Arnold press is one of the popular exercises that many people in the gym do to build their shoulders. As the name suggests, it is an old-school exercise that famous bodybuilders used to do. When you look at its movement pattern, there is fewer difference between the dumbbell press and the arnold press. And that is the rotational movement at the bottom, which puts extra tension on the front delts and upper chest.
However, is that the best shoulder exercise? Aren’t there any better alternatives to arnold press? Yes, there is!
In this article, I will share some of the best alternatives to the arnold press that are more effective and better. You could go heavier on these exercises unless arnold press where it becomes difficult to overload. But before going through the exercises , let’s first see the muscles involved during the arnold press.
Muscles Worked During Arnold Press
During an Arnold press, You first rotate your arms while moving the dumbbells up. At this time, your front delts and upper chest is activated the most. After that, as you lift the dumbbells while pushing with your arms, all the heads of the shoulder are actively engaged. During a lockout, your triceps and traps are activated the most.
So overall, shoulders are the prime movers and triceps, traps and chest are the secondary muscles that are engaged during ana arnold press.
So now let’s talk about the alternatives here.
Arnold Press Alternatives
1. Dumbbell Shoulder Press
The study conducted by ACE showed that the dumbbell shoulder press was one of the best exercises to target the anterior/ front part of the deltoid.
Also, there are fewer chances of injury because you can move your arms freely by keeping them to the side or bringing the weights to the front and then pressing it up. Overall, it is the best alternative to arnold press.
How to do
1. Pick two dumbbells and sit on a bench with your head and back supported on a bench. Your dumbbells should be on your thighs.
2. Lift each dumbbells up with the help of your thighs to bounce it up over your shoulders.
3. Hold the dumbbells at shoulder height. Your palm should face forward. This will be your starting position.
4. From this position, lift both the dumbbells up and focus on squeezing your delts at the top.
5. Return to the starting position and then repeat the movement.
Before lifting, make sure that your wrist is in line with the elbow. Always keep the dumbbells on the lap after completing your set to avoid injuries. Don’t just throw the weights away!
You can also do this exercise while standing with both feet at about shoulder-width apart. This is more athletic and is generally preferred.
2. Standing Military Press
This is one of the best compound exercises for your shoulders. It will give you that big and broad shoulders. It is another excellent alternative to the arnold press.
The military press will engage your core more and will be a great exercise, to begin with. Do this as a compound exercise for your delts and then isolate with the other exercises like front and lateral raises for maximizing growth.
How to do
1. Grab the bar and bring it up towards your shoulders. Your hands should be slightly wider than the shoulders. Your elbow should be under the wrist and this will be your starting position.
2. Start pushing the bar up while contracting your shoulders and fully extend your elbows at the top.
3. The bar should be in line with your ears when you reach the top. Don’t stop when the bar is in front of the head.
4. Return back to the starting position and the repeat the movement.
Your core should be engaged throughout the exercise to keep the lower back stable. If you have any shoulder injury or impingement, consult the physical therapist before doing any overhead exercise.
3. One-Arm Overhead Press
This is probably one of the best exercises with a dumbbell. The single-arm overhead press will not only hit your shoulders but will also engage your abs and other core muscles to stabilise your body during the movement. So here, you are training using so many muscles in a single exercise which is a plus! So try this in place of arnold press.
How to do
1. Grab a dumbbell with one hand and take it up, just above the Shoulders. Keep your neck and back straight. This will be your starting position.
2. Lift the dumbbell with the help of your shoulders without bending your back. Make sure to engage your core throughout the movement.
3. Stop until the dumbbell is at the top and come back slowly down to the starting position.
4. Do the same with the other hand and that will be your complete set.
You can also do the dumbbell push press which is similar to this. The only difference is that you will use your legs at the beginning to push the ground to generate force and power. Watch this video and you will understand better.
You can do this exercise very easily at home. Having dumbbells at home is always beneficial as you can perform various exercises at home without traveling to the gym.
You can use heavyweights but make sure that you don’t bend your lower back too much and always engage your core during the movement.
