Arnold Press Vs. Shoulder Press – Best in 2023 (Ranked & Reviewed)

Both Arnold presses and dumbbell shoulder presses have been used by bodybuilders for decades to build big, powerful deltoids. In this article, we compare these two classic mass builders and help you decide which is best for you.

by Alan Gregor
Arnold Press Vs. Shoulder Press

The Arnold Press vs. Shoulder Press debate is a popular one for those looking to maximize the effectiveness of their shoulder workout routine.

Learn about and compare these two exercises to determine which one best suits your goals and helps you achieve optimal muscle development in your shoulders.

With this knowledge, you can create an effective fitness program tailored to meet your needs and reach new heights of physical strength!

Arnold Press Exercise 101

The Arnold Press is an exercise named after the legendary bodybuilder, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

His impressive deltoids were a testament to his hard work and dedication in the gym, and it’s believed that the Arnold Press played a major role in helping him achieve his Mr. Olympia title seven times.

Not only does the Arnold Press add to the overall deltoid activation, but it is also unique in that it involves a specific arm action.

Most people who are bodybuilding use this exercise to help shape their shoulder muscles and achieve desired results.

Utilizing dumbbells for the Arnold Press increases its efficiency and allows individuals to gain maximum benefits from the exercise.

Arnold Press – Muscles Worked

The Arnold press is an effective and efficient exercise that works multiple muscles and joints simultaneously.

It primarily exercises the deltoids, which are the shoulder muscles comprised of three distinct heads: anterior (front), medial (middle), and posterior (rear).

All three are activated when performing the Arnold press, providing a comprehensive and balanced workout for the shoulders.

Additionally, the exercise also targets the triceps on the back of your upper arm and your rotator cuff muscles which stabilize the humerus and control fine shoulder movements.

Thus, it is an effective all-in-one exercise for building strength and mass in these important muscle groups.

Executing the Arnold Press

How To Perform Arnold Press Properly

1. Begin in a standing position with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing your torso.

2. Keeping your elbows close to your torso and your core engaged, lift the weights up to shoulder height while rotating your wrists so that the palms of your hands face away from you.

3. From this position, press the weights upwards, rotating your wrists so that the palms of your hands face forward by the time you reach full extension.

4. Slowly lower the weights back down to shoulder height while reversing the rotation of your wrists so that they face inward towards your torso again.

5. Repeat this movement for the desired number of repetitions, making sure to maintain proper form and keep your core engaged throughout.

6. Once the set is complete, lower the weights back down to starting position and repeat if desired.

7. Always remember to use a weight that you can control, do not sacrifice form for heavier weights.

8. Be sure to focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement to ensure full engagement.

9. When performing the Arnold Press, use a full range of motion while focusing on proper breathing techniques throughout the exercise.

10. To increase difficulty or add variation, you can also do alternating arms (one arm at a time) as opposed to both arms simultaneously.

This is great for isolating each side and challenging stability.

Man performing the Arnold Press

Benefits Of Arnold Press

1. Strengthens the shoulders: Doing an Arnold Press regularly can help to strengthen the muscles in your shoulders, including your deltoids, traps, and rotator cuff muscles. 

2. Improves posture: By strengthening your shoulder muscles, the Arnold Press also helps to improve posture, making it easier to stand up straight and look more confident.

3. Increases range of motion: Doing this exercise regularly can help to increase your range of motion, making it easier to reach behind your back and do activities like lifting objects off the floor. 

4. Increases upper-body strength: Doing this exercise regularly can also help to increase your overall upper-body strength, making it easier to perform tasks that require strength, such as carrying heavy objects or pushing open doors. 

5. Enhances core stability: As the Arnold Press requires you to resist the movement of the dumbbells, it also helps to increase your core stability and make you more balanced during everyday activities. 

Performing the Arnold Press

Cons Of Arnold Press

1. Risk of Injury: When performing the Arnold press, there is a high potential for straining muscles or ligaments if too much weight is used or incorrect form and technique are utilized.

2. Limited Range of Motion: The range of motion when performing an Arnold press is limited to the upper arms and shoulders, which can limit overall muscle growth and strength gains in other parts of the body.

3. Shoulder Strain: Arnold press can put excessive strain on the shoulder joint due to the overhead motion and rotation of the arm involved in the exercise, which can potentially lead to injury or pain if performed improperly or with too much weight.

