Arnold Press (How To, Muscles Worked, Benefits)

The Arnold Press is an upper-body pressing movement focused on training for hypertrophy of the shoulders. It’s 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

*Can also be done seated as in the video above.

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.

How Many Reps?

I generally use Arnold Press as a supplemental strength exercise. They’re programmed after the big compound movements of the day and are intended to build strength, but also hypertrophy.

Common sets and reps are 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps per set.

Arnold Press Benefits

This exercise is primarily used to strengthen the muscles in the shoulders, arms, and upper back.

Some of the potential benefits of the Arnold Press include increased upper body strength, improved posture, and increased muscular hypertrophy.

Additionally, because the Arnold Press is a compound exercise that involves multiple joints and muscle groups, it can also help to improve overall coordination and balance.

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.

Want more options? Here are 13 of the best alternatives for Arnold Press.

Front Press

Female Athlete Doing a Push Press

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

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.

Dumbbell Curl to Press 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”.

Exercise to Superset with Arnold Press

Want to turn your Arnold Press sets into a superset?

Here are a couple of great exercises to pair them up with:


Bottom Position of Pull-Up

Why: Pull-ups work the back muscles, providing a great counterbalance to the Arnold Press which primarily targets the shoulders and chest, promoting balanced upper body development.

Bent-Over Rows

Bent Over Barbell Row Side View

Why: Bent Over Rows target the muscles of the back, helping to create a balanced upper body workout that engages opposing muscle groups, fostering stability and strength.

Want more ideas? Here are 10 of my favorite movements to combo with Arnold Presses.

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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.

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