Are you trying to find the difference between Arnold press vs shoulder press? It's essential to know the difference to determine which exercise is more beneficial for shoulder strength and growth.

This article will give you the information you need to help you understand the difference between shoulder press and Arnold press.  

1. Strength 

Let's look at the Arnold press vs shoulder press in terms of strength. The Arnold press offers a greater range of motion and extra mobility. It also creates more time under tension. The starting position for the Arnold press is also slightly more awkward and more challenging to increase the weight you're lifting.

Meanwhile, the shoulder press is easier to increase weight, so if you're looking to build strength, then the shoulder press is for you.  

Winner: Shoulder Press

2. Muscles Worked 

Now, let's discuss the muscles worked when doing a shoulder press vs Arnold press. The Arnold press is one of the best exercises for your shoulders because it works the three main shoulder muscles. These are the anterior deltoid, medial deltoid, and posterior deltoid. It also works the triceps and rotator cuff.  

The shoulder press also works the three deltoids, but the anterior deltoids do most of the work while the medial deltoid and posterior deltoid work as stabilizers [1].

The shoulder press also targets your triceps and rotator cuff. If you’re looking to target all of your shoulder muscles, then the Arnold press is the best shoulder exercise.

Man Working Out With Dumbbells In The Gym

3. Hypertrophy 

Hypertrophy training refers to increasing the size of muscles. This is done by increasing the overall sets and reps of your workout.

This is opposed to strength training which increases the amount of weight you're lifting. The Arnold press was specifically invented to focus on deltoid hypertrophy.

It’s a favorite amongst bodybuilders because they favor exercises that lead more easily toward hypertrophy. While you can add more weight with the shoulder presses, the Arnold press is better if you’re looking for more hypertrophy in your exercises.

Winner: Arnold Press

4. Safety 

The Arnold press vs dumbbell shoulder press, which is safer? The simple answer is that both can be performed safely. However, if you cannot complete a single rep, you will need to lower the weight you’re lifting.

The Arnold press requires more mobility in your shoulders, wrists, and rotator cuff muscles. These are put under more stress during the Arnold press, which can lead to shoulder injuries. If you’re looking for a safer option, then the dumbbell shoulder press is the safer of the two.  

Winner: Shoulder Press

5. Ease Of Learning 

Another key difference between the shoulder press and Arnold press is the ease of learning. The shoulder press is pretty straightforward. Simply raise the weights to shoulder height, press them above your head and return to the start position.

On the other hand, the Arnold press requires more controlled coordination, wrist movement, and shoulder mobility. This makes it slightly more challenging. For this reason, if you're a beginner, the shoulder press is the best option for you.  

Winner: Shoulder Press

6. Equipment Required 

You will need at least a pair of dumbbells to do these exercises. You can do these exercises standing up or seated on a flat bench or an upright bench. You can also use resistance bands, kettlebells or a barbell for the shoulder press.

Both of these exercises are perfect even if you only have access to a commercial gym or a home gym. The reason is that you don’t need complex equipment or heavy weights to complete them.  

woman doing a dumbbell arnold press

7. Long-Term Progression 

The long-term progression difference between the shoulder press and Arnold press is quite pronounced.

Because the shoulder press is much more straightforward, it is easy to keep increasing the weight that you’re lifting and keep progressing. You can also use different equipment to help you overcome your training plateaus.  

The Arnold press is more complex, and the starting position is not very stable. This will result in slower progression with the Arnold press compared to the shoulder press.

Winner: Shoulder Press

8. Variety 

Variety is the key to keeping workouts fun and helps you to avoid plateaus or getting into a rut. In many cases, changing small things during your exercises, such as your stance and the angle of your bench, can help.

The Arnold press and shoulder press can often be substituted for each other to add some variation. Both exercises can also be done in different ways to add some variety to your workout.  

You can do these exercises seated or standing, alternating or using different equipment like kettlebells or resistance bands to add some variety. Both exercises are very versatile and have a lot of variations.  

Winner: Both

Arnold Press Overview

The Arnold press exercise is an exercise you can do using dumbbells and a bench, and you can use it to focus on your shoulders.

It’s called the ‘Arnold’ press as it’s named after one of the most famous bodybuilders in the world, Arnold Schwarzenegger. He invented the Arnold press to target the three main muscles in your shoulders simultaneously.   

If it's good enough for Arnold, it's good enough for us all, right?

arnold schwarzenegger performing arnold press

How To Perform The Arnold Press

You will need a dumbbell in each hand to do an Arnold press. Sit down or stand up straight. Begin with your palms facing your shoulders, with your elbows in front of you.

Push the weights straight up. When they reach eye level, rotate your wrists, face your palms forward and extend the weights above your head. Then control the dumbbells as you reverse the action back to the start position.  

You can start doing Arnold presses with a pair of dumbbells, resistance bands, or kettlebells. You can also perform the exercise standing up or sitting on a stool or bench.  


Develops Shoulder Strength & Stability

During the Arnold press, both of your arms have to work independently which helps you develop not only strength, but shoulder stability too. 

Builds Muscle Mass

The Arnold press targets all three heads of your shoulder muscles. These are the anterior deltoid, medial deltoid, and posterior deltoid. It also helps to target the triceps and the shoulder rotator cuff. 

As it targets all three heads, it allows you to develop well rounded shoulder muscles. You'll be filling out your T shirts in no time.

Increased Range Of Motion

When you perform the Arnold press, your shoulders need to work through a wide range of motion (ROM). This increased ROM gives your muscles the stimulus they need to grow. 

Improves Posture

As the Arnold press works your rear deltoids, it helps improve your posture by drawing your shoulder back. This improvement will prevent you from having a rounded upper back (which isn't a good look). 

