Arnold's Ultimate Shoulder Training Guide

Khirul Alam
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Arnold's Ultimate Shoulder Training Guide

Achieving impressive deltoid size is a game-changer for your physique. It's not just about wide shoulders; they need to be thick and well-rounded, showcasing balanced development in the front, side, and rear deltoids. Arnold Schwarzenegger had a strategic approach to sculpting three-dimensional shoulders, a key element in the classic X-Frame Physique.


In bodybuilding, shoulders, calves, and abdominals take center stage, forming the foundation of the coveted X-Frame Physique. Looking back at ancient Greek sculptures or Renaissance art, you'll notice a consistent emphasis on well-developed calves, shoulders, and abs—the epitome of the ideal male physique throughout history.

Modern bodybuilding echoes this sentiment. Many experts argue that having well-defined shoulders, abs, and calves lays the groundwork for an outstanding physique. No matter how robust your thighs, arms, chest, or back are, true development requires attention to these key muscle groups. While shoulder width is somewhat dictated by genetics, targeted training can enhance it. Exercises that stretch and spread the clavicles and scapula, the bones forming the front and back of the shoulder structure, contribute to this. Regular heavy training further thickens these bones, creating the potential for increased upper body width and mass.


Yet, widening shoulders is only half the battle. Full deltoid development is crucial, considering the three distinct heads—the medial side head, anterior front head, and posterior rear head. Achieving symmetry and proportion involves intelligent training to create the illusion of broader shoulders.

While many focus on the side heads for added width, neglecting the front and rear heads is a mistake. The front heads should tie into the pectorals, while the rear head must connect to the traps, triceps, teres major, and upper back muscles. A well-executed rear double biceps pose showcases the importance of shaping and defining all three deltoid heads.

Beyond the deltoids, the traps play a significant role in the rear shoulder girdle, while the subclavius and pectoral minor contribute to the front shoulder girdle. Complete development of these muscles is essential for maximum shoulder impressiveness.


Arnold's strategy intensely focused on deltoids and traps, often doing more sets for these areas than any other body part. He emphasized individual training for each deltoid head and considered 15 sets the minimum for a comprehensive session. He believed at least six exercises, each with five sets, were necessary for traps.

For beginners, Arnold recommended two exercises focusing on basic compound movements. This includes front military press or behind-the-neck press for three sets and upright rows for another three sets, providing stimulation to the front, side, and trap heads. Intermediate bodybuilders can incorporate three or four exercises for the delts and traps, such as seated behind-the-neck presses, standing dumbbell laterals, bent-over laterals, and upright rows, with 6-10 reps per set. Advanced bodybuilders may require up to six exercises for the complete deltoid-trap complex, doing four sets each. Arnold's suggested routine includes seated behind-the-neck presses, dumbbell laterals, lying side laterals or one-arm cable laterals, bent-over laterals, upright rows, and shrugs.

Addressing weak points and achieving balance, proportion, and symmetry are critical for advanced bodybuilders. Narrow-shouldered individuals should focus on wide-grip chins and pull-downs during lat workouts to stretch and spread the clavicles and scapula. A specialized deltrap routine targeting the side deltoid head is recommended, including exercises like seated behind-the-neck presses, standing dumbbell side laterals, lying side dumbbell laterals, standing one-arm cable laterals, bent-over dumbbell or cable laterals, upright rows, and shrugs or high pulls.

Arnold Shoulder Muscle Workout

Arnold's advice emphasizes performing 4 sets of each exercise, with potentially up to 5 for side head exercises, totaling between 24 and 35 sets. Following a split routine dedicated solely to delts and traps allows focused energy and concentration on these key muscle groups, maximizing your efforts for optimal results.


Arnold's Pressing Exercises Guide

If you can get in the middle, the deltoid workout involves mostly raising the delt heads in particular and various variations of pressing exercises to increase overall deltoid strength and mass. Arnold utilized four different kinds of press exercises for general deltoid strength and development. Barbells on the front or Smith machine military presses. Behind the neck barbells are presses made by Smith. The front or regular dumbbell presses as well as rotating presses, of which Arnold was the only one to have his own model, hence the name Arnold Press. They can be done standing or sitting. However, Arnold usually preferred pressing seated because it was more striker-like and let him concentrate his deltoids more effectively. Pressing seated puts less stress on the lower back.