4. Dumbbell Push Press
The dumbbell push press is a great power exercise that helps you generate more force and explosion during any pushing movement. This exercise is usually done by athletes who want to increase their power and strength. If you do clean and jerk, this will translate the strength and movement pattern to improve power generation during clean and jerk.
How to do
1. Hold a barbell with your hands and keep it on your shoulder. Your hands should form an angle of V. So hold it little wider than the shoulder.
2. Start the exercise by driving your hips back and bending your knees to initiate the power from the ground. You don’t have to go way too down like a squat.
3. Generate the power from the floor and push the barbell up and extend the elbows at the top.
4. Bring the bar to the starting position and repeat the same movement.
You can go heavy in this, but if you are doing this for the first time, make sure you don’t go too heavy. First, learn the form and technique of generating force from the floor. Then slowly, you can try to go heavier.
5. Landmine Shoulder Press
Another great pressing movement for your front delts. It’s a functional movement that engages your core more in action. It also requires balance, stability, and coordination. So if you don’t want to do arnold press, think about this option.
How to do
1. Place one end of the bar at the corner of the wall and sit down at the half-kneeling position.
2. Hold the bar and pull it up towards the shoulder height and this will be your strtinv position.
3. With your back straight and abs tight, start pushing the bar up and extend your elbows at the top. Your hips should be engaged during the movement.
4. Bring the bar down towards the starting position and repeat the movement.
This exercise requires a landmine base which you can get easily at a cheaper price. You can do many landmine exercises with the setup at home. So investing a small amount will be an advantage for you.
6. Kettlebell Clean And Press
Clean and presses are great unilateral exercises to improve your strength and power. You can do this with either a kettlebell or a dumbbell. This is an athletic move that engages your core, quads, and arms, making it an amazing compound movement.
This exercise is safe for your joints and elbow if you do it with proper form and technique.
How to do
1. Hold a kettlebell from one side and stand at about shoulder-width stance. Bend down while keeping your back straight and chest up. Keep the other hand behind the body.
2. Bring the kettlebell down and then press with your legs to generate force and then bring the kettlebell to the side while rotating the kettlebell.
3. Rest the kettlebell on your shoulder. Now lift the kettlebell and extend your elbows at the top.
4. Now bring the kettlebell down again to the starting position and then repeat the movement. Do the same from the other side.
You can also use a dumbbell to do this exercise instead of a kettlebell. It can be quickly done at home if you have a dumbbell or a kettlebell. Make sure that your form is correct. Stop the exercise if you feel pain or discomfort.
7. Pike Push-Ups
This is a great bodyweight exercise to strengthen the shoulder muscle. The movement pattern is similar to that of an arnold press. It is much safer and a powerful exercise to strengthen your shoulder.
How to do
1. Place your hands on the floor with both hands slightly wider than the shoulder. Place your legs at the back and move your hips up.
2. Your hands should be in line with your head and your hips should be raised such that your body looks like an inverted V from the sides.
3. Now start bringing your head down without moving your hips and pause when it’s almost touching the floor or mat. Your elbow should be at about a 60° angle.
4. Push on the ground and bring your head back to the starting position. Always look at your feet during the movement.
You can do this exercise at the beginning of your workout. It can be replaced with an arnold press, especially when you are at home without dumbbells.
So these were some of the best arnold press alternatives that we discussed above. I know many of them are the ones you might be familiar with as they are popular. Some exercises might be new to you. Even if these exercises are basic ones, like military press, these are the godfathers of the shoulder exercises. So I can’t skip these exercises from the list.
You also have pike pushup as an alternative to the arnold press, a bodyweight exercise that can be done at home or anywhere. So there are no excuses for not doing a workout just because you are stuck at home for whatever reason.
There might be many other alternative exercises apart from those I mentioned above. If you know of any other exercises, please mention that in the comment section below.
If you found this blog helpful, then do share it with your friends or share it on social media so that more people can read it. Also, if you have any suggestions for me please let me know in the comment sections below.
Roshan Pillai is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer with more than 6 years of experience in lifting weights and guiding people to get fit. He has worked as a personal trainer in gyms and is the owner and editor of fitnessproworkout.com. He is passionate about fitness and helping people to get in shape.