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Arnold Press Vs Shoulder Press: Choosing The Best Exercise For Shoulder

Like other shoulder presses, the Arnold press is an excellent exercise for the shoulders and should be a mainstay of any well-designed training regimen. The ...

by Jessica Bennet

This article was created after thorough research and has been improved with the assistance of AI technology. Furthermore, our dedicated editorial team has meticulously fact-checked and polished its content for accuracy and clarity.

Like other shoulder presses, the Arnold press is an excellent exercise for the shoulders and should be a mainstay of any well-designed training regimen. The majority of exercises have numerous versions. The Arnold press and normal shoulder press are two of the classic exercises. There are many similarities between these two workouts. However, when dug deeper, both of them have differences and unique benefits.  

Arnold Press

The shoulder press variation named after the famous bodybuilder, actor, and governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is called the Arnold Press. Arnold popularized this exercise during his body-building career.

Arnold Press

While performing this shoulder variant exercise, the dumbbells will be rotated with the palms facing the person at the bottom of the movement before facing away from the top. The feel of the exercise is subtly but significantly altered by rotating the dumbbells. It can be performed while seated or standing.  

Shoulder Press

A traditional upper-body strength exercise that can be done with dumbbells or a barbell is called the shoulder press. As with the push, military, and overhead presses, it entails raising the weight directly above the head. Numerous benefits come with this workout, including enhanced strength, optimal body composition, and improve functional movements. 

Differences between the Arnold Press and the Shoulder Press

Even though the Arnold press and the shoulder press have many similarities, both exercises have some differences and unique benefits. 

Muscles Worked

The primary target of Arnold and the standard shoulder press is the deltoid muscles, working the anterior, lateral, and posterior heads of the shoulder muscles. The triceps and upper chest are also engaged to some extent while performing both exercises.

The major difference between the two exercises is the degree of activation. A 2020 study found that Arnold presses were superior to overhead dumbbell presses in their ability to activate the anterior and medial deltoid muscles.

Range of Motion

Due to the rotational motion of the wrists during the exercise, the Arnold press includes a more extensive range of motion. The rotation of the wrists enables the dumbbells to be lowered below the shoulders. With the use of varied angles and planes of motion, the extended range at the bottom of the rep helps activate the rotator cuff and shoulder muscles.  


The rotating element and increased stability required for larger weights make the Arnold Press a little more difficult. The dumbbells or kettlebells can be used for the Arnold press exercise. Nonetheless, dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, landmines, or machines can all be used for a standard shoulder press exercise. 

Training Goals

People who want to combine shoulder strength, muscle mass, and mobility will benefit from the Arnold Press. It is a great exercise for those who want to mix up their shoulder exercises and are bodybuilders. Standing with Arnold press increases muscular activation.

Studies reveal that pressing dumbbells when standing causes greater activation of muscles than when seated. The theory is that standing creates additional instability, which increases the deltoids‘ activation and promotes better muscle growth.

Pros and Cons of Arnold Press

  • The Arnold Press efficiently works the shoulder muscles more than any other dumbbell shoulder press.
  • It offers a greater range of motion and engages the shoulders from several angles.
  • This exercise is a special variation that can provide a welcome change of pace from standard shoulder press exercises. 
  • Lifting larger weights can be difficult due to the rotating element.
  • Those with restricted mobility or shoulder problems may feel pain in their shoulder joint when performing certain movements.  

Pros And Cons Of Shoulder Press

  • The front and middle deltoid muscles are the main targets of the shoulder press, which increases shoulder size and strength.
  • For stability, it works the upper chest, triceps, and core.
  • More weight can be handled with the shoulder press than with any other conventional shoulder workout. Therefore, it is good for building shoulder strength. 
  • The primary drawback of the shoulder press is its potential to cause considerable strain on the shoulder joint, making it unsuitable for people with shoulder problems. 

Common Mistakes While Performing The Exercises

Arnold Press

The common mistake while performing any exercise is the weight. An appropriate weight should be chosen while performing the Arnold press.  

Turning the Arnold press into a normal shoulder press is another common mistake that happens among bodybuilders. It is mainly because of the inappropriate weight chosen for the exercise. It is important to make sure to not drop the elbows too far while performing the Arnold press. 

Shoulder Press

Excessive back leaning during the standing shoulder press is a typical mistake that can cause back pain. Usually, this results from lifting excessive weight. Nonetheless, a slight slant is not harmful. 

Not shifting the head out of the way when applying pressure to the weight is another common error made in the barbell variant. The person must slightly turn their head back when pressing the bar since the bar path matters. 

Keeping the elbows too far out during the press is another typical error. With dumbbells, this is more typical because there is greater freedom to manipulate the weight. 

Also Read: What Is The Arnold Split? Ultimate Guide For Bodybuilders!


The Arnold press and shoulder press are two distinctive exercises with similarities and differences. Both variants are effective for maintaining a healthy body.  

There is no intrinsic superiority between the shoulder press and the Arnold press. Training goals and preferences should be considered while selecting an exercise.

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