Arnold usually chose one of four exercises for pressing each time he worked delts. In reality, Arnold nearly always did Arnold presses and alternated the other three exercises. A delt workout could consist of Arnold press and sitting behind neck presses. The next one could be Arnold presses, sitting military front presses with the smith machine, and the list goes on. By doing four pressing exercises in his deltoid exercise routine instead of one, he experienced better overall development. Arnold never grew bored or bored since the routine was constantly changing exercises. He'd like to complete five sets of six to 12 repetitions. He started light and then built upwards in weight with each set until his final set was his heaviest.

Arnold Seated Barbell Military Press

Many bodybuilders do not know that there are two distinct styles of pressing. The one you choose to use will greatly impact the amount of deltoid growth you will see. This is similar to pectoral bench pressing well as front deltoid or triceps bench press as well as what is known as deltoid overhead pressing as well as overhead pressing for the triceps. One is a workout for building muscle as well as an exercise for weightlifting. His entire pressing movement in his deltoid routine included the deltoid press. The pressing performed by Olympic weightlifters used to be mostly pressed with triceps. Any press requiring straight arms and completely locked out is typically pressing triceps.


Deltoid pressing calls for an extremely large grip on a barbell or machine bar, whether you're performing the front military presses or behind neck presses. Arnold suggests you grip the bar between 4 and six inches from the shoulders. Why would you want a wide grip? A wide grip keeps you from locking your arms to the highest point on the presses. After you've pressed the weight as far as it can reach, there will be some movement in your arms. Wide grips also encourage an inclination where the elbows are flared and pushed back to the shoulders to improve isolation and engagement of the deltoids on the sides. Pressing the triceps with narrow grips allows an elbow to be positioned forward, which is a problem for the front delts and triceps.

One of the biggest errors Arnold observes intermediate and beginner athletes frequently make is locking their arms while doing presses. Once you have locked out your arms, they can transfer the tension in the deltoid muscles to the triceps muscles. When Arnold was pressing on a weight, he noticed that there was always a slight twist in his elbows, even when Arnold was in the highest position. This style maintained an unending tension on his deltoids. If you can fully straighten the arms and then lock out your elbows, it means your grip isn't wide enough in width or shoulder width. If your elbows lie in the front of your body while you press and are not being pulled back to align the shoulders, then you can focus on the front delts only and the triceps. The key to achieving a successful deltoid dumbbell press with any press, whether it's regular dumbbell presses or rotating Arnold presses, is to keep your elbows open and flared out towards the sides and pulled back as much with your shoulders as you can throughout the whole range of movement. It should be apparent that you're pulling your elbows and hands completely behind your head. The more you pull your hands and elbows back, the better it is to isolate and activate both the head of the deltoid on the side and front. Holding your elbows open and tucked back so that you cannot straighten your arms is physically impossible. Like a deltoid burble, pressing the deltoids will have ongoing stress on the deltoids. If you allow your elbows to move ahead over the line of your shoulder, you can secure your arms. After that, you can work your triceps muscles again.

Arnold Smith Machine Overhead Shoulder Press

Another method for effective deltoid pressing using dumbbells is turning around your wrist while tilting the dumbbells in such a way that your fingers are higher than your thumbs when you are in the overhead position at the top. This wrist turning and tilting of the dumbbells happens naturally when you put your elbows directly to the sides while keeping them aligned with your shoulders. This is a crucial aspect. The elbows' tips should direct the elbows sideways instead of downwards. When the elbows are wide and pointed towards the sides, straightening the arms is no longer possible. The elbows stay bent at the top, keeping a constant stress on the deltoid muscles.


The effect of tilting dumbbells, placing the small fingers above the thumbs, and keeping elbows flared open and pulled back as far as possible will increase the activation and engagement with the sides head. You are working more on the overall structure of your deltoid to improve form and mass. Regular pressing is usually front-facing. Arnold has always used deltoid presses. For this, grip-width hand and elbow positions are essential.

