The Arnold Shoulder Workout

July 22 2019

What is the Arnold shoulder workout?

Whether it’s through his legendary physique, his position as the former governor of California or his on-screen terminating, everyone knows of Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

Before his days of politics or his big screen debut, Arnie shot to fame as an icon of bodybuilding and fitness. Between the mid-60s and 1980, Arnie revolutionised bodybuilding, winning a score of competitions including seven Mr Olympia titles. People have been emulating him ever since in a bid to achieve his famously colossal physique. 

To help you on your journey towards your own pair of ‘boulder shoulders’, we’ve put together the Arnold shoulder workout, showcasing the great man’s very own workout plan for colossal muscles. 

The workout

Seated barbell military press

  1. Sit on a military press bench with the bar behind your head. Carefully lift the bar with a pronated grip (palms forward).
  2. With your grip wider than your shoulders, lift the bar above your head by locking your arms. Hold at about shoulder level and slightly in front of your head.
  3. Lower the bar down to your collarbone slowly as you inhale.
  4. Lift the bar back up to the starting position as you exhale.
  5. Complete 4 sets with the following reps:
  • 12
  • 12
  • 10
  • 8

Side lateral raise

  1. Pick a couple of dumbbells and stand with your back straight and the dumbbells at your side. The dumbbells should be at arm's length with your palms facing you.
  2. While keeping your torso in a stationary position, lift the dumbbells out to the side with a partially bent elbow and your hands slightly forward. Continue to raise your arms until they are parallel to the floor and exhale as you lift. 
  3. Lower the dumbbells back down slowly to the starting position and inhale.
  4. Complete 4 sets with the following reps:
  • 12
  • 12
  • 10
  • 8

Smith machine overhead shoulder press

  1. Place a flat bench (preferably with back support) underneath a Smith machine. Position the barbell at a height so that your arms are almost fully extended when reaching the bar.
  2. Once at the correct height, sit slightly behind the barbell with an imaginary line from your nose to the barbell. Unlock the barbell with your palms facing forward and fully extend your arms upwards.
  3. Slowly begin to lower the barbell until it is level with your chin while inhaling.
  4. Lift the barbell back up until your arms are fully extended again. Use your shoulders to lift the barbell and exhale.
  5. Complete 4 sets with the following reps:
  • 12
  • 12
  • 10
  • 8

Seated bent-over rear delt raise

  1. Sit at the end of a bench with your legs together and a pair of dumbbells behind your calves.
  2. Bend at the waist while keeping your back straight to pick up the dumbbells. Your palms should be facing each other
  3. Keep your torso forward and stationary and your arms slightly bent at the elbow. Exhale and lift the dumbbells straight to the sides until both arms are parallel to the floor.
  4. After a 1-second contraction at the top, slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.
  5. Complete 4 sets with the following reps: 
  • 12
  • 12
  • 10
  • 8

Upright barbell row

  1. Grip the barbell with an overhand grip that is slightly less than shoulder width. The bar should be resting on the top of your thighs with your arms extended and a slight bend in your elbows. Make sure you keep your back straight.
  2. Exhale and use the sides of your shoulders to lift the bar, raising your elbows up and to the sides and keeping the bar close to your body. Continue to raise the bar until it nearly reaches your chin.
  3. Lower the bar back down to the starting position and inhale.
  4. Complete 4 sets with the following reps:
  • 12
  • 12
  • 10
  • 8

The Arnold Press

Did you know that Mr Schwarzenegger actually invented his own exercise?

Arnie has switched up a variant of the dumbbell overhead press for a more comprehensive workout. With a low starting position and a greater range of movement than the standard press, the Arnold Press engages all three sections of your deltoids - anterior, lateral and posterior.  

If you’re feeling up to the challenge, or feel like your workout needs a little extra push, try adding the Arnold Press to your shoulder routine:

The Arnold Press

  1. Hold a pair of dumbbells in front of your shoulders with your palms facing your body (it should look like the end position of a dumbbell curl).
  2. In one fluid motion, open your arms and extend them overhead as you exhale. Pause, then reverse the move and inhale.

Note: When first starting out, it’s advised that you sit on the edge of a bench with a back support. It’ll help you control your movements to prevent internal muscle rotation and will help prevent lower back pain. 

Common shoulder workout injuries (and how to avoid them)

While embarking on your journey to become the next Mr Olympia, you need to be careful not to overtrain your shoulders. Shoulder injuries are common for both athletes and gym goers, and as you use your shoulder in chest and back exercises too, it’s important not to push yourself too hard. 

By their very nature, shoulders are unstable ball-and-socket joints. Through over excursion or poor technique, it’s easier than you think to cause a shoulder injury. The most common shoulder injuries include:

  1. Rotator cuff injury

The rotator cuff is made up of 4 muscles that lie along the perimeter of the ball of the shoulder and allow it to move. Repetitive movements can cause the top of the shoulder blade to pinch these muscles and can lead to an overload of the tendons, eventually resulting in tendonitis. By ignoring these pains, you could also cause a tear in the rotator cuff.

  1. Weight lifter shoulder

The topmost part of the shoulder blade is called the acromioclavicular (AC) joint which connects to the collarbone. Exercises that lower your elbows behind your shoulders, such as a bench press or chest fly, can place additional stress on this joint. Over time, this can lead to small fractures or tears and can lead to painful inflammation if not given enough time to heal.

  1. Dislocated shoulder

Dislocated shoulders are caused when the ball of the shoulder slips out of the socket. Once dislocated, the ball can then slip further forwards, backwards or downwards. Dislocated shoulders are traditionally caused by strong hits to the shoulder in sports like football or rugby,  but they can also occur in the gym if you over-rotate your shoulder.

The best way to help you avoid these problematic injuries is to ensure you focus on your form. Lifting more weight than you can safely handle is always a bad idea, but poor technique can be just as hazardous. In fact, even lifting lighter weights with high reps can end in disaster if your form is off.

You’re far better off perfecting your technique and completing fewer reps with a heavier weight. At DW Fitness First, our experienced personal trainers can help walk you through your shoulder workouts to make sure you’re on the right track. Once your form is mastered, you can safely build up your shoulder strength, injury-free.

If you’re ready to give Arnie a run for his money, why not enjoy a free workout on us? Head down to your local DW Fitness First gym and make use of our three-day guest pass.

For more hints and tips on fitness, workouts and nutrition, head over to Inside Track for more information.