Fitness Tips

Arnold Press vs. Military Press: Which Muscles Does Each Exercise Work? Which Is Better for You?

On your quest to build boulder shoulders, you'll likely come across two pressing movements that are staples in many athletes' and bodybuilders' routines: the Arnold press and the military press.

Both exercises are great for developing strength and size in the shoulders, but they each have their own unique benefits. So, which one is right for you?

In this article, we'll compare the Arnold press vs. the military press to help you decide which exercise is best for your goals.


Arnold Press vs. Military Press: A brief look

Arnold press and the military press are both a variation of the obverhead press and both are great for hitting the shoulders and triceps
Arnold press and the military press are both a variation of the obverhead press and both are great for hitting the shoulders and triceps - 1

Both these exercises are variations of the overhead press, a movement that works the shoulder muscles along with the triceps.

The Arnold press is named after Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was known for incorporating this move into his training routine. The military press, on the other hand, is a standard weightlifting exercise that has been around for many years.


What is the Arnold Press?

The Arnold press earns its name from Arnold Schwarzenegger who was a master of the move

The Arnold press is a compound exercise that targets the deltoids,biceps, triceps, and trapezius muscles. The exercise gets its name from Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was known for performing this lift with great success.

It's a variation of the standard overhead press, but with a few key differences. For one, you start with your palms facing your body (supinated grip) instead of away from it (pronated grip). Secondly, you twist your wrists as you press the weight overhead, so that your palms end up facing forward at the top of the movement.


How to Perform the Arnold Press

You can do the Arnold press just like you would any other overhead press exercise

The Arnold Press is performed with dumbbells, like most other overhead pressing exercises. Here's a step by step guide on how to perform the Arnold press:

1. Start by sitting on a bench or chair with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing your body.

2. Bring the weights up to shoulder level. This is your starting position.

3. From here, press the weights overhead while simultaneously twisting your wrists so that your palms end up facing forward. Your arms should be fully extended at the top of the movement.

4. Slowly lower the weights back to the starting position and repeat for desired reps.


What is the Military Press?

The military press is pretty much like the Anorld press, only that this one is performed with a pronated grip

The military press is another compound exercise that targets the deltoids, triceps, and trapezius muscles. Unlike the Arnold press, the military press is performed with a pronated grip (palms facing away from your body).

The military press can be performed with either a barbell or dumbbells. When using a barbell, the exercise is often referred to as the "barbell shoulder press."


How to Perform the Military Press

You can perform the military press with either dumbbells or a barbell, and very much like any other overhead press

The military press can be performed with either a barbell or dumbbells. Here's a step by step guide on how to perform the military press with the barbell, since it is the more common variation:

1. Rack a barbell at shoulder height. You can either use a power rack or squat rack for this.

2. Grab the barbell with a pronated grip (palms facing away from your body), hands just outside shoulder width. Your feet should be close to each other. This is your starting position.

3. Unrack the barbell and step back, keeping your core tight. The barbell should be at shoulder level. This is your starting position.

4. From here, press the barbell overhead while keeping your core engaged. Extend your arms fully at the top of the movement.

5. Lower the barbell back to the starting position and repeat for desired reps.


Arnold Press vs. Military Press: Comparing the Two Exercises

In a bout between Arnold press vs military press there's no winner, just that both exercises have some differences
In a bout between Arnold press vs military press there's no winner, just that both exercises have some differences - 1

Athletes often struggle to decide whether to perform the Arnold press or military press. Both exercises are great for building strength and muscle, but there are some key differences that you should be aware of.


Arnold Press Is Beginner Friendly

For beginners, the Arnold press is going to be easier and more suitable

The Arnold press is a great exercise for beginners because it's a variation of the overhead press, which is a common and well-known movement. The fact that you start with your palms facing your body also makes the exercise more forgiving on the shoulders.

So someone who has skinny arms due to years of not working out might want to consider doing this exercises as a start.


Military Press Is More Challenging

The military press is a bit more tough and better picked up once you have gained some experience with lifting

The military press is a bit more challenging than the Arnold press because it's performed with a pronated grip. This puts your shoulders in a less stable position and makes the exercise more difficult.


Arnold Press is better for isolation

If you are looking for an isolation exercise, then you'll be better off with the Arnold press

The Arnold press is a great exercise for isolation because it allows you to really focus on the deltoid muscles. The fact that you twist your wrists as you press the weights overhead also allows for a greater range of motion, which further isolates the deltoids.


Military Press is better for compound movements

The military press works more muscles, making it more suited for compound moves

The military press is a great exercise for compound movements because it also works the triceps and trapezius muscles. This makes it a great exercise for full-body strength and muscle gains.


Which One is harder to Perform? Which One Puts more strain on the body?

If you want an exercise that will push your body harder, then go for the military press

That has to be the military press. It's a more challenging exercise, and it puts more strain on the body because you engage more muscles.

You have to maintain your torso upright and generate more power from your legs to press the barbell overhead. This can lead to lower back pain if you're not careful.

You have to maintain your torso upright and generate more power from the core to move the weight, which can lead to more injuries if you're not careful.

