Arnold Press

Exercise / Shoulders

How to do Arnold Press

Arnold Press

For this exercise you will need a bench with a back support and two dumbbells of an appropriate weight for your level of expertise, fitness and strength.

Starting Position: Position yourself on the bench and hold a dumbbell in each hand at chest height. In the starting position, your back should be straight, the dumbbells should be at shoulder level and the palms should be facing the body.

Form: Make sure that your palms are facing your body and your elbows are bent. Your arms should be in close to your torso.

  1. Making sure you are inhaling, raise the dumbbells while at the same time turning your hands so that the palms now face outwards.
  2. Exhale slowly while continuing to raise the dumbbells until your arms are stretched above you and your elbows are locked.
  3. Pause for a count of two at the top of the movement, and then start to lower the dumbbells while inhaling. Lower the weight slowly and in a controlled manner with your palms facing your body.
  4. This, as before, has now become your starting position. Then raise the dumbbells as you rotate the palms of your hands until they are facing forward, keeping your elbows in.

Do the required number of repetitions of the same movement.

Tip: Ensure that you work slowly, and get a full 180 degree rotation going through both hands and arms.

Arnold Press Benefits

  • The Arnold press is one of the rare shoulder exercises developed by Arnold Schwarzenegger that works the 3 heads of the deltoids (front of your shoulders, lateral deltoids, posterior deltoids). This exercise is done with dumbbells to work the triceps muscle group in your upper arms, including the trapezius, rotator cuff, and delts in your upper body.
  • Remember that the Arnold press is a more advanced variation on the overhead press. This exercise works many muscles in the shoulder, but because of the rotation it requires, it may be a more risky exercise than a overhead press if you have shoulder discomfort. Be careful not to increase the weight too much to get efficient results with Arnold press. If you experience shoulder pain or shoulder injury consult your doctor or a personal trainer before continuing the exercise.

Arnold Press Muscles Worked

The Arnold press primarily works all the deltoid muscles, including the anterior, medial, and posterior. At the same time, the supraspinatus, levator scapula, serratus anterior, trapezius, and triceps muscles are involved in movement to aid balance, support, and stabilization.

Arnold press Muscles Worked 1

Arnold Press Vs Overhead Press

The Arnold Press and Overhead Press are two popular shoulder exercises that are often compared to each other. Both exercises involve overhead lifting, but their execution methods differ.

In the case of the Arnold Press, lifting too much weight can cause damage to the shoulder joint, which is already at risk due to the rotational motion involved in the exercise. This can put the shoulder in a vulnerable position, especially for individuals with a history of shoulder injuries. In contrast, the Overhead Press has a simpler movement pattern and can be easier to perform, especially with heavier weights.

Comparison of the muscle activation in the Arnold Press and Overhead Press

The Arnold press is a more effective exercise for activating the Anterior and Medial (lateral) deltoid muscles compared to the Overhead Dumbbell Press.

In a study on muscle activation between the Arnold Press and Dumbbell Overhead Press, we can see that the Arnold press has a higher level of muscle activation in the anterior and lateral deltoids than the Overhead press.

Arnold press vs overhead press

The Arnold Press works the anterior and lateral deltoids more in addition to the posterior deltoid.


The choice of which exercise is better for specific muscle groups ultimately depends on your personal goals.

If you want to strengthen your shoulders more specifically, the Overhead Press may be a better option. However, if you want to engage more muscle groups and achieve a full-body workout, the Arnold Press is a great choice.

Note: Individuals with shoulder injuries should consult with a qualified fitness professional to determine which exercise is safe for their specific situation

Arnold Press Variations

Incorporating these variations into your shoulder workouts can help you achieve greater strength and definition in your shoulder muscles, while also keeping your workouts fun and interesting. As always, remember to start with a weight that is appropriate for your current fitness level and work your way up gradually to avoid injury.

Here are ten variations of the Arnold Press that you can incorporate into your shoulder workouts for added variety and intensity.

arnold press