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7-Time Olympia Arnold Schwarzenegger Debunks the Long-Standing Myth About Behind-the-Neck Shoulder Press

Radha Iyer

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Over the years, Arnold Schwarzenegger made his presence in the fitness world known not only because of his bodybuilding pursuits but also his ability to play around in the gym. Having the Gold’s Gym membership as a gift ever since his humble beginnings, he would make full use of his resources by training through trial and error.

On some of these experimental adventures, Schwarzenegger had successfully made up his own twist to the standard dumbbell press, calling it the Arnold Press. He also discovered a new method of shoulder press that he recently spoke about in his newsletter.

Shoulder presses may seem like a workout staple that strengthens the shoulders and the upper back by working on those muscles. However, Schwarzenegger practised a unique, almost dangerous-looking modification of the exercise that he assured was okay to perform.

The way he did it was to take the weight behind his head to get a deeper press and perform some limited-range reps there. This might have freaked out gym-goers and fitness enthusiasts, but to Schwarzenegger, this was necessary for a certain set of muscles he wanted to hit.

“He routinely pressed the weight behind his head in a seemingly dangerous movement. But, it wasn’t done to be risky — it was done with growth on the mind.”

In a similar Instagram post by the Arnold’s Pump Club page, they pointed out how the seven-time Mr. Olympia wasn’t the only one to perform shoulder presses behind the head. Many golden-era bodybuilders felt that the modified version helped them get a good pump for their shoulders.

“Arnold, Franco, and many other golden-age bodybuilders did the behind-the-neck press regularly…However, it appears the past generation wasn’t as misled or misguided as you might think.”

Schwarzenegger knew that real-life examples weren’t enough for people to experiment around in their gyms to see what worked for them. Therefore, he also backed up his claims with some scientific studies in his newsletter.

The science behind the unique shoulder press that Arnold Schwarzenegger swore by

A study on a form of resistance training suggested how behind-the-neck shoulder presses hit more muscle fibers in the shoulders compared to the standard technique. This gave the golden era bodybuilders the ‘popped shoulder’ look that they desired.

As for safety concerns, there’s always a certain risk associated with any kind of exercise one performs. As long as one had sufficient shoulder mobility and a good range of motion with their shoulders, Schwarzenegger felt it was okay to perform shoulder presses behind one’s neck. One could also attempt the exercise after improving their shoulder mobility to see if they could get a good pump. As Schwarzenegger always says, the gym should be a lab where fitness enthusiasts experiment and curate.

About the author

Radha Iyer

Radha Iyer


Radha Iyer is a US Sports writer at The SportsRush. With a Master's degree in Media and Communication, and a background in content creation and production, sports journalism has been a part and parcel of her demonstrated history in the said field. Olympic sports hold a special place in her heart, and she is particularly interested in sports like track and field, gymnastics, and swimming. She also draws inspiration from legendary athletes like Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Simone Biles, and many more.

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