How to Perform the Arnold Press

Use the oft-forgotten Arnold press to work all three delt heads in a single set.
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If it’s good enough for Arnold Schwarzenegger, then it must be good enough for everyone else in the gym, right? Right! The Arnold press, named after the Austrian Oak himself, is a twist on a traditional overhead press that will have your shoulders sexy and toned in no time.

What Are the Benefits of an Arnold Press?

This move is famed for working all three heads of the deltoid at once (front delt, side delt and rear delt), which makes it a very effective move. The Arnold press also helps improve your posture, keeps your muscles under tension longer than traditional presses, and helps reach the medial and posterior deltoids, which don’t get much love during most workouts.

Before you begin, it’s important to be honest with yourself about any shoulder injuries you may have — the rotation of the Arnold press is often blamed for taxing the shoulder joint in a way that could cause long-term damage. So if you have any current injuries, it’s best to avoid this maneuver and not risk further irritation to the shoulder. But if you feel like your shoulders are ready for the challenge, then it’s important to focus on form to prevent injury — read on to learn the proper mechanics of the Arnold press.

How to Do a Standing Arnold Press

Do two to three sets of 10 to 12 reps; work up to eight to 10 reps per set with a heavier weight.

Target Muscles: anterior, lateral and posterior deltoids

Setup: First, begin with a few exercises to warm up the shoulders (such as straight arm circles and alternating chest hugs) — you don’t want to rotate with weights until your blood is pumping. Then hold a pair of weights in front of your shoulders, palms facing your body. (The start position should look like the top portion of the dumbbell curl.)

Action: In one fluid motion, raise the dumbbells and rotate the palms of your hand to face forward — keep lifting until your arms are extended straight above you. Pause and then reverse the move and repeat.

Max motion: The range of motion of this exercise is much greater than that of a standard shoulder press.

Caution: If you suffer from lower-back problems or are just starting out, it’s common to perform a seated Arnold press. (Choose a chair or bench that offers back support.) It’s also wise to begin with less weight than you would use for overhead dumbbell presses; you can always adjust in your later sets if you need a greater challenge.

If you want to create a serious shoulder workout that quickly targets every aspect of your delts, pair the Arnold press with these exercises twice a week: lateral raises, front raises and bent-over rear-delt flyes.

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