4. Not Suitable For Beginners: It is a relatively advanced exercise that requires well-developed shoulder stability and strength, so it may not be suitable for those who are new to weight training.

5. It is a Single-Joint Exercise: This means it can only target one muscle group – the deltoids – rather than multiple muscle groups like some compound exercises can. This limits its effectiveness in terms of overall upper body strength and development.

Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Dumbbell Shoulder Press 101

The dumbbell shoulder press is an essential exercise for building strength and mass in the shoulders.

It’s one of the most widely performed overhead pressing exercises, and it can be done seated or standing.

This tried-and-true move has been used by weightlifters for generations, targeting both the deltoid muscles as well as secondary muscle groups in the shoulders.

Whether you are looking to increase your strength or build muscle, the dumbbell shoulder press is a proven way to do it.

Dumbbell Shoulder Press – Muscles Worked

Dumbbell shoulder presses are an effective compound exercise that works a variety of muscles simultaneously.

Specifically, the primary muscle group used during these presses are the deltoids or shoulder muscles.

All three heads of the deltoid muscle are engaged throughout this exercise, with the anterior deltoid taking on the role of agonist and responsible for the majority of the workload.

The medial and posterior deltoids provide additional stability during this exercise. Additionally, the triceps, located at the back of the upper arm, extend the elbows during this movement.

Finally, small muscles within the rotator cuff also engage in order to control finer movements around the shoulder joint and stabilize it throughout this exercise.

Dumbbell Shoulder Press

How To Perform Dumbbell Shoulder Press Properly

1. Begin by standing with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing forward and arms at your side. Make sure to keep your core engaged throughout the exercise.

2. Raise the dumbbells up to shoulder level with your elbows bent and palms facing backward. Your arms should be parallel to the ground with your upper arms at shoulder width.

3. Inhale and press the weights up to full extension above your head, exhaling as you do so. Make sure to keep the tension in your core and legs throughout the movement.

4. Hold the weight at full arm extension for a second or two, then slowly lower them back down to shoulder level.

5. Repeat the exercise for the desired number of repetitions and rest as needed before repeating the cycle.

6. Once finished, place the dumbbells back on the ground or rack them securely. Make sure to stretch your shoulder muscles after completing this exercise.

Performing the Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Benefits Of Dumbbell Shoulder Press

1. Improved shoulder strength and stability: The Dumbbell Shoulder Press helps to strengthen the muscles of your shoulders, including your anterior deltoids, posterior deltoids, rotator cuff muscles, and trapezius.

2. Increased upper body strength: The exercise is great for building overall upper body strength in addition to strengthening the shoulder muscles specifically.

3. Improved posture: Doing this exercise regularly can help improve posture by engaging core abdominal muscles and improving the balance between opposing muscle groups in the back and chest area.

4. Reduced risk of injury: Strengthening the shoulder muscles with Dumbbell Shoulder Presses can reduce the chance of injuries due to poor form or overuse when performing other exercises that involve pushing motions such as bench presses or push-ups.

5 Enhanced athletic performance: By increasing shoulder strength you will be able to perform better in sports activities involving throwing or pushing movements such as baseball, volleyball, basketball, etc., resulting in improved athletic performance overall.

Cons Of Dumbbell Shoulder Press

1. Poor form: Without proper form, the Dumbbell Shoulder Press can put stress on the joints and ligaments, leading to injury. Additionally, it is difficult to achieve a full range of motion when using poor form.

2. Risk of Overuse Injuries: The Dumbbell Shoulder Press is a repetitive exercise that can, if done too often or with too much weight, lead to overuse injuries such as rotator cuff strains and tendonitis.

3. Limited Weight: Unless you have access to adjustable dumbbells, the amount of weight that you can use for the Dumbbell Shoulder Press is limited. This can limit your ability to build strength, muscle, and size.

4. Difficulty Isolating Muscles: In comparison to exercises such as the barbell shoulder press, it is harder to isolate specific muscles with a dumbbell press. This can make it more difficult to develop certain muscle groups.

5. Limited Variation: The Dumbbell Shoulder Press can be difficult to modify and vary. This can limit the effectiveness of your workout and make it harder to achieve your fitness goals.

