Arnold Press (Step-by-Step Instructions)

The Arnold Press is an upper-body pressing movement focused on training for hypertrophy of the shoulders. This is a unique shoulder exercise as it involves pressing and rotating the dumbbell as you press. This is an awesome supplemental exercise to perform for an extra burn at the end of a pressing session.

In this guide, I will go over how to do the Arnold press, coaching points, muscles worked, and more.

How To Do Arnold Presses

Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells
  • Bench (If you prefer doing the Arnold press seated but you can do the exercise standing as well)

Step-by-Step Instruction

  • Stand with the dumbbells next to you.
  • Hinge and the waist and bend the knees until you can grab the dumbbells.
  • Keep a neutral spine, and a nice flat back, and lift the dumbbells into your pressing position.
  • You will start with the palms facing you.
  • As you press the dumbbells up, rotate the dumbbells as you press, and at the top of the movement, your palms will be facing away.
  • As you lower the dumbbells back to the start, rotate the dumbbells until your palms are facing you.

Coaching Points

This is an exercise that is programmed for hypertrophy. Control the weight and focus on time under tension. This one is going to burn, so grit your teeth, and enjoy it!

Keep the core engaged as you press. If you feel you are arching your back as you reach closer to lockout, consider going down in weight.

Muscles Worked

The Arnold press engages more muscles than you think and for different reasons.

  • Anterior delts (Primary concentric movers)
  • Medial and rear delts (Primary eccentric and isometric stabilizers)
  • Lats and biceps (Secondary eccentric and isometric stabilizers)
  • Triceps (Lockout)
  • Abdominal and lower back muscles (Stabilizers in most compound movements)

Arnold Press Alternatives

The Arnold press is a very unique movement because of the rotation of the dumbbell. Here are some other unique shoulder hypertrophy options.

Front Press

Don’t have dumbbells? If you have a barbell you can switch to Front Press, also known as standing shoulder presses.

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and press the barbell overhead to extension. Lower the bar back down to under the chin and repeat.

Dumbbell Curl To Press

Grab your dumbbells, hammer curl your dumbbells up to a pressing position, press overhead, and slowly return to the starting position. This is a great exercise to get a good pump in the biceps and shoulders at the end of a session.

30 Repetition Shoulder Series (aka Big 30)

Grab 5-10 pound dumbbells (You can go heavier if you are a more veteran lifter but remember the focus here is time under tension and quality movement still matters).

Perform 10 front raise, 10 side raise, and 10 rear delt raise. Do these exercises one after the next in sequence. Go slow and feel the burn.

As you advance here, you can add exercises to make 40, 50, and 60 rep series.

Landmine Single Arm Press

Use a landmine attachment (or build one using a tennis ball) and push one end of your barbell into the landmine. Load the other end with some weight.

I would recommend starting very light at first as you get used to this movement that is most likely new.  Standing in an athletic position, perform single-arm presses with the “landmine”.

More Info and Links

Looking for some more great supplemental work for your pressing day? Head over to our exercise library to find step-by-step exercises to help you reach your goals.


Christian Gangitano has 6 years of experience coaching collegiate sports performance. He coached field and court sport athletes at Longwood University, University of Richmond, and Elon University.

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