Kettlebell Overhead Press

Elaine Sutton
• Monday, 28 December, 2020
• 10 min read

The kettlebellpress or military press can transform your upper body making it look, feel and perform at its peak. Let’s delve deeper into this important kettlebelloverheadpress exercise and understand why and how it should be used for maximum results.

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(Source: breakingmuscle.com)


When performed correctly the kettlebellpress lights up almost all the muscles in your body. Good overhead pressing also demands perfect alignment throughout the body from head to toe in order to produce a strong and stable base of support.

However, the main muscles that do most of the heavy lifting are the shoulders (deltoid) and the back (latissimus Doris & trapezium) and the arms (triceps). The legs and even the toes can be activated when pressing challenging and heavy loads.

Shoulder and upper back mobility is very important when pressing overhead. If you lack the movement necessary in the upper back or shoulders to extend the arm directly overhead then compensations must be made further down the body in order to maintain correct alignment.

The human body is strongest when all the joints are stacked in good alignment one on top of the next. Squeezing the handle of the kettle bell, clenching your other hand into a fist, clamping your buttocks together and locking your legs straight.

The act of ‘ getting tight ‘ will cause as many muscles as possible to activate and through the process of irradiation transfer the strength throughout your body. Basically the body conserves valuable energy by only using the muscles it needs to in order to perform a movement.

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(Source: www.bodybuilding.com)

By getting tight your can ‘ up regulate ‘ your muscle activation and become much stronger in your movements. When you hold a kettlebelloverhead it challenges your smaller endurance based stabilizing muscles.

Use the following 4 overheadkettlebell stabilizing exercises in order to strengthen your muscles in preparation for your heavy lifting later. Simplest kettlebelloverhead stabilizing exercise is just to hold a kettle bell straight overhead for up to 60 seconds.

Finally, you can move on to the kettlebelloverhead warm up that involves a little more movement while the kettle bell is held straight overhead. Practice : Holding, Walking or Performing the Overhead Warm Up for 60 seconds non-stop is the ultimate goal.

The kettle bell windmill takes the kettlebelloverhead hold to the next level adding in more shoulder and hip mobility. The shoulder will be challenged from all angles as you stand up and then lay back down again all while keeping the arm locked.

Beginners should practice without a kettle bell before slowly adding load to the exercise. The kettle bell bottoms up clean is a fun exercises that will help correct shoulder and arm alignment issues.

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(Source: functionalalexch.blogspot.com)

I talked earlier about the importance of stacking joints when load is added in order to gain strength, the bottoms up clean helps you naturally develop this skill. As the kettle bell is cleaned to the racked position the handle is pointing downwards and the weight balanced above it.

You will need to keep your shoulder and arm in the correct position in order to maintain balance of the kettle bell. Practice : use as a nice warm up performing 6-8 repetitions holding in the balanced position for as long as possible.

Once you have developed good overhead holding stabilization then you will have a strong base for general kettlebelloverhead pressing. The half kneeling kettlebellpress will not only challenge your pressing strength but also your core stability.

Do not allow your hips to rotate backwards and for your midsection to fall forwards, stay upright. The kettle bell tall kneeling press isolates the upper body by taking away your base of support.

Keep the buttocks and abs pinched nice and tight throughout the full movement. The classic standing kettlebellpress or military press takes the kettle bell from the racked position and overhead.

kettlebell arm single overhead press squat
(Source: www.youtube.com)

Engage the Lats by tensing the armpit as you press Make sure the forearm is vertical as you press Keep the shoulder down away from your ear and back in its socket Squeeze the whole body to create tension Push away from the floor Use your breath by inhaling first, then forcing air out through tight lips as if letting air out of a balloon Lock the arm at the top with the shoulder away from the ear Ensure that the kettle bell is vertically overhead and not in front or behind the head Actively pull the weight down slowly and with control The hardest part of the KB strict press is taking the kettle bell from the racked position and moving it the first 12 inches.

The kettle bell push press does not involve much work from the legs just a slight knee bend and then a sharp snap of the hips. First you use a slight push press to begin the momentum of the kettle bell moving upwards before dropping for a second time underneath the kettle bell and driving upwards with a straight arm.

