Aditya Sahu ‧ CPT & Head Coach
Aditya is an ACSM certified personal trainer and exercise physiologist with more than 7 years training various people and transforming people's lives. He has written various publications for various sports and fitness magazines.
If you are a workout enthusiast, you must be familiar with Arnold Schwarzenegger. His name comes to mind when you think about bodybuilders. He has multiple achievements under his belt, such as starring in The Terminator, being a seven-time Mr. Olympia, and being Governor of California.
But most workout enthusiasts would agree his most immense contribution to the fitness world was the Arnold press. People integrate Arnold's workout regimen into their routines, especially when aiming to sculpt their shoulders muscles.
In this article, we will briefly discuss what the Arnold Press exercise is and what muscle groups it targets. We will also discuss how to incorporate this exercise into your workout routine.
What Is The Arnold Press?
The Arnold press is a unique variation of a standard shoulder press, named after Arnold Schwarzenegger. It is categorized as a thorough exercise for developing shoulder muscles in particular. In this workout, you engage your shoulder's anterior deltoids and medial and posterior deltoids. The front delt, side delt, and rear delt are not stimulated simultaneously in other upper body exercises like the lateral raise, military press, and overhead press. (1)
When your palms are facing forward at the height of the press, the wrist rotation movement that defines the Arnold press comes to a stop. You feel your shoulder blades move as well. Dumbbells are used in the Arnold press to target several major upper body muscle groups, such as the triceps, trapezius, and side delts.
Benefits Of The Arnold Press
You must be wondering what makes Arnold press such a great exercise. Here are a few benefits your lower body and upper body receive while performing the Arnold presses:
Defined Muscle Groups
Many exercises, such as bench presses, pull-ups, and push-ups, primarily target one of the three deltoid muscles. Also, inadequate strength and unbalanced muscle gains might result when a standard shoulder press is not done in proper form.
If your goal is broad and well-defined shoulders, opting for the Arnold Press can help you achieve faster results. (1) The Arnold press focuses on the entire deltoid muscle group. The shoulder muscles worked during Arnold presses are the anterior deltoids and medial and posterior deltoids. This shoulder press exercise has a better range of motion, leading to better gains and muscle definition.
Posterior Head Engagement
Unlike most shoulder training exercises that primarily focus on the deltoid's anterior and medial head, the Arnold press also focuses on the posterior head. This involvement of the posterior head owes to the wrist rotation performed during the exercise. The Arnold press can increase muscle group strength and hypertrophy if done correctly. (2)
Extended Muscle Tension
Due to the added rotation involved in this routine, you can spend a couple of seconds more than the typical press. This dumbbells overhead press puts your deltoid muscles under pressure for longer, which results in muscular hypertrophy. You will see a noticeable difference in your strength by performing an overhead press frequently.
The Arnold Press is a challenging workout that makes you concentrate on your body posture and proper form. Each action demands controlled and smooth movements; otherwise, you might damage your joints. A benefit of the Arnold press is that you will notice a considerable difference in your posture even when you are carrying out your everyday tasks.
Standing Arnold Press – A Brief Step-By-Step Guide
Like any other exercise, the standing Arnold press also comes with risks. Compared to a regular shoulder press, the Arnold press is a bit challenging on the body. In order to prevent your shoulder joint or muscles from injury, here is a step-by-step guide on how to perform the standing Arnold press:
1. Pick Some Weights
Dumbbells are essential in the Arnold press as one-handed weights offer greater mobility. If you are a beginner, starting with lighter weights is better than selecting heavier weights. It allows your muscles to adapt to the exercise while ensuring one fluid motion. With time you can slowly add more weights for more muscle gains.
2. Form Preparation
Stand firmly on the ground with feet hip-width apart and in a position that feels natural to you. Maintain the position and stability of your upper core through your legs and feet as the Arnold press only demands the movement of your upper arms.
3. Bring Weights To The Starting Position
Hold the dumbbells beside your ears, your hands and palms facing inward, and your elbows bent 90 degrees. Find a starting position that feels good for your wrists, shoulders, and elbows.
