Bodybuilding Exercise: Arnold Dumbbell Press
Arnold dumbbell press is named after the great Arnold Schwarzenegger (though other sources claim it was popularized by Larry Scott). An Arnold dumbbell press is a strength training exercise that uses free weights and it’s great to build mass and strength of the shoulders.
Arnold press increases the range of motion of the dumbbell overhead shoulder press by placing the dumbbells in front of your shoulders in the starting position, placing more emphasis on the aterior (front) head of the deltoid and upper chest. Given that Arnold is considered to have the best chest and shoulder development in the history of bodybuilding, this is definitely a move worth incorporating into your workouts.
Arnold Dumbbell Press Exercise Guide
INITIAL (STARTING) POSITION: Sit on a flat bench (or low-back seat) keeping the back straight. With elbows bent and pointing forward, hold the dumbbell at shoulder level with an underhand grip (thumbs pointing away from each other/palms facing you). The starting position should look like the contracted portion of a dumbbell biceps curl.
EXERCISE EXECUTION (MOVEMENT): Press the dumbbells vertically (overhead) while rotating your wrists so that your palms are oriented forward at the top (thumbs pointing toward each other). In other words, you will end at the top in a conventional press. Don’t lock your elbows at the top. When you lower the dumbbells, rotate your wrists back so that your palms are oriented inward again. For variety, you can lower the dumbbells to your chest instead of stopping at your shoulders. This increases the range of motion and works the delts in a slightly different way.
Alter the exercise either by:
- Not rotating your wrists (keeping you palms facing you all the time)
- Rotating only to neutral (palms facing each other)
Muscles Engaged in Arnold Dumbbell Press
When you perform normal shoulder press you increase the focus on your inside shoulder muscles. When doing the Arnold press, there is less side delts (shoulders) work and because of that the Arnold press is better for your front delts and upper chest. If you want to train your side shoulders and bring them out more, then you should do standard shoulder presses.
Arnold press solicits the deltoid, mainly the anterior (front) deltoid, as well as the clavicular head of the pectoralis major, triceps brachii, trapezius, and serratus anterior.
- Main muscles: deltoid (front), coracobrachialis, triceps (except long head), supraspinatus
- Secondary muscles: deltoid (middle and rear), pectoralis major (upper), biceps (long head), trapezius, triceps (long head)
- Antagonists: latissimus dorsi, teres major and minor, biceps, pectoralis major (lower)
Exercise Key Points to Remember
- Remember exhale while you exert.
- Keep a controlled motion and avoid jerky movements. No using momentum in this exercise. Keep tension constant.
- Keep a strict form. This exercise can be performed while sitting on the end of a flat bench, but a back rest is preferred – especially for those with lower back problems.
- Do not lock your arms overhead if gaining muscle is your goal.
- Push the weights straight up, pronating your hands once the dumbbells reach eye level so that your palms are facing forward at full arm extension.
You can replace Arnold dumbbell press with any other front deltoid exercise that generates shoulder pressing movement.
- Smith machine behind the neck shoulder press
- Seated barbell shoulder press (seated military press)
- Machine shoulder press
- Smith machine in front of the head shoulder press
- Behind the neck shoulder press
Arnold dumbbell press is similar to basic dumbbell press, but there are several key differences. It is just like a regular dumbbell press, except at the bottom you start with your palms facing you, twisting your wrists as you press so your palms face forward at the top.
It’s best done while seated for greater upper body stability (you can seat against a backrest to help prevent an excessive arch in the back). In theory, this exercise was invented to work all three areas of the deltoid, although in practice the front and side work harder. The main advantage is that it is not as hard on the ligaments and small muscles surrounding the shoulder joint, although further research is needed to confirm this.