How to do Arnold Press Exercise for Bigger, Muscular Shoulders

Dumbbell Arnold Press is an excellent shoulder muscle building exercise that targets your deltoid muscles while keeping the shoulder joint healthy.

Add Arnold Press for variety and gains and learn to do them with perfect form.

Inside This Article

Arnold Press - The Advantages are Clear

The Big guy sure knew something. Your shoulder joints are highly mobile but this mobility comes at a price - stability. Regular presses risk shoulder impingement. Add Arnold Press for healthier shoulders.

Arnold Press offers 2 clear advantages that make it a must add exercise to your shoulder training.

  1. Longer range of motion: You can lower dumbbells in every rep, targeting your deltoids with longer range which means more muscle stimulation
  2. Greater deltoid stretch: More stretch means harder contraction on subsequent reps. Dumbbell lets your shoulder joint work optimally too.

What does this mean?

This means bigger, muscular and safer shoulder muscles in the long run. Try it. Your shoulders will thank you.

How to do Arnold Press Correctly

Most people just swing dumbbells which may cause shoulder damage. Follow these steps for best technique.

Arnold calls it a half lateral raise, half shoulder press exercise and hence trains your medial and front deltoid heads.

Muscles Used: Anterior and Lateral heads of deltoids, triceps and trunk stabilisers.

Three Step Technique:

Step One:

Position: Seated or standing. I usually prefer standing version as it uses more muscles and helps you lift more, but for Arnold Press seated position is better as this exercise is about a fuller range and better stretch than weights lifted.

Weights Used: Use 50 - 80% of weights you use for barbell military press. Concentrate on form and range, don't make it an ego exercise.

Dumbbell Hold: Hold the dumbbells at shoulder level in front of you with wrists facing you.

Step Two:

Take a deep breathe in and hold. Press the dumbbells as if you are pushing them against the roof. It is a proven technique for high power.

As you lift, twist your wrists such that the palms are facing away from you when the dumbbells reach the head position.

Reach the top position and gently squeeze your deltoids as if you are trying to touch shoulders to ears. Do not relax the muscles.

One tip not shown in illustration: Do not lock your elbows as for some, it may relax the delts.

Step Three:

Lower the dumbbells as if your are pulling them down to start position. Get a good stretch at the bottom but don't lose tension.

Power breathing teaches us to exhale during the last portion of lift, i.e. breathe out when dumbbells are above head level.

Inhale on the way down, get in start position and start the next rep.

How to add Arnold Press to Your Shoulder Training

If you have been doing regular barbell presses for shoulders since a long time {12 weeks or so}, replace them with Arnold Presses. Arnold presses are effective as stand alone exercise too.

Alternatively you can add them after your regular press as a finisher move. Try the Crash Sets for best advanced muscle gains.

Best Shoulder Muscle Building Program

Big, muscular shoulders require a complete program. The NNMB Muscle Program is the best program to build bigger, stronger muscles in less time.

Summary and Action points

Properly done Arnold Press can target previously under-trained muscle fibers as they provide very long range of motion.

Arnold Press is a great addition for shoulder training. 

I use it regularly and use it for my clients. 

Top 10 Frequently Asked Questions on Arnold Press

  1. Can You do Arnold Press while Standing?
  2. What are the advantages of Arnold press?
  3. Can you use barbells for Arnold Press?
  4. What muscles are used in Arnold Press?
  5. Any alternatives to Arnold Press?
  6. Are Arnold Press Safe?
  7. Are Arnold Press Bad for Rotator Cuff Muscles?
  8. Are Arnold Press bad for your shoulders?
  9. Do Arnold Press work the rear deltoids?
  10. Can you try Arnold press after injury?

1. Can You do Arnold Press while Standing?

Yes, you can. Try seated and standing on alternate weeks to benefit from both.

2. What are the advantages of Arnold press?

As mentioned, they have 3 advantages:

  • Longer range of motion
  • Better deltoid stretch stretch
  • Shoulder joint friendly

3. Can you use barbells for Arnold Press?

No, unless you are a mutant. The twist is possible only with dumbbells, kettle bells and cables.

4. What muscles are used in Arnold Press?

Anterior and Lateral heads of deltoid muscle, triceps and trunk stabilisers. 

Anterior head - front deltoid; Lateral head - Side deltoid

5. Any alternatives to Arnold Press?

Dumbbell military press is a proven winner but cannot give the longer range of motion as Arnold Press does.

You can try kettle bell or cable versions too.

6. Are Arnold Press Safe?

Yes, if the form is correct. Use less weights, don't make it an ego lift and concentrate on form. You will have pain-free shoulders that are as strong as they look.

7. Are Arnold Press Bad for Rotator Cuff Muscles?

No. Rotator cuff muscles require special training as they are under-trained in all pressing moves including Arnold Press.

Here are 4 effective rotator cuff exercises.

8. Are Arnold Press bad for your shoulders?

As said, they are shoulder joint friendly and prevent shoulder impingement.

9. Do Arnold Press work the rear deltoids?

Not much. You need bent over lateral raises for rear deltoids or face pulls exercise.

10. Can you try Arnold press after injury?

Check with an Orthopaedician. If you are pain free, you can add low weight Arnold Presses.

› Arnold Press Exercise

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