Build bigger and stronger shoulders with the seated Arnold press
Want a lean, defined and athletic physique? It all starts at your shoulders. Here’s how to use the seated Arnold press to sculpt the big and broad delts you need to transform your dadbod into cover model material, says New Body Plan editorial director Joe Warner
The key to achieving a more athletic physique is increasing the size and width of your shoulders.
Sculpting big, broad and wide shoulders has a couple of instant – and major – benefits to creating the physique you want.
Firstly, wider shoulders make your entire torso appear bigger, stronger and more impressive. But even more significantly, greater upper-body width also creates the impression of a much narrower waist.
So even if you’re yet to shift your spare tyre, wider shoulders will make your middle seem far smaller. As well as create that desirable and aesthetically-pleasing V-shape torso that all elite athletes and sportsmen have.
One of the best moves to build the better shoulders you want is the seated Arnold press. Here’s how to do the move the smart way to get the results you want as quickly as you’d like!
Find your perfect fat-loss plan!
Take the New Body quiz!
What is the seated Arnold press?
The seated Arnold press is variation of the seated dumbbell shoulder press. Both moves share many similarities: they use dumbbells; you’re sitting down; and they work your shoulder muscles! There is one key difference, however, and that’s what makes the seated Arnold press so special.
How is the Arnold press different to other shoulder press moves?
The dumbbell shoulder press, barbell overhead press, Smith machine shoulder press or machine shoulder press all work your shoulder muscles the same way. You use your shoulders to press the weight up then lower it back down.
The seated Arnold press is different because the lifting and lowering phase of every single rep involve a rotational movement.
How? You start each rep holding the dumbbells in a palms-facing-you grip, then rotate your wrists as your press the weights up so end with arms straight and directly overhead with your palms facing forwards. You reverse this rotation as you lower the weights down to end up back in the start position.
This rotational movement works your shoulder muscles slightly different to all other shoulder moves. And it also trains the small stabilising muscles of the shoulder joint, called the rotator cuff muscles. Strengthening these muscles is very important for injury prevention and optimal shoulder mobility.
What muscles does the seated Arnold press work?
The main muscles worked in the seated Arnold press are the three muscles of the shoulders. They are also known as the anterior (or front) deltoids, lateral (or middle) deltoids and posterior (or rear) deltoids.
The rotator cuff muscles, which secure and stabilise the shoulder joint, are also recruited because of the rotational nature of each rep. And as will all pressing movements, the triceps (the muscles on the back of your upper arm) are also involved.
What weight should I use for the Arnold press?
The rotational movement of each seated Arnold press rep makes the move more challenging. So it’s likely you’ll have to lift lighter weights when doing this exercise compared with standard dumbbell shoulder pressing.
Being seated and having your body stabilised by the upright bench means you should be able to lift slightly heavier doing the seated Arnold press than the standing Arnold press. Do the moving standing up will also work your abs harder as they have to stabilise your torso.
Why should I do the seated Arnold press?
If you want bigger, stronger and more defined shoulders adding the seated Arnold press to your upper-body training toolkit is a no-brainer.
The move works your shoulders in a more intricate manner than any other shoulder pressing lift. And strengthening the small muscles and connective tissues that support the shoulder joint through its multiple planes of movement is something that will benefit everyone.
How do I do the seated Arnold press?
• Sit on an upright bench with your back pressed into the padded and your feet flat on the floor.
• Hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height with your palms facing your face. This is the starting (bottom) position.
• Keeping your chest up and head in a neutral position, press the weights upwards.
• As you lift start to rotate your wrists so that by the time the weights are directly overhead with your arms straight, your palms are facing forward. This is the end (top) position.
• Slowly reverse the movement back down until the weights are back at shoulder height with your palms again facing your face. That’s one rep.
• Keep the rotational movement smooth and fluid and not sudden or jerky, both as you press the weights up and as you lower them back down.
How many sets and reps of the Arnold press should I do?
The seated Arnold press is an exercise best done with a lighter weight for more reps. Going too heavy and having to “force” reps can compromise the delicate shoulder joint and end in injury.
A good starting point if you’re new to this move is to do three sets of eight to 12 reps with a light weight. It’s more important to practice the movement pattern and feel confident doing it before increasing the weight.
When should I do the Arnold press?
The seated Arnold press can form part of a terrific warm-up routine for any shoulder session, or upper-body pressing workout. Keep the weight light and movements smooth to fully warm up and prepare your shoulder joint for the heavier work ahead.
You can also use the move for muscle-building purposes later on in your workout. The main consideration is to never go too heavy when you’re too tired or not fully warmed up. You never want to reach muscular failure with this move: the risks far outweigh the any rewards.
Find your perfect fat-loss plan!
Take the New Body quiz!