Q: What is the Arnold press and why should I use it to build my shoulders?
A: This is an adaptation of the standard military press with dumbbells, devised by you know who, to hit the medial and anterior delts, with secondary emphasis on the traps. To perform this movement, get in position on a bench with a back support as if you were about to perform a standard set of dumbbell presses. Your elbows should be slightly in front of your body at neck height. Now turn your palms to face your body. This is the start position. Inhale as you push the dumbbells upward. When your arms reach the point of mid extension (about head level) rotate your arms inward to change the position of the dumbbells to a pronated grip, that is one in which the palms are facing away from you. Exhale as you reach a position of near lock out in the top position. Don’t completely lock out or you will momentarily take the stress away from the working muscles. Now, reverse the movement on the way down, so that at the end of the repetition the palms are once again facing towards your body.
It pays to practice this movement with light weights in order to get into the groove of the exercise before going heavy. It is crucial, too, that the hardest part of the movement – the initial push to head height – is completed before the twisting of the palms occurs. To keep the focus on the deltoids, avoid leaning back into the back support during the upward thrust. Your torso should be erect at all times. Most importantly on this exercise, you must avoid any jerkiness in the wrist rotation. Keep the motion as smooth as possible to prevent wrist or spinal injury.
This is a terrific exercise to isolate the anterior deltoids, with a secondary emphasis on the medial delts. As such, it will help to provide that boulder shoulder look from the rear that is missing in many physiques. The added emphasis on the middle traps will further enhance this look. The Arnold Press, however, is a harder exercise to perform than the standard seated dumbbell press and you won’t be able to use as much weight on it. To add completeness to your shoulders, our recommendation would be to switch between Arnold and conventional presses week to week.