Overall Shoulder Health

Working your shoulders (especially your rear delts) helps your promote better shoulder health. A strong body is a healthy body, and you don't want to neglect your shoulders.

Who Should Do The Arnold Press?

The Arnold press is for anyone looking to build their shoulder muscles.

It is especially popular amongst competitive bodybuilders because it helps sculpt shoulders that can help win bodybuilding competitions.

Strong shoulders are also crucial for anyone working physical jobs that require lifting and moving heavy objects.  

Who Shouldn't Do Arnold Press?

While the Arnold press is one of my favorite shoulder exercises for muscle growth, it's NOT for everyone. 

If you've suffered from shoulder, wrist, or elbow joint pain, then you might want to give the Arnold press a miss. The exercise uses a lot of rotation of your joints which can aggravate them, causing pre-existing conditions to flare up.

Beginners may also find the Arnold press difficult initially, largely because of the coordination required, but also because it's difficult to add weight to this movement.

I've been training for 20+ years now and I'm still only lifting 45lb dumbbells (you really don't need a lot of weight on this movement). 


  • More time under tension 
  • Targets the three main shoulder muscles 
  • Greater range of motion to perform 
  • Excellent exercise for shoulder growth 


  • Shoulder rotation can lead to injury 
  • Rotation of the wrists can lead to pain 
  • Difficult to add weight 
  • Requires more shoulder mobility than other exercises 

Shoulder Press Overview

The shoulder press is one of the most popular shoulder movements you'll see gym goers and bodybuilders performing in the gym. 

It's relatively simple, yet it packs one hell of a punch, allowing you to overload your deltoids with large amounts of weight. 

Best of all, you don't need much gym equipment. All you need is a set of dumbbells and maybe a bench (as you can perform this movement in the seated or standing position). 

If you want boulder shoulders, then you NEED to add this movement into your workout routine. 

jim stoppani performing shoulder press

How To Perform The Shoulder Press

The shoulder press is another exercise for your shoulders. To do a shoulder press, you will need two dumbbells. You can do the shoulder press sitting down or standing up. Lift your dumbbells above your shoulders, with your palms facing forward.

Your arms should be parallel to the floor. When they’re in this position, you will then press the dumbbells above your head. Don’t lock your elbows, then return to the starting position where your arms are parallel with the floor.  

You can perform a shoulder press exercise using a barbell, resistance bands, kettlebells or dumbbells. They can be performed standing up or sitting on a bench.   


Simple To Perform

The dumbbell shoulder press is simple to perform. It doesn't involve the multi-joint twisting then Arnold press requires, making it far easier for beginners to do. 

Overloads Your Front Delts

The shoulder press primarily targets your anterior deltoid muscles, so if you're looking to develop that specific area, the shoulder press is the exercise for you. 

Adds Muscle Mass

If you're looking to add muscle mass to your frame, the shoulder press will help. It allows you to develop excellent looking shoulders that'll make you look wider, filling out your t-shirts. 

Suitable For Most Abilities

The exercise is suitable for most gym-goers. It doesn't require a lot of weight, isn't complicated, and places less strain on your joints. 

Who Should Do The Shoulder Press?

The shoulder press exercise is excellent for you if you’re looking to increase your shoulder strength and size [2]. 

If you’re playing a physical sport or require shoulder strength for your occupation, it’s even better. 

Who Shouldn't Do The Shoulder Press?

Sure, the shoulder press is an excellent exercise for developing your shoulders, but there are a few people who shouldn't perform the movement.

If you struggle with shoulder mobility and stability, the shoulder press may not be suitable for you. 

The angle at which the exercise is performed places a lot of strain on your shoulder joints, yet this can be offset slightly by using a bench press angled just below 90-degrees, this will remove some of the strain. 

Another group of people who should avoid the shoulder press is anybody with high blood pressure. Overhead exercises are usually avoided by gym-goers who've got high blood pressure as it can leave them feeling light-headed and dizzy. 


  • It’s a straightforward exercise 
  • Doesn’t require great shoulder mobility 
  • Easy to add weight 
  • Less stress on the wrist and shoulder joints 


  • Can be difficult to lift heavy weights into position 
  • Doesn’t target all of the shoulder muscles 
  • Can be a tedious exercise 
  • Possibly leads to shoulder injury if not done correctly 

Arnold Press Vs Shoulder Press FAQs Answered

How much weight should I use for Arnold press? 

You should start off with a weight that you can lift easily. The Arnold press requires more mobility in your shoulders and wrists, so take your time when increasing the weights that you want to lift. 

Is Arnold press better than dumbbell press? 

Both of these shoulder-focused exercises are excellent for increasing strength and muscle growth. The Arnold press is slightly better for hypertrophy. Meanwhile, the shoulder press is better for strength because you can quickly increase the weight you want to lift.

Can you do Arnold press sitting? 

Yes, you can do Alnold press sitting. If you want to sit down and have some back support, you can sit down on a bench and set the bench at an 85-degree angle. You can also do it without back support and sit on a flat bench.  

How often should you shoulder press? 

It depends on how much you want to train your shoulders and how experienced you are. Generally, you should shoulder press 2-3 times per week. Of course, you can choose to shoulder press more, but remember, rest is essential for muscle recovery and growth [3].  


Finding the differences between the Arnold press and the shoulder press can be challenging. They both have subtle differences that can impact your shoulder muscle growth and strength.

Now that you've read this guide, you should know how useful these two exercises can be, as well as the key differences between them.  





Lee Kirwin

Lee Kirwin

Lee has worked in the fitness industry for over 15 years. He's trained hundreds of clients and knows his way around the gym, including what you need for your garage gym. When he's not testing products, he loves weightlifting, Ju Jitsu, writing, and gaming.