Arnold Press

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Only the greatest bodybuilders have an exercise named after them. Scott Curls (Larry Scott, the first Mr. Olympia), Yates Rows (five-time Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates) and of course the Arnold Press, named after the most famous bodybuilder of all time: Arnold Schwarzenegger.


Schwarzenegger, of course, needs no introduction. He was always looking for ways to get the most out of his workouts and wasn’t afraid to leave the beaten track. During one of the expeditions, he discovered another version for the standard dumbbell shoulder press, which would later be named after him. When performed correctly, this exercise is a kind of combination of a lateral raise with a shoulder press.


In short, the Arnold Press is a dumbbell shoulder press that you start with your palms towards you and finish with your palms away from you, like a ‘regular’ dumbbell press.

We often see that this exercise is performed incorrectly, with the emphasis on rotating the forearms outwards (pronating) while the effectiveness of the exercise lies in the initial shoulder abduction: moving the elbows away from the body.

Let’s dig a little deeper and walk you through the Arnold Press step by step.

  • Sit on a weight bench with the backrest almost upright.
    (This is an all-round shoulder exercise; a greater incline shifts the emphasis to your anterior deltoid (anterior deltoid) and ultimately upper pecs.)
  • Grab a pair of dumbbells and hold them in front of your shoulders with your palms facing you, more or less like you would finish a biceps curl.
  • Start the move by moving your elbows out and up, not just turning your forearm out. At the height of your forehead, your palms face each other (neutral hand position).
  • Now push the dumbbells all the way out until your arms are fully extended. At this point, your palms are facing away from you (forward), just like a regular dumbbell shoulder press.
  • Now lower the dumbbells again and finish as you started.
  • Perform the desired number of reps; usually you train close to muscle failure.

Here you see someone emphasizing the pronation of the forearm. This is a much better implementation:

Here the shoulder flexion is emphasized even further, exaggerated haste, so you better understand what we mean:



You can also perform the exercise sitting on a bench without a backrest, or standing.


The big question is, of course, why you would do the Arnold Press instead of the regular shoulder press, with dumbbells or barbells. Frankly, we cannot give a very convincing argument. The most mentioned advantage is that the Arnold Press has a slightly larger range of motion, whereby the shoulder abduction would ensure that the middle shoulder head is more emphatically involved in the exercise. This creates a more all-round shoulder exercise than the conventional shoulder press, which mainly stimulates the anterior shoulder head.

The middle shoulder heads are often – unconsciously – a neglected child, as a result of which many bodybuilders lack really broad shoulders. But even if you do the Arnold Press, you will still have to train your middle shoulders with the necessary targeted exercises, such  namely lateral raises and maybe also upright rows. Intermediate to advanced bodybuilders need at least ten sets of targeted exercises each week to grow the lateral delts. So this is on top of the shoulder press. If you’re doing the Arnold Press, you might be able to get by with one or two sets less.

On the other hand, the rotation of shoulders, internal muscle rotation, entails an increased risk of shoulder impingement (impingement of tissue in the shoulder joint). If you’re prone to shoulder injuries, it’s probably better to do the regular shoulder press, also with dumbbells if you want.

As far as we are concerned, the Arnold Press is therefore not a must. Sorry, Arnold.

Cover image: Bold & Determined


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