Arnold's Lateral Exercises Guide

Then, let's move on to the isolation lateral moves Arnold utilized in his routines to directly target the front, rear and side head of the deltoids. Lateral raises are, by definition, isolation movements. They're designed to be performed precisely in order to ensure the isolation of the specific deltoid head that you're working on. At the same time, he performed three different types of laterals that targeted the front, the medial or rear part of the deltoid. The most important performance aspects of all three are the same.

Arnold's Lateral Exercises

The first thing to note is that Arnold always followed a strict form and full movement range. Arnold was focused on performing the exercises in such a way that he could focus on and work on the side head. Arnold kept his palms as well as the sides of his forearms down, even when in the most contracted position. Like the deltoid press, he attempted to keep his elbows back to align and in line with the shoulders. The position of the elbow is more important than hand placement in the laterals. The elbows of his partner are higher than the wrist, except the last couple of inches at the top when the hands were catching up, and he finished at the same height or, at times, slightly higher. This is significant since having your wrist higher than the elbows typically indicates that you're engaging too much of the front deltoid. A common training strategy he employed on the laterals was that of raising the deltoids' rear above the front. This concept allowed him to separate the head from the side.


As with all champions of bodybuilding over time, he has been experimenting with every deltoid or trap exercise that is in the book. There are some who do not respond positively to every exercise. This is no exception. By trial and error, he found the trap and deltoid exercises that worked for his body. He recommends you follow the same method. Yes, certainly. Do his deltoid and trap exercises, and don't hesitate to play around with other exercises. Be sure to develop an exercise plan that will bring out the weak spots in your body. Your aim should be to achieve harmony, proportion and balance as well as weight and size.


Arnold's Secret Exercise List Over the decades, he was able to reduce his list of the most efficient deltoid exercises down to nine.

  1. Rotating Arnold Press
  2. Standing Dumbell Lateral Raises
  3. One-Arm Cable Side Laterals
  4. The One Arm Lying Dumbell Raizes
  5. Lie down behind the Neck Preparing
  6. Seated Dumbell Presses
  7. Seated Military Front Burble, or Smith Machine Presses
  8. Standing Alternate Dumbbell Raises
  9. Bent over Dumbbell Laterals

To build traps, he usually used one of the following exercises.

  1. High Pulse
  2. Upright Rows
  3. Shrugs

When he was in the pre-contest training phase, he'd perform nine of the twelve exercises every workout to show the details of the cut, as well as separation and definition. Most of the time, he would stick to straight sets. However, sometimes, he'd do certain supersets to increase the power and the intensity. Sometimes, to drop down the rack series made up of Arnold presses, he would do six drops in weight with no rest, starting with 90-pound dumbbells and moving towards the 40s. Repeated this process three times to complete a total of 18 sets. Then, the delts were so full of energy that he would not lift his arms above the ceiling. Also, work the back head as well.

Arnold's Shoulder Poses

In the dumbbell pressing exercise, He concentrated on keeping his fingers above his thumbs and in the upper position. This is the natural way to do it by keeping your palms in a downward direction and keeping the sides of your forearms looking downward. If your thumb is more over the smaller finger, it is an indication of an excessive front delt involvement as well as an absence from side head separation. It also indicates that the palms and undersides of the forearms are up, not down.

Lift the bells up in an arc that is wide and smooth. Avoid swinging them. Take a moment at the top of the exercise to tighten and stretch your delts, then slowly lower the bells in order to maximize the negative resistance. Dropping the dumbbells only decreases the effectiveness of the workout.


When performing laterals, you must maintain a slight bend in your elbows. Make sure you don't hold your arms in a straight line, or you'll reduce how much weight that is effective, which will result in lesser mass. The most important thing is to focus on feeling the tension in the head of your target. If you're focusing on your side head and feel the pump and burn in the front, and you feel the pressure in your back head, then you know that your posture isn't working correctly. Suppose you're performing bent-over side laterals to the back head and feel the traps or triceps but not the rear delts; review your technique. Do not just continue performing the exercise in exactly the same method. Try various angle and angles until you locate the groove that allows you to separate from the back head completely. It's a good idea whether you're doing front raises to your front head, side lifts to the side head, or bent-over raises to your rear head. Find the techniques that enable you to train your muscles vigorously. Through experimentation, you can modify each step of your daily routine. Your body will communicate to you what it needs to do if you pay attention.

