Learn All About the Arnold Press, the Exercise Named After Schwarzenegger

The one exercise to hit all three deltoid muscles in your shoulder.

The Arnold press is an easy-to-do shoulder exercise that will bring you results fast.

When an exercise is named after one of the most famous bodybuilders in the world, chances are you should pay attention to it and possibly incorporate it into your training routine.

That is exactly what the Arnold press is all about. Named after Arnold Schwarzenegger, former governor of California, actor and badass bodybuilder, the exercise is a great exercise to hit your shoulders and strengthen your upper body.

How To Do

You will need a pair of dumbbells to perform the Arnold press. This exercise can be performed seated on a bench, standing up, or even on your knees. The version below is the seated Arnold press.

  • Keep feet hip-width apart and posture tall.
  • Tuck your chin in throughout the exercise and maintain a stable position with your feet grounded on the floor.
  • With palms facing your body, hold both dumbbells slightly above your shoulders and close to your body. Your elbows should be pointing towards the floor.
  • Initiate the pressing moving by moving your elbows out and twisting the dumbbells with your hands switching from facing your body to facing forward.
  • At the top of the movement, your arms should lockout, dumbbells well above your head, and your palms should be facing forward.
  • Begin the downward movement by bending your elbows and start rotating your palms to face them to your body in one smooth movement.
  • Lower the dumbbells back to the initial position with elbows pointing to the floor.
  • That is one rep.

Make sure to choose a somewhat lighter weight than you are used to when performing overhead dumbbell press, for example.

Muscles Worked

The beauty of the Arnold press is in its simplicity and its ability to be a unique exercise that targets all three deltoids.

  • Anterior deltoid
  • Lateral deltoid
  • Posterior deltoid

To a lesser extent, you will contract your triceps and biceps.

Mistakes to Avoid

If you want to have strong and well-balanced shoulders, the Arnold press is a great way to do that. But it doesn’t mean you should do it in any way possible. When performing Arnold press, the objective is to have perfect form.

The first big mistake people may do is choosing a heavy pair of dumbbells. This is not “go big or go home” kind of exercise. Warm up properly and choose dumbbells that you can lift 8-12 reps with perfect form. If the dumbbells are too heavy, you will put your body at risk of injury.

arnold pressSource: Photo by Ivan Samkov from Pexels

During the entire movement, you must keep your back tall, which leads us to mistake number 2: arching your back. Usually, on overhead press movements, people tend to utilise their backs to help with the movement and with the Arnold press is the same. Make sure you are engaging your core properly so you don’t feel the need to arch your back and jeopardise the exercise.

Another important mistake to avoid when doing Arnold press is to rush through the movement. Just like you are not supposed to go heavy on this exercise, you should not go fast either. By going faster, you will create momentum and one of your deltoids will not receive the proper attention as it should, possible the lateral one.

By rushing through the movement, you also risk dropping the dumbbells to a much lower initial position than they should, putting your shoulder blades in the wrong placement risking more injuries.

Lastly, shrugs can be detrimental to the exercise. If you are shrugging to initiate the movement, you are taking away some of the work your shoulders must do to perform the movement. This exercise is focused on your shoulders, not your upper back.

Pros and Cons of the Arnold Press


  • Hits all heads of your shoulders.
  • Builds a rounder and stronger shoulder with one exercise.
  • One of the best exercises to hit your front deltoids.
  • Greater time with muscles under tension means you will work out more in less time.
  • It will help you become a better athlete when performing pull-ups, push-ups, or bench presses.


  • Due to the twisting of dumbbells, you are more susceptible to injury if the exercise is not performed correctly.
  • Not recommended for beginners.
  • It can put a lot of pressure on your wrist, which most people are not used to, leading to wrist pain.

Arnold Press Variations

As we mentioned before, the Arnold press is a pretty much straightforward exercise and unique in a way that it is difficult to make a variation out of it or to have an exercise that similarly hits the same muscle group.

However, you can perform Arnold press with a different scenario.

Standing Arnold Press:

Seated Arnold Press:

Kneeling Arnold Press:

Half-Kneeling Single-Arm Arnold Press:

Banded Arnold Press:

(in case you don’t have dumbbells at your disposal).

Read More: 10 Other Shoulder Exercises to Build Strength and Conditioning

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