Arnold Press

arnold press

This lesser known shoulder pressing exercise may be a welcome change to an athlete’s routine, providing a slightly different stimulus due to the internal rotation of the shoulder during the first part of the lift.

The front (anterior) and side (lateral) heads of the shoulder are worked by the Arnold press, as are the triceps and the trapezius muscles, although to a lesser degree. The use of dumbbells during overhead pressing exercises may help those who appear to have strength imbalances, as the dumbbells force the athlete to work unilaterally, or in other words, each side of the body has to press equal loads. Dumbbells also often require a greater recruitment of assisting muscle groups to aid stabilisation.

We recommend you familiarise yourself with the proper execution of the Arnold press prior to trying it yourself. It is fairly common to see it performed wrongly, with the athlete not simultaneously rotating the arms as they press the dumbbells upwards, and instead performing the rotation as a separate movement prior to the press.

Sport uses

A strong and healthy shoulder joint is important to many sports which require arm actions. The Arnold press could help with greater shoulder strength and force production for those in such sports.

Appreciation must also be given to the often neglected rotator muscles which are vital to shoulder stability and health.

Similar exercises



  1. Find a pair of dumbbells which are of suitable load
  2. The exercise can be performed seated or standing. Bring the dumbbells so that they are at collar bone height, with your palms facing towards your body


  1. Press the dumbbells above your head, whilst simultaneously rotating the arms so at the top of the movement your palms are facing away from your body
  2. Slowly reverse the same movement to return back to the starting position, with the dumbbells at collar bone height and palms facing towards your body
  3. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions

Useful links – Arnold press exercise profile on, includes a video – Instructional video on YouTube to help you familiarise yourself with the execution


Stablisers and secondary targets

Further Reading:

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