Arnold's Traps Muscle Guide

Three fundamental exercises focus on strengthening the shrugs, traps, high pulls, power cleans, and upright rows. Based on your requirements, Arnold would suggest choosing two exercises and performing the same exercise four times.

Arnold Shrug

The traps are most responsive to heavy weights. However, always make sure to do full reps. It is not uncommon to observe bodybuilders putting on extremely heavy weights with shrugs and performing tiny bounces of reps, where their shoulders and traps don't move even a little. This kind of training is great for the ego; however, it doesn't give the traps a great exercise. Arnold liked to perform dumbbell shrugs since it gave him more reach. He would raise the traps and shoulders to the highest they could. The old saying about trying to bring the traps of your ears can be a wise one since it allows the full range of movement. Paused near the peak to squeeze and tighten his traps created a peak contraction effect. Then, he slowly released to his starting position.


If you're doing the power cleans, high pulls upright rows, or any variant of shrugs, try to imagine the movement into traps. Make sure you are focused and perform each rep with intention. Don't just do the motions. Motions don't mean anything. It's the muscle action that you're looking for. A barn and pumping into muscles, but no movement.

Final Thoughts of Arnold's Shoulder Training Guide

The Deltoid Training appears easy to the naked eye; however, it's much more challenging than it looks. This is particularly true of dumbbell presses and laterals. Pay attention to the particulars regarding the positions of your hand, wrist, elbow, thumb, and palm finger. Make sure to use the maximum amount of weight you are able to handle using good posture. Work out gradually and always seek to add more strength; however, not without compromising your training technique.

Each exercise should be done with the full range of movement. Half reps are only good for half muscles. Focus on each exercise with complete concentration. Focus on your work. Avoid wasting your time or spending time with your friends during sets. A lot of intense training is needed for building huge, well-developed traps and deltoids. This is the norm of bodybuilding. The results you get from your workouts are only the things your body puts into it.

Arnold Upright Barbell Row

Make sure you are consistent with your exercise routine. Training that is not completed can hinder your progress. The only reason you should not exercise is if you're sick or really feel like you are overtraining. Be sure to examine your performance constantly. If you are feeling tired and exhausted, reduce your exercise routine by a few minutes. Take note of your diet. You must ensure you are getting enough calories and protein to encourage growth. Training hard is useless If you are following a bad diet.


Challenges in Achieving Maximum Muscle Pump

Your traps and deltoids must be fully pumped prior to leaving the training. The failure to achieve a high increase in your growth is typically because of one of the following.

  • It is not to the same intensity.
  • You are too lazy between sets. Limit rest time to around 1 minute between sets, excluding when you are using your most heavy presses or sets.
  • Your diet is inadequate.
  • There is not enough rest and sleep to allow you to recover between workouts.
Arnold Press Workout
Big cannonball delts, as well as wide shoulders, are yours. It's just about wanting them so badly that you put in the effort. You can do it.


How often should I train my shoulders?

It is usually advised to workout your shoulders two to three times a week, leaving enough time for relaxation and recuperation in between. But the frequency might change based on your fitness level and personal objectives.

What are the benefits of shoulder training?

There are several advantages to shoulder training, such as stronger upper limbs, better posture, more stability, and a more attractive figure. Strong shoulders are also essential for a variety of daily tasks and athletic endeavors.

What are the key exercises for building strong and defined shoulders?

Exercises like overhead presses, lateral rises, front raises, rear delt flyes, and upright rows are essential for developing strong, distinct shoulders. These exercises might help you develop more strength and definition in your shoulders by focusing on various shoulder muscle regions.

Are there any potential risks or injuries associated with shoulder exercises?

Exercises for the shoulder can help develop strength and definition, but there are also possible hazards and injuries to take into account. Inadequate technique or excessive repetition of shoulder workouts can result in bursitis, rotator cuff tears, and shoulder impingement syndrome. It's crucial to follow the right form, start with lesser weights and build up to the desired intensity, pay attention to your body's limits, and refrain from overtraining.

