I decided to take on the famous Arnold press every day for a week to sculpt a pair of shoulders that even Arnie would be proud of. and feeding my curiosity – could it make a difference for my shoulders?
But curiosity killed the cat, and This The training almost killed me. The Arnold Press has become a household name over the years, created by bodybuilding legend Arnold Schwarzenegger himself. His twist on the overhead dumbbell press has been adopted by avid CrossFitters, bodybuilders, and casual athletes alike to try and build powerful shoulders like the man whose name is on the exercise label.
So why is it so popular? Unlike other shoulder exercises (this Full body workout with dumbbells is a killer), the Arnold Press trains all three deltoids (shoulder heads) – frontal, lateral and rear. The unusual yet simple movement pattern recruits more forehead muscles simply by rotating your palms and works your muscles longer, allowing you to build more for less.
Our fitness team tested a few arm workouts between us – like this blogilates weightless arm workout – but 50 Arnold presses a day? That is new. If you are looking for other ways to be fitness creative, The Rock’s arm and ab workout is punishment, or read on to see what happened when I did 50 Arnold presses a day for a week.
How to Make an Arnold Press
It’s worth noting that you should always consult a doctor if you have a shoulder injury. I recommend doing this exercise while seated — or kneeling — on a bench to relieve lower back pressure if your back is shaking. And if you suffer from shoulder impingement (when the supporting muscles of the rotator cuff rub against the humerus), unfortunately this exercise is a no-go.
As: Engage your core. Stand with your palms facing you and hold your weights close to your chest in a bicep curl position. From here, push the dumbbells overhead and rotate your palms so the top is facing out. Then just return the steps back to your starting position. Finished.
Arnold press vs. shoulder press
Unlike the shoulder press, the Arnold Press works all three parts of the deltoid, making it a champion all-rounder for the shoulders. The primary working muscles are:
- Anterior Deltoids
- Lateral Deltoids
- Posterior deltoids
A Overhead dumbbell press Works primarily on the fronts of your shoulders and chest, including:
- Anterior Deltoids
- Lateral Deltoids
- Pectoralis major (your pecs)
While the overhead press is better if you’re suffering from shoulder pain, it works less well with the side and rear shoulder heads. Regardless, both are killer compound shoulder exercises that work multiple muscle groups in one quick push. When you’re short on time, the Arnold Press is your new best friend.
I did 50 Arnold presses a day for a week – this happened to my shoulders
I decided to challenge my shoulder strength. Here’s what happened when I was doing 50 Arnold presses a day for a week.
1. 50 reps felt like a lot of reps
I did 5 sets of 10 reps with the same weight as the overhead press. Hypertrophy (building muscle) requires 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps, so while the reps were on the high side, it wasn’t an outrageous number.
Even so, I rarely bet so much Working on isolating my shoulders and I was definitely getting too heavy. Because your muscles work longer, the Arnold Press is tremendously effective even at a lighter weight. In the days that followed, not only were my DOMs fully effective, but removing my sports bra became a competitive sport.
2. My shoulders feel stronger but look the same
By the end of the week, I could feel my body becoming more comfortable with the movement pattern and weight of the Arnold Press, and I began to feel noticeably stronger—though physically I couldn’t tell a difference. Of course, building muscle mass and strength is a lot more complex than you might think.
Principles like progressive overload (gradual adjustment of variables like reps or weights), ample protein intake, managing your sleep hygiene and Training variety matters, but you can gradually build muscle and strength week after week.
However, sculpting the shoulders of a goddess involves, in part, losing body fat coupled with gaining muscle (Learn how to calculate your body fat percentage and why it matters), and this time I wasn’t on a fat loss mission. I won’t be entering a bodybuilding competition anytime soon, but my overhead press has already improved.
3. My training became meditative
Getting through the first few days was the hardest part. By the end of the week I was comfortable with the rep, set and weight counts and the routine became meditative. I wouldn’t normally recommend my clients to do a high rep exercise every day (unless they had a specific goal) as it can lead to boredom and plateaus or lead to overuse and injury.
However, it turns out Harvard (opens in new tab) has a name for it – muscle meditation. Moving your muscle groups in a repetitive and rhythmic manner can help relieve stress, and as you focus on your breathing, it can also help regulate the nervous system.
4. I may have overworked my muscles
research (opens in new tab)shows that your muscle “micro tears” during training, which is why you feel sore in your muscles the next day. Rest days and sleep are important times for muscle repair and growth, so they need to be allowed to recover.
Exercise variety and rest days are two ways to combat overtraining to avoid overexertion and more serious injuries. With that in mind, maybe it’s time to give the Arnold press a break. I wonder if Arnie was pumping 50 a day?
next up: These are the 3 best dumbbell workouts for triceps and how to military press for strong shoulders in military style.