In weightlifting, there are commonly alternative exercises that target the same muscles but have different features. Because of this plurality of exercises, lifters always wonder which alternative better targets a set of muscles. Barbell squat or hack squat? the bench press or dumbbell press? and barbell deadlift or trap bar deadlift? This article will look at the Arnold press vs. shoulder press to determine which helps you sculpt the ultimate shoulders.
To evaluate the Arnold Press vs. shoulder press debate, it makes a lot of sense to understand both presses for what they are.
The Arnold Press
The Arnold press is a shoulder workout that is credited to Arnold Schwarzenegger. It is a slight variation of the dumbbell overhead press that involves the entire sections of your deltoids. The exercise promises wider, fuller, and more defined shoulders. A benefit of the Arnold press is that you do not need to carry as heavy dumbbells as you would for shoulder presses because it puts more strain on your arms with less weight.
The Arnold press also targets otherwise neglected muscles, improving your general weightlifting ability with other workouts. For example, exercises like the bench press and press-ups routinely work your anterior deltoids. However, the exercises do not equally hit the lateral and posterior deltoids. The Arnold press hits all three regions of the deltoids and your stabilizer muscles. This pulls back your shoulders for an erect posture and improves your ability with big pulling moves like deadlifts, pull-ups, and rows.
How to perform the Arnold press
The starting position of the Arnold press has you carry a pair of dumbbells in each hand, then drop your elbow while your palms (with the dumbbells) remain pointed at the roof. Your elbows should drop low enough that your palms (and the dumbbells) are at shoulder level. While pointing to the roof, your palms should face you rather than be away from you.
Begin the rep by raising your arms upright till they are fully extended. However, as your arms climb, twist your wrists so that your palms face away from you as your arms straighten up. As such, your palms are facing away from you when you get halfway through your rep, with your arms fully straightened and the dumbbells above your head.
To finish the rep, bring down your arms as if to return to the starting position. Remember to twist your away-facing palms back to you as you bring down your arms and return to the starting position. That completes a rep, and you can repeat it multiple times in your general upper body program.
You can perform the Arnold press standing, seated on a flat bench, or with a bench with a 60 or 90-degree incline. If your home gym does not have a bench with this feature, I recommend the Rogue AB-3 Adjustable Bench.
💡 Quick Tip: If your favorite movie is Terminator and you prefer machines, you can also perform the overhead press with the Plate Loaded Deltoid And Shoulder Press Machine.
Plate Loaded Deltoid And Shoulder Press Machine
The Shoulder Press
Like the Arnold and barbell press, the shoulder press is a great shoulder, back, and general upper body builder. The exercise primarily works your anterior deltoid muscles but also hits your triceps, trapezius, pecs, and the remaining parts of your deltoids. An interesting benefit of the shoulder press is that you are not limited to the free weight variation, as you can perform it with a shoulder press machine. This opens up more options for you and makes it easier to learn if your form is poor or you are just starting.
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How to perform the shoulder press
Performing the shoulder press is very similar to performing the Arnold press. You also carry a pair of dumbbells in each hand, then drop your elbow while your palms (with the dumbbells) remain pointed at the roof. Your elbows should drop low enough that your palms (and the dumbbells) are at shoulder level.
However, the primary difference is that your palms should be and will remain faced away from you through the rep. This means that while your arms straighten up, your palms do not need to rotate; you simply need to raise the dumbbells up and down with your palms facing away from you.
Because it does not put as much strain on your shoulders and arms, you can lift heavier dumbbells on the exercise for optimal gains.
The Arnold Press vs. Shoulder Press
As you must have noticed, there is not much difference between the exercises, as the primary difference is that you rotate your wrists while performing the Arnold press, while you do not with the shoulder press.
However, this slight difference means that the Arnold press works all three parts of your deltoid muscles, helping you shape a more fully-formed shoulder. Nevertheless, the shoulder press also has a muscle development benefit. Because it puts less strain on your arms and shoulders, you can carry more weight per rep with the shoulder press, helping you sculpt an excellent anterior deltoid muscle. The shoulder press may be more suitable for beginners and recuperating weightlifters because it has the machine option.
💡 Quick Tip: If you prefer the Arnold press, you should know that you may not be able to perform it with a shoulder press machine because most of them do not allow you to rotate your palms. As a result, I recommend the Hex Dumbbells to help you build those ultimate shoulders
The barbell press
The barbell shoulder press may be the third wheel in this article, but it is also an excellent shoulder developer. It is s a compound exercise that hits your deltoids, triceps, and trapezius muscles. The barbell shoulder press also works your neck, rotator cuff, and cores, helping you improve your general stability as it builds muscles. A benefit is that you can use a regular barbell, like the Ohio Bar – Cerakote, or the EZ curl bar, like the Rogue Curl Bar.
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