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How to Do the Arnold Press: Benefits, Muscles Worked & the Modifications to Try

Arnold Press is an exercise used for building upper-body strength. From how to perform this exercise to its benefits and modifications, read on to find it all.

Joe Wilson
How to Do the Arnold Press: Benefits, Muscles Worked & the Modifications to Try
Table Of Contents

The Arnold press is an upper-body strength exercise, a variation of the dumbbell shoulder press. It is an upper body exercise to target the deltoids and triceps that seven-time Mr. Olympia winner Arnold Schwarzenegger created in the late 1960s.

The pressing motion is similar to a shoulder press but with a slight twist: at the top of each rep, rotate your palms from facing away from you to facing you and move in a slight circular motion instead of a one-stride attempt as it is done in the shoulder press.

To perform the dumbbell Arnold press, you only need a set of dumbbells. Usually, trainers include this exercise in whole-body fitness routines and those that isolate and target the shoulders, chest, and triceps.

So if you are also looking for a workout plan to target these muscles, we have got you covered. Read on to find everything from the benefits and modifications to the risks.

How to Do the Arnold Press?

If you seek an exercise that will quickly transform your upper body muscles and tone them to perfection, Arnold Press is one of the best choices.

However, it is essential to maintain the correct form while performing it to benefit from it entirely. This exercise can also be performed while seated or with a bench. Here, we have put down step-by-step instructions for performing Arnold Press correctly. Take a look!

  • To perform an Arnold Press in the proper manner, begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart and holding a pair of dumbbells in each hand.
  • Next, raise the weights to shoulder height with your elbows bent and palms facing you.
  • From this starting position, press the dumbbells over your head until, rotating your arms simultaneously so that your palms face away from you.
  • Keep your core and glutes engaged, and try not to arch your back.
  • At the top of the lift, squeeze your shoulder blades together and pause for a moment before slowly lowering the weights to your starting position.
  • Repeat for 8-12 reps depending on your strength level. Remember to keep proper form throughout each rep to get the most out of this exercise.

Modifications of Arnold Press for Some More Workout Fun

One thing that makes Arnold Press a favorite for many trainers is that it can be modified to fit the needs of exercisers with different fitness statuses. Some of the common modifications that are available for the workout are as follows:

Use of Light and Heavy Weight

The Arnold Press can be modified to suit beginner, moderate, and advanced fitness levels. For a beginner, the weight can be lightened to focus on form and technique, while it can be increased for moderate and advanced levels.

Pause at Different Points for Impact

Another modification is to pause at the top or bottom of the movement for increased activation of the targeted muscles. When you elongate the period while a specific muscle is under pressure, that muscle tones faster.

Single Arm Variations

Additionally, you can try single-arm variations to increase the intensity and challenge one side of your body more than the other at one point.

Muscles Worked During Arnold Press

The Arnold arm workout is well known for its intense focus on the arms. It targets all major muscles in the upper arm area, including the biceps, triceps, and shoulders. This workout also targets smaller muscles like the forearms and deltoids. It primarily works the anterior deltoid but activates the triceps, trapezius, and other shoulder muscles.

By adding this to your routine, you can expect increased arm size and strength in your biceps, triceps, and shoulders. Additionally, the smaller muscles of the forearms and deltoids will also become stronger and more defined.

Benefits of the Arnold Press

There are several benefits that one can achieve with Arnold Press. The exercise can be used as a warm-up movement or incorporated into a full-body workout routine.

Moreover, it offers a list of benefits that can enhance your overall fitness. Here, some of the significant benefits that you may gain with this exercise are as follows:

Stability and Mobility

Performing the Arnold press exercise requires good coordination and stability from all the shoulder muscles hence, it strengthens those muscles. It is a great exercise to help improve both stability and mobility. It helps increase shoulder strength, core stability, and range of motion.

Good for Pain Relief

The Arnold press is especially effective for those who experience shoulder pain or instability, as it strengthens the rotator cuff and other shoulder muscles. However, it is crucial to ensure that you do it without any weight or with a lightweight when using it for pain relief.

