A shoulder exercise Arnold Schwarzenegger invented that's being used to this day by bodybuilders

The Arnold press hits more muscles in the shoulder bigger delt gains

Arnold Schwarzenegger flexing his enormous biceps
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The shoulders are a tricky thing to bulk up, as they can be susceptible to impingement injuries and other damage caused by overworking, rendering their owner pretty damned useless if crocked. However, if you want bigger shoulders and thereby bigger arms we have a tip.

The Arnold Press, popularised by Mr Schwarzenegger himself, adds a rotation into a typical overhead dumbbell press and as a result, hits all three sections of the deltoids. But it's something that must be approached with caution.

Despite the Governator proving that this exercise can lead to gigantic, impressively thick shoulders, it also increases the load on shoulder joints and can therefore increase the risk of injury. And while the Terminator ‘will be back’, you might not be if you flange this up. So read on...

How to do the Arnold press

While mastering this exercise, make sure you start off with a light weight, slowly building up the weight as form is perfected and the shoulder joints and supporting back muscles are getting stronger.

You can use a weights bench or seat during this early stage, but if perform the Arnie press whilst standing up, you can engage your abs and core as well, getting a rock solid foundation in the process. With two light dumbbells, stand with feet shoulder-width apart and grip the dumbbells at shoulder height with palms facing towards you.

Press up and out, keeping the shoulders squeezed back and down towards you butt, smoothly rotating the dumbbells 180-degrees through the movement, so palms are facing outwards when they are pressed overhead. 

Get full extension of the arms at the top of the movement, pause for a moment - keeping everything tight - now rotate the dumbbells back towards you as you lower to the starting position.

On the way down, remember to keep the elbows tight into the body at the finishing position, almost as if you  were in a standing plank, with core and glutes tight. Pause for a moment and that is one rep. 

Best Arnold Press alternatives

As well as gradually adding the number of repetitions and increasing the weight of the dumbbells over time, you can stimulate muscle growth in the shoulders and other parts of the body with a few simple variations.

Swapping the dumbbells for a single kettlebell incorporates a lot of stabilising muscles to assist with balance. Hold the kettlebell in the rack position, close to the sternum, thumb towards you, and then press upwards with a 180-degree rotation. 

This variation will have the opposing glute, obliques and fellow ab muscles working overtime to keep everything balanced and in check.

Similarly, carrying out the Arnold Press while in a kneeling position or a split-kneel position also encourages other stabilising muscles to get involved. Just remember to keep the weights light here and don't hyper-extend the back to avoid injury.

Leon Poultney
Leon Poultney

Leon has been writing about automotive and consumer tech for longer than he cares to divulge. If he’s not testing the latest fitness wearable and action camera, he’s out in a shed fawning over his motorcycles or trying not to kill himself on a mountain bike/surfboard/other extreme thing.