgent, and should you want a second train, give the remainder of your units to them.


Anterior delts ought to in all probability be educated immediately with common shoulder presses a few times per week. As you utilize them so much in different presses, direct work might be completed simply as soon as per week.

If they’re lagging otherwise you want greater than 4 units in a session, you may add a second train on one other day, like several of those entrance deltoid workouts, growing frequency to twice per week. When speaking Arnold presses particularly, restrict this to 1 session per week


If you’re a comparatively skilled lifter, it is a fairly protected train, as you may drop the dumbbells to the perimeters if one thing goes unsuitable. This means you may really feel fairly protected taking these near failure. Generally, purpose for units to be 1-3 reps shy of failure.

Arnold overhead press work

How does the Arnold press match right into a full train program?

Obviously, one train that works one muscle group isn’t going to get you to your health targets. You’ll want to include the Arnold press right into a full routine. For extra exercise concepts, do this full-body exercise to make sure all of your muscle mass are totally developed.

Just a few issues about this system under. First, including arms to decrease physique days appears like a little bit of a reward for ending a tough leg session. It additionally helps preserve your higher days shorter.

Secondly, should you needed to alter this right into a 5-day cut up, you possibly can simply preserve the primary higher and decrease classes the identical and cut up the ultimate two days into “Push”, “Pull”, and “Legs”. This will assist cease classes from taking too lengthy, particularly should you’re somebody who requires a number of quantity.

This may also assist to extend quantity for physique components which may battle in any other case, like arms and lateral delts. Finally, because the lateral delts can deal with comparatively excessive quantity and frequency and don’t get a number of quantity from compounds, including a 3rd day to coach them could be what you actually need to make your shoulders pop. You may also take a look at this plan to see how the Arnold press is integrated right into a chest and shoulders exercise.

Below we present you ways the Arnold press can match right into a 4-day, upper-lower cut up.

Upper Lower Split:

Upper (Push dominant)

Lower + Arms

Upper (Pull dominant)

Lower + arms

Bench Press x3

Squat Variation

One arm row

Deadlift Variation

Incline DB press x2

Hip Hinge

Cable row

Squat variation

Machine fly

Leg extension

Pull down

Hamstring curl

Barbell Row

Hamstring curl

Flat DB bench presses x3

Leg press

Pull down

Triceps isolation

Arnold press x2

Triceps isolation

Lateral increase

Bicep isolation, just like the dumbbell curl

Lateral increase

Bicep isolation

Reverse fly

Calf increase

Reverse fly

Calf increase

This is an instance of how this may very well be included in a full routine. This isn’t the be-all and end-all of coaching however supplies an instance of the way it might match.

Arnold Press Programming Tips

With this coaching construction, you’ve received ample anterior delt stimulation within the first higher day with the bench press and incline dumbbell press so the Arnold press isn’t wanted in there. Lateral raises are included as they gained’t get a complete lot of stimuli in any other case.

Rows and pull-downs present stimulus for the rear delts and reverse flys are there to complete off the rear delts and supply some higher again stimulus that could be lacking relying on barbell row execution.

This session supplies well-rounded stimulus for the entire shoulder, with no need direct anterior delt work.

During the second higher day you’re trying to focus primarily on the pulling workouts, however “top up” the pushing actions. The flat dumbbell press hits the chest and anterior delts and the Arnold press hits the anterior delts. Lateral raises and reverse flys are included for a similar motive as for day 1.

When you mix the higher physique classes, you’re taking all of the higher physique muscle mass (excluding the arms) by means of a full vary of movement, with a very good number of different lifts. This ought to guarantee your delts get all of the love they should pop.

For simplicities sake, rely all urgent towards entrance delt quantity. Provided you retain quantity counting constant – and know what indicators to search for to extend or lower quantity – the way you rely set quantity is essentially unimportant.

Using this technique means you might have 8 units of anterior delt workouts earlier than you come to the Arnold press (Bench Press = 3, Incline DB = 2, Flat DB = 3).

Then you may add in 2 units of Arnold press providing you with 10 units for the week, which is a superb place to begin. If you want extra quantity, begin with the opposite urgent variations, as they’ll provide you with some further chest work too.

If you don’t need or can’t deal with extra chest quantity you may add units on the Arnold press, possible maxing out at about 4 for the session.

You can see how you possibly can rapidly go from 10 units of anterior delt work to 12 and even 16. For most of us, that is greater than sufficient to pack on some critical mass.

avid runner

Should you Arnold press?

Yes, regardless of not dwelling as much as the lofty aspirations and claims of some, the Arnold press is a official overhead urgent variation. The Arnold press can simply slot into any coaching plan and supply an important stimulus to the anterior deltoids whereas different higher arms muscle mass labored embrace the triceps and stabilizing muscle mass.

The Arnold press ought to be a part of a whole shoulder routine. This ought to embrace rear delt work, by means of pulling actions and rear delt isolation workouts, and lateral delt workouts, like lateral increase variations. This will be certain that with slightly laborious work you may construct shoulders and get these 3-D delts you’re chasing. 

Related: The Ultimate Dumbbell Shoulder Workout

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