If you’re looking to increase your upper body strength, look no further than the Arnold press. And before you ask, yes, the exercise gets its name from Arnold Schwarzenegger (a.k.a. The Terminator). No, it will not pump you up like the former bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-governor or California.
One thing it will do? Push your upper body to its fullest potential targeting your deltoids, back, shoulders, and core. As you can probably imagine, given all of the above, this is a compound movement that’s complex and, therefore, when done incorrectly, can also cause serious injuries. That’s why as a certified personal trainer and VP of talent at Flywheel Sports, I’m going to teach you everything you need to know about the Arnold press, including technique, modifications, and more.
How To Do The Arnold Press
Form tips: Keep abs engaged by drawing navel toward spine as you lift weights overhead to avoid overarching low back. If you can’t do this, your dumbbells are a little too heavy, so reduce the load. Think of vertical stacking (head over ribs, over hips, over knees, over ankles!). Also be sure to breathe. Exhale on the overhead press part of the move.
Reps/sets for best results: Three sets of 10–15 reps with a weight that feels challenging by the last two to three reps. Rest for a minute in between sets.
Benefits of The Arnold Press
The Arnold press is a killer upper body move. It will tone and strengthen your deltoids (the triangular muscles on top of your shoulders). And because the Arnold press involves moving in multiple planes of motion, you’ll get the benefit of targeting several areas of the muscles involved instead of just one. You’ll also be forced to develop your back and core stability as you lift the weight up and down.
Modification Of The Arnold Press
- Lighten the load: Typically I use 12 pound weights. But if you need to drop down in weight to ensure you’re not leaning backwards during the move, I’d switch to 10 pound weights. And I’d recommend 10–12 reps for three sets, with a 30 second break in between sets.
- Alternate arms: Instead lifting both arms up at once for the 10–15 reps, lift one arm up at a time. This way you’re completing less reps total, but you should still make sure to maintain form.
How To Add The Arnold Press To Your Workout
- Put it in a shoulder-focused circuit: I’ll usually do plank shoulder taps, followed by shoulder raises and then the Arnold press, doing each move for a minute. This creates a circuit that hits all of the key upper body muscles (think: shoulders, back, abs, chest, arms).
- Combine it with a lower body move: My favorite is a lateral lunge. Because this move uses so many joints, it’s a very efficient compound movement that targets your glutes, core, and shoulders. A day at the gym that includes both the Arnold press and lateral lunges equals a total-body workout.
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