Arnold Shoulder Press

Arnold Presses work the shoulder muscles which are made up of the anterior (front), middle and posterior (back) deltoids. They also work all 3 heads of the triceps brachii – lateral, long and medial.In addition, when done correctly, will work the top part of the chest muscle, the pectoralis major, clavicular head. Other muscles that play a supporting role are the trapezius (connects your shoulder to your neck) and the serratus anterior (one of your side muscles).

What Makes Arnold Presses Different?

Like other shoulder press exercises, Arnold Presses work to build size and strength in your shoulder muscles. However, with these presses, the anterior or front part of the shoulder will get a greater emphasis.

This press is especially useful for people with weak shoulders because it helps to prevent excessive friction in the shoulder joint. In most classic shoulder presses where the elbows point to the side, or during extensions from behind the neck, Arnold Presses avoid the problem because the elbows are pointing forward in the initial part of the exercise.

How Are They Done?

1. Grab a pair of dumbbells and hold them in front of you with an underhand grip. Your palms should be facing you and thus your thumbs are pointing out to the sides. The weights should be at shoulder height.

2. With your back straight, exhale and raise your arms vertically while at the same time rotating your hands 180 degrees so that now your palms are facing away from you.

3. Inhale and slowly bring them back down, once again rotating your hands back the other way so you are now back to the starting position with your elbows in front of you.

4. If you are going for size, do 6-8 repetitions for 3-4 sets, and if you are toning up, you can do 15-20 reps for 2-3 sets. If you are a beginner, stick to the standard 8-10 reps for 2-3 sets.

Variations of The Arnold Press

You can do this exercise seated on a bench or standing. If you are seated, it helps to have a back support to help prevent excessive arching in the lower back, especially if you are using heavier dumbbells.

For added focus, you can alternate your arms. Keep in mind that the set will then take you twice as long and requires a lot of concentration.

Important Reminders

Shoulders can be easily injured, so keep the following in mind when doing these presses:

  • Start with light weights. As a beginner, you need to get the hang of the exercise before moving onto heavier weights. Even if you are experienced lifter, start with a set of light weights to warm up the shoulder area.
  • If you already have lower back problems, do the exercise seated with a backrest. Otherwise, you will further aggravate your lower back.

If done properly, you will soon notice a burning feeling in the shoulders during your repetitions. (This is different from pain caused by an injury.) This means you are working the muscle. Note where it burns – most of it should be at the front of the shoulder in this exercise.

Keep it up and pretty soon, you’ll have barn-door shoulders, or at the very least you can run for Governor.


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