Executing the Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Arnold Press Vs. Shoulder Press

The Arnold press and dumbbell shoulder press are two popular exercises used to target the muscles in the shoulders.

The Arnold press, which was created by Arnold Schwarzenegger, focuses on the front deltoids while the dumbbell shoulder press emphasizes the lateral and rear deltoids.

To help you decide which exercise is right for you, let us compare these two exercises by a few different criteria:

Arnold Press Vs. Shoulder Press: Strength Comparison

When it comes to strength training, the dumbbell shoulder press is the better choice for building strength.

This is because the dumbbell shoulder press involves a smaller range of motion, a shorter time under tension, and an easier starting position than Arnold’s presses.

This means that you will be able to lift heavier weights with the shoulder press than you could with the Arnold press.

Therefore, if your goal is to build strength, choose the dumbbell shoulder press for the best results. The winner here is definitely the dumbbell shoulder press!

Arnold Press Vs. Shoulder Press: Hypertrophy

The Arnold press is the clear winner when it comes to targeting and maximizing deltoid hypertrophy.

Rather than the classic dumbbell shoulder press, the Arnold press is a bodybuilding-specific exercise that not only builds bigger muscles but also concentrates on hypertrophy specifically.

For this reason, it’s an ideal choice for those looking to get the most out of their deltoid muscles.

Arnold Press Vs. Shoulder Press: Safety

The Arnold press and the dumbbell overhead press are two upper-body exercises that can be performed safely, with no need for a spotter.

However, the Arnold press puts more strain on the rotator cuff muscles and could lead to shoulder injuries if not done correctly; this makes the dumbbell shoulder press a better choice in terms of long-term safety and reducing the risk of injury.

Ultimately, both exercises can be a great addition to any upper-body workout, so it is important to choose the exercise that best fits your needs.

Arnold Press Vs. Shoulder Press: Ease of learning

Dumbbell shoulder presses are a great exercise for anyone looking to develop their upper body strength. With this exercise, you simply hold a dumbbell in each hand, raise them to shoulder height, and press them overhead.

It’s an uncomplicated movement that almost anyone can learn quickly. Arnold presses involve more arm and shoulder coordination and a more extensive range of motion, making them slightly more challenging.

Ultimately, dumbbell shoulder presses are easier to master and probably the better choice for those just starting out.

Arnold Press Vs. Shoulder Press: Equipment

The Arnold Press and Shoulder Press exercises are both popular shoulder workouts that can be done with just a pair of dumbbells.

Both workouts can be done seated on a flat bench or an upright bench for added back support.

The equipment needed is minimal, meaning you don’t need to go to a crowded gym or invest in expensive equipment.

With just a pair of dumbbells, you can do either of these exercises in any home, commercial, or garage gym.

Arnold Press Vs. Shoulder Press: Long-term progression

The Dumbbell Shoulder Press is clearly the superior exercise when it comes to developing shoulder strength.

Unlike the Arnold Press, which requires a more intricate movement and has a weaker starting position, Dumbbell Shoulder Press allows for heavier weights to be used as you can perform the movement in a more straightforward manner.

This makes the Dumbbell Shoulder Press better suited for those looking to focus on strength development and progress with heavier weights, while the Arnold Press works well for those looking to focus on shoulder muscle development.

Arnold Press Vs. Shoulder Press: Variety

When it comes to avoiding training ruts, there are a number of different ways to keep your workouts fresh.

One of the most effective and versatile techniques is to switch up the width of your stance and the angle of your bench, or even vary the exercises themselves.

A great example would be to alternate between Arnold presses and dumbbell shoulder presses.

Both of these exercises can be done in a variety of different ways in order to keep your progress moving forward.

For instance, they can be done seated or standing, alternating between arms and using either dumbbells or kettlebells for extra activation of the anterior deltoid.

Resistance bands can also be used as a substitute for weights.

Overall, there are roughly the same number of variations for both dumbbell shoulder presses and Arnold presses, making it a draw when it comes to versatility.

There are no shortcuts—everything is reps, reps, reps.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Press Vs. Shoulder Press FAQs

1. Is Arnold Press Better Than Shoulder Press?

The Arnold press and shoulder press are two exercises that target the shoulders, but they each have their own unique advantages.

In terms of which exercise is better, it really comes down to individual preferences and goals.