Is it necessary to incorporate both compound and isolation exercises in my shoulder workout routine?

Yes, you should incorporate both isolation (like lateral raises) and complex (like shoulder presses) exercises into your shoulder workout. Several muscle groups are used in compound motions, which promote general strength and usefulness. Exercises that isolate particular shoulder muscles help to define the muscles and correct any imbalances that may exist. This combination guarantees a thorough approach to shoulder development, enhancing your training regimen's strength and appeal.

Should I still train my shoulders if I have a previous shoulder injury or discomfort?

It is contingent upon the type and extent of the damage. Seek advice from a medical practitioner or a physical therapist to identify suitable workouts and adjustments. Sometimes it helps to train with smaller weights and concentrate on exercises for recuperation.

What are some common mistakes to avoid while performing shoulder exercises?

It's important to avoid adding too much weight, keep good form, and avoid going too far with your range of motion. To further lower the risk of injury, avoid shrugging your shoulders when lifting and give careful motions priority.

How long does it typically take to see noticeable improvements in shoulder strength and size?

Although results can vary, continuous training, a healthy diet, and enough rest can provide noticeable gains in approximately 8 to 12 weeks. Individual characteristics, including heredity, training volume, and regimen adherence, also matter.

Should I consider using resistance bands or weights for shoulder exercises?

There are benefits to using weights and resistance bands alike. Weights offer constant resistance, while resistance bands offer variable tension to accommodate varying strengths. Combining the two can provide a comprehensive shoulder exercise.

Are there any specific stretches or warm-up exercises that can help prevent shoulder injuries?

Effective warm-ups include dynamic stretches like arm circles and rotator cuff movements. Make shoulder-specific stretches a priority. Gradually increase the intensity of the stretches to improve blood flow and flexibility, which lowers the chance of injury.

What are some alternative exercises for individuals with limited shoulder mobility?

Consider machine-based workouts, cable external rotations, or sitting lateral rises for individuals with restricted mobility. For shoulder health maintenance, concentrate on controlled motions within a pain-free range of motion.

How does proper form and technique affect the effectiveness of shoulder exercises?

Maintaining proper form is essential to preventing injuries and guaranteeing muscle activation. Exercises that are performed correctly target the targeted muscle areas and promote general strength and growth, maximizing their effectiveness. Maintaining good form consistently is essential for long-term development and injury prevention.


The ability to unlock Arnold's Delts Masterplan holds the key to altering your body shape and making a significant impact on the size of your deltoid for an iconic X-Frame Physique. Arnold Schwarzenegger's method of strategic planning stresses the importance of forming solid, well-rounded shoulders and balanced development of the front, side and rear deltoids. When it comes to bodybuilding, shoulders play an important role along with abdominals and calves, which form the basis of a great body.


The importance of individual training for each head of deltoid and the minimum of 15 sets in each session highlights Arnold's rigorous routine. For traps, he recommends the use of at least six exercises, with five sets for each. Arnold's guidance is applicable from beginner to advanced bodybuilders with an emphasis on addressing weaknesses and creating harmony, proportion and harmony.

Moving to pressing exercises, Arnold's wisdom shines through in the selection of four exercises, which includes the legendary Arnold Press. The emphasis on seated presses that have a broad grip will prevent arm lockout and enhance side deltoid involvement. Arnold's advice on the prevention of arm lockout in presses and ensuring the deltoids are in a constant state of tension echo the principles that lead to successful deltoid engagement.

In the lateral exercise, Arnold's commitment to focusing on precise movements that target the front, side and rear deltoids is evident. The importance of an exact form, as well as the full range of motion and a focus on the wrist, hand elbow, thumb, and hand positions, demonstrates the precise approach that has defined Arnold's career.


Arnold's Delts Masterplan encapsulates an exercise program and an overall philosophy that emphasizes consistency, a keen eye for details and an organized approach to eating. The quest for large cannonball delts and broad shoulders is a nod to Arnold's timeless wisdom and an ideal goal for anyone who is committed to the goal of achieving the highest quality in bodybuilding.

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