4. Pull The Weights Up And Twist
Pull the weights upward with your shoulder and triceps until your arms are fully stretched above your head. Then twist your wrists so you can easily rotate the weight to a 180-degree angle. The recommended way to end this movement is by facing forward with your palms away and extended straight above your body. All three deltoid heads are engaged during this complete rotation for optimal muscular engagement.
5. Maintain Position For One Count
Holding the weight for a little moment at the peak can lengthen the period under tension. While maintaining the peak position, keep your elbows bent and your shoulders and triceps muscles active.
6. Lower The Weight And Twist
Bring the weights back to the starting position and control their descent. When lowering the weights, twist your wrists in the opposite direction so the thumb faces outwards. With this movement, you will end up back in the starting position with the dumbbells.
7. Maintain The Position For One Count And Repeat
Holding your position will again increase the time of muscle tension and will help you in the next rep. Repeat the steps a preferable number of times.
8. Breathe – It Is Important for Your Body
Exhale as you lift the weights, and then inhale as you lower them. Your stamina and muscle oxygenation will grow with the correct breathing pattern. Also, shoulder exercises require more oxygen. (3)
For more details on upper arm movement and the muscles worked during standing Arnold press watch this video:
Arnold Press Variations
There are a couple of variations to the Arnold press exercise, so workout enthusiasts can opt for the one that suits them the best. If the traditional Arnold press exercise does not work for you, you can opt for these variations:
One-Handed Arnold Press
This particular variation accentuates your shoulder, obliques, and abs and enhances the effectiveness of your workout. One-handed exercises such as this dumbbell overhead press can do wonders for your core and offer stability and balance. Here's how you can do it more efficiently:
Seated Arnold Press
The seated Arnold press variation gives your lower back extra support while keeping the deltoid muscles in the forefront and improving shoulder mobility. This Arnold press variation is performed seated and is perfect for people suffering from lower back issues. It is also optimum for novices working on their form and focusing on fluid motion and controlled motion for lifting the dumbbells. Here is how you can perform the seated Arnold press:
Cable Arnold Press
Performing the Arnold press with a cable machine is another excellent way to reduce wrist stress without drastically reducing the effectiveness of shoulder exercise. You can carry out this exercise both seated and standing as long as you have a cable machine. Here is how you can do it:
Resistance Band Arnold Press
Holding a heavy dumbbell might not be a great idea for people with joint injuries, as it tends to strain the joint. However, resistance bands for performing the Arnold press do not strain your wrist directly. However, there is one downside to this method. With a resistance band, the workout's effectiveness on your body is a bit reduced. Muscles worked in this workout routine are the shoulders, upper back, and biceps.
Risks Associated With Arnold Overhead Press
Several risks are associated with every exercise that can limit the range of motion of your body. Therefore, it is better to familiarize yourself with them to be on the safe side. Here are some risks associated with the Arnold press:
Adding wrist rotation with dumbbell weights in Arnold presses can cause wrist strain. The movements can be painful for people who do not have a firm grip. Moreover, as the wrist does the majority of the twisting, tearing of weak muscles may occur with the wearing of the wrist joints.
The risk of shoulder joint pain increases if you start doing Arnold presses with an existing shoulder injury or discomfort. During an Arnold press, the rotator cuff muscle that collaborates with your deltoids scrapes between the humerus and the top outer edge of your shoulder. This scraping causes the build-up of friction at the shoulder joint, leading to discomfort, swelling, soreness, and in severe cases, injury.
Generally, your personal trainer would not recommend muscle rotation exercises like the Arnold press if you suffer from a shoulder injury. Furthermore, opt for a different workout routine if you feel pain in your shoulder or wrist while doing the Arnold press.
Undoubtedly, the Arnold Press is one of the best workouts for increasing shoulder width and building broad, sculpted shoulder blades and shoulder muscles. The Arnold press works in all variations. It is one of the few effective exercises that involve all deltoid muscle groups. By the end, you will have broader and more well-defined muscles. You would also notice the difference in shoulder muscle and upper arms strength. (4)
Arnold press is one of the best exercises for shredding shoulders. It takes time and effort to master the proper form, but once you get a hold of it, it will be effortless and safe to perform. Try your best to do Arnold press hits with all the safety measures to avoid the risk of joint and muscle injuries. Lastly, combining the Arnold press with a lower-body workout can help you achieve your fitness goals faster.