The Arnold press places more emphasis on the anterior deltoids by starting in a palms-down position and finishing in a palms-up position.

This movement also engages the rotator cuff muscles, helping to protect the shoulder joint.

The downside of the Arnold press is that it requires a greater range of motion and can be difficult on the shoulder joint if proper form isn’t used.

The shoulder press, on the other hand, is great for developing strength in the front and side deltoids.

It also requires less range of motion and is slightly easier on the shoulder joint.

However, the shoulder press does not work the rotator cuff muscles as much as the Arnold press.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which exercise works best for your individual goals.

If you are looking to build strength, the shoulder press may be a better choice.

If you are looking to build muscle and protect your shoulders, the Arnold press is a great option.

2. Is Arnold Press Same As Shoulder Press?

No, an Arnold press is not the same as a shoulder press.

The Arnold press is a compound exercise that combines the motion of both a shoulder press and a bicep curl into one exercise.

It is named after Arnold Schwarzenegger, who popularized the move in the 1970s.

The exercise is done by starting with the palms facing you, pushing the barbell up to a full extension of the arms, then lowering and rotating the wrists to the outside at the bottom of the movement, and then finishing by pushing back up overhead.

This motion not only works the shoulder muscles but also gives the biceps a good workout as well.

The Shoulder press, on the other hand, is simpler and does not involve any rotation of the wrists or arms.

It is done by starting with the barbell at shoulder level, pressing it up to a full extension of the arms, and then lowering it back to the starting position.

Both exercises are great for building strength, but they involve different muscles and motions so they should not be confused with each other.

3. Is Arnold Press Enough For Shoulders?

The Arnold press, named for seven-time Mr. Olympia Arnold Schwarzenegger, is an excellent exercise for building shoulder strength and size.

It consists of a standing overhead press with a twist – instead of pressing the weight straight up, you rotate your arms to perform an outward curl as you lift the weight.

This twist recruits more of the muscles around the shoulder and helps create a greater range of motion to work with, leading to stronger and bigger shoulders.

4. Is Arnold Press Harder Than Normal Shoulder Press?

The Arnold press is a more advanced version of the shoulder press and requires greater coordination.

It works the same muscles as a regular shoulder press, but it engages additional muscles like the rotator cuff and core due to its complex motion.

This extra effort makes it harder than a regular shoulder press and can give greater gains in strength, power, and muscle development.

Additionally, because of its more complicated nature, it is important to use proper form when performing an Arnold Press for best results.

All these factors make this exercise much harder than its simpler counterpart.

All I know is that the first step is to create a vision, because when you see the vision – the beautiful vision – that creates the want power.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Closing Remarks

The Arnold press and shoulder press are two of the most popular exercises for targeting the shoulder muscles.

Both exercises involve pressing a barbell or dumbbells overhead and require a strong shoulder muscle contraction to perform safely.

The Arnold Press, created by former bodybuilder and Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a variation on the regular shoulder press.

It begins with the elbows lower than the shoulders and requires lifters to rotate their hands outward as they press the weight up and to rotate them inward as they lower the weight down.

This type of exercise helps to strengthen the shoulders, arms, and even the core.

The regular shoulder press involves pressing movements of weight directly up and down in an overhead position.

It is a simple exercise that requires less coordination than the Arnold press and is often used to build strength in the shoulder muscles.

It does not involve any rotation of the hands, so it is less effective at engaging the core muscles.

When choosing between the Arnold press and shoulder press, it is important to consider your goals.

If you are looking to increase upper body strength and build muscle, then either exercise is suitable.

However, if you want to engage your core muscles and build functional strength, then the Arnold press hits is likely to be a better option.

Furthermore, if you are dealing with any shoulder or elbow injuries, then the regular shoulder exercise bench press may be a safer option to use.

Ultimately, both the Arnold press and regular shoulder presses are excellent exercises for targeting the shoulder muscles and can be included in an effective workout regimen.

It is important to consider your goals and any potential injuries when deciding which exercise is best for you.

If you are interested, you can check out our step-by-step guide on how to perform the Bulgarian Split SquatHack Squat, or just our 12 Best Push-Up Variations for a Bigger Chest, Mastering the Seated Arnold Press, Long Head Bicep Exercises, and Short Head Biceps Exercises!


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