Improved Posture

Arnold Press is one of those exercises that can help increase flexibility in the upper back and chest area, leading to improved posture. However, one should take care of the form while doing it to ensure that it works on the posture correctly. The improvement in posture reduces the risk of injury.

Increased Muscular Endurance

The Arnold press is a versatile exercise that can help you increase your muscular endurance. This exercise works the shoulders, triceps, and core muscles. Regularly performing the Arnold press can increase muscular endurance in your upper body and core muscles.

With an increased level of muscular endurance, you will be able to perform more reps in a given amount of time, allowing you to build muscle faster and burn more calories.

This exercise can also help improve overall posture by strengthening the muscles that support your spine and shoulders, leading to better form during other exercises.

Core Strength

The Arnold Press is a great exercise for building your core strength. It is an excellent choice for athletes looking to increase their strength, stability, and overall performance in sports. Not only does it works your shoulders, but it can also help improve posture and balance. It is also effective for the triceps and upper back muscles in one movement.

Aim for 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions for best results. With practice and consistency, you'll soon feel the positive effects of this powerful exercise. So don't wait any longer; get started on your core strength routine today!

Arnold Press Risks

Arnold press exercises can put a lot of stress and strain on the shoulder muscles if done incorrectly. Incorrect form can lead to overuse injuries such as rotator cuff tendinitis, impingement syndrome, and instability in the shoulder joint. Lifting too much weight or performing too many reps with poor form can cause a shoulder dislocation.

Therefore, proper form is essential when performing the Arnold press exercise to avoid injury and ensure maximum effectiveness. It's essential to warm up properly before starting any workout routine and keep good posture throughout the exercise.

Additionally, starting with a lighter weight is best until you have mastered the technique before progressing to heavier weights. Finally, if you experience any discomfort or pain in your shoulders while performing the exercise, stop immediately and seek medical advice before continuing.

Following these tips can help you avoid unnecessary injury and ensure you get the most out of your Arnold press exercises.

For more information on the proper form for this exercise, it is essential to consult a certified personal trainer or medical professional. If you have any existing shoulder injuries, you must consult your doctor before starting an Arnold press exercise routine. Doing so can help ensure that the exercises are performed safely and effectively without putting too much stress on the shoulders.


The Arnold press exercise can be a great way to build strength and increase muscle mass in the shoulders, but it is crucial to ensure that you are doing it correctly. Following proper form, using lighter weights until the proper technique is mastered, and consulting your doctor or a certified personal trainer can help you safely perform this exercise without risking any injuries to your shoulder joints.

By following these tips and taking the necessary precautions, you can ensure that your Arnold press exercises are effective and safe.


1. What does Arnold press work?

The Arnold press engages all three deltoid muscles: anterior (front), middle, and posterior (rear). It targets the shoulder muscles and helps develop strength, power, and size. It is an effective exercise for developing overall shoulder stability and strength.

2. Are chest-supported rows and bent-over rows the same?

No, chest-supported and bent-over rows are different exercises targeting different muscle groups. Chest-supported rows involve using a chest support machine to perform the exercise, while bent-over rows require you to bend at the hip and use free weights.

Moreover, chest-supported rows target the upper back muscles, such as the rhomboids and trapezius muscles, while bent-over rows target the latissimus dorsi, or lats, and other muscles in the back. Both exercises are beneficial for building a strong and toned back, but they should be used to supplement each other to gain maximum results.

3. Does Arnold press work all 3 heads of deltoids at once?

Yes, the Arnold press is an excellent exercise for hitting all three heads of the deltoids. It works the anterior, medial, and posterior delts through its multi-directional range of motion. You can feel your shoulder muscles working when you do an Arnold press with proper form.

As you move through the upward phase of the lift, you will engage your anterior delts, while the medial and posterior heads of the deltoids are activated at the end of the movement as you press overhead. Make sure to use proper form and good lifting techniques when doing an Arnold press to get the most out of this exercise.

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Joe Wilson

Mr. Wilson is a motivated fitness instructor accomplished in helping clients of all fitness levels get into shape and achieve their health and fitness goals. Strongly believes health is a conscious lifestyle choice necessary for longevity and happiness.

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