If you find both exercises hard to do, try a shoulder press machine. After you gain enough shoulder muscle on these machines try you hand with these exercises


Which Exercise Works More Muscles?

The military press also stands out in that it works more muscles than the Arnold press

The Arnold Press is a deltoid isolation exercise, while the military press is a compound exercise.

The Arnold Press works your Anterior (front) deltoid, while the military press works your three deltoid heads, triceps, and trapezius muscles.

So, if you're looking to work more muscles, the military press is the better choice.

Muscles Worked by The Arnold Press

So, what are the muscles worked by the Arnold press exercise

As we just mentioned, the Arnold Press is an isolation exercise that works the anterior (front) deltoid.

The posterior (rear) deltoid and lateral (side) deltoid are also engaged to a lesser extent, but the focus is on the front deltoid. You also recruit the triceps and the rotator cuff muscles to a small degree.

An easier exercises that works most of these areas is the low row, you can do it if you find the Arnold press hard.

Muscles Worked by The Military Press

The military press is a great compound move exercise that works more than five muscles

The military press is a compound exercise that works the three deltoid heads, the triceps, and the trapezius muscles, along with the upper back, the trapezius and most muscles of the core.

The deltoids are the primary muscle group worked, with the front deltoid getting the most attention. The triceps and trapezius muscles are also engaged to a significant degree.


Which Exercise Is Better for Bodybuilders?

Both the Arnold press and the military press are great for bodybuilders

Both exercises have their place in a bodybuilder's workout routine.

The Arnold press is a great exercise for isolation and can help you to really focus on the front deltoid muscles. The military press is a great exercise for compound movements and works more muscles overall.

The military press is also considered one of the fundamental strength-building exercises, so it's a great choice if you're looking to build strength and muscle.


Which Exercise Is Better for athletes?

For athletes looking to rip their bodies, the military press packs everything you need

The military press is the better choice for athletes because it's a compound exercise that works more muscles. It's also considered a hallmark of strength, so it's a great choice if you're looking to build strength and power.

The Arnold press is a great exercise for isolation and can help you to really focus on the front deltoid muscles, but it's not as useful for athletes who need to generate more power from their legs and core.


Which One Is Better for Beginners?

Beginners should have a great time getting started with the Arnold press

The Arnold press is the better choice for beginners because it's an isolation exercise that doesn't require as much coordination. It's also a bit easier to perform than the military press, since its performed with dumbbells.

Arnold Schwarzenegger also recommended performing the exercise seated, since it's easier to maintain good form in this position.


Which exercise is better if I want to do it daily?

Although you should not shoot to do any of these exercises everyday, if you have to then go with the Arnold press

Ideally, you shouldn't be performing either exercise on a daily basis. However, if you had to choose one, the Arnold press would be the better choice because its an isolation exercise that doesn't put as much strain on the body.

You could perform the Arnold press every day, but you should separate the workouts by at least 24 hours to give your muscles time to recover.


According to People Who Did Both Exercises, Which one Gave them better results?

You would be hard-pressed to choose one over the other between Arnold press and the military press

Most fitness buffs rightly opine that it's impossible to recommend one exercise over the other without knowing your specific goals.

Both exercises have their place in a workout routine and can provide benefits depending on your goals. The Military press is generally considered a better choice for building strength and muscle, while the Arnold press is better for isolation.

Your eventual choice should also take into account your level of fitness and experience. If you're a beginner, the Arnold press is probably the better choice, while more experienced users can opt for the military press.


Can I Do Both Exercises?

While both of these exercises target almost similar muscle groups, the slight difference allows you to combine or alternate them to match your goals

If your fitness goals allow, you could try doing both exercises. For example, you could start your workout with the military press to build strength and muscle, and then finish with the Arnold press to focus on the front deltoid muscles.

You could also alternate between the two exercises, performing the military press one day and the Arnold press the next.

No matter which exercise you choose, be sure to warm up properly and use proper form to avoid injury.


FAQs

If you still have questions about the Arnold press vs the military press, here are some more answers for you

If you're still unsure on which one to go for between the Arnold press and the military press, here are some more answers to your questions. 


Q. Are Arnold presses bad for your shoulder?

A. No they are not. Arnold presses when performed with control and good form, actually help to build strength and stability in the shoulder joint.


Q. Is the push press better than the military press?

A. The Push Press is an explosive variation of the Military Press and as such is better for developing power. The regular Military Press is better for building strength and muscle.

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Ben Mayz

Hi there! I'm Ben, main author and chief editor at Fitlifefanatics.com. I have been obsessed with Strength Training and Fitness for 16 years now. My passion for living a happy fit lifestyle is what made me realize that fitness is what I wanted for my future. I went on to earn my Masters in Sports Training & Biomechanics. My passion for Strength training & fitness and my love of helping others is what made me start Fitlifefanatics. Here, myself, and a team of specialist aim to provide the most accurate, and actionable information possible in hopes to help foster the fitness community forward. You can learn more about Fitlifefanatics on our About Page
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