You will need excellent body and arm alignment in order to press the kettlebelloverhead from the bottoms up position. Maintain a strong grip throughout the exercise and always be prepared to get out of the way if the kettle bell flips over.

You will need good upper back and shoulder mobility in order to complete this exercise. At the bottom of the squat press the kettlebelloverhead and then return it to the racked position before standing up.

If you struggle with good squatting technique or have mobility issues then this exercises is going to be a real challenge for you. One of the simplest and most common ways to incorporate the overhead press is to add it to the kettle bell clean.

kettlebell press squat overhead muscles hit workout goblet move major fitness
(Source: besthealthtale.com)

Make sure to complete the clean correctly and rack the kettle bell securely before moving into the shoulder press. From a deep squat you use your momentum on the upward part of the movement to help push the kettlebelloverhead.

You can think of the exercise as an even more exaggerated type of push press with a full squat at the bottom. If you can perform nice deep smooth reverse kettle bell lunges then adding a press to the exercise will ramp up the muscle activation.

Make sure you keep the arm tucked nice and tight to the body during the lunge to save exhausting the shoulder prematurely. The back knee should kiss or get very close to the floor in order to activate the buttock muscles fully, do not cheat the movement just to get in the overhead press.

Practice : work up to 12 repetitions on each side for a full body and cardio based workout You will need good core stability and cardio in order to perform a number of quality repetitions.

The format of this strength workout is simple just alternate sides adding 1 extra repetition to the total each round. You don’t need to rush between sides, take your time so you are fully switched on for every repetition.

kettlebell press military arm shoulder muscles benefits form technique seated workout proper forms stability borntoworkout
(Source: www.borntoworkout.com)

As you get stronger and can manage all 5 repetitions without using the push press then add a second set starting at 1 and increasing to 5 again. There are 7 overheadkettlebell pressing exercises for you to practice some will help you pop the kettle bell out of the racked position easier than others.

Finally, when you have mastered the overheadkettlebellpress there are 5 kettle bell combination pressing exercises that you can use to really ramp up the cardio and full body muscle engagement. Much like we went over in the dead lift and squat, the overhead press is a great movement to build strength and it complements well with the kettle bell.

Traditionally the overhead press is done with a barbell or dumbbells; however, the kettle bell can provide a different, and even advantageous, way to get the most benefit out of the exercise. Most overhead pressing variations with the kettle bell start from the rack position which we discussed in our hard style squat series.

The kettle bells can be supported neatly and close to the body making it much more comfortable to rest in the rack position. With the barbell, where the hands and arms are fixed, it is nearly impossible to slightly adjust the path of the weight overhead to compensate for shoulder mobility limitations.

For pressing success it’s important to start with a good rack position and ground connection. Doug Farinelli is the owner of Rise Above Performance Training demonstrates the OverheadPress Set up in an athletic stance with the kettle bell in the racked position where the handle sits low on the hand, wrist is straight and the bell close to the body resting in the pocket.

kettlebell press overhead forearms exercise kettle bell shoulder muscles master exercises clean rack variations form position dumbbell tips carry wide
(Source: www.coachmag.co.uk)

Overhead pressing does require a good amount of shoulder mobility and stability to achieve success in the lift and with our daily lives constantly pulling us forward, this might be a struggle. In the single kettlebelloverheadpress there can be a little wiggle room within the technique to help find the most efficient pathway for the bell to travel overhead.

Moving the two bells simultaneously does not allow for much compensation in the surrounding joints which is why I feel the technique used to carry out this lift is so important to its success. A fun variation using two bells is to press one while completely resting the other in the rack position and then switching between sides.

I have seen the strongest of people traditionally press a lot of weight be completely humbled by this variation. In the push press use a slight knee dip and drive up with the hips; this will create upward momentum where you can actually bump the kettle upward off the chest to get the bell moving in the desired direction towards the strict lockout at the top where the hips and knees are straight at the finish.

In the jerk the initial motion of the knee and hip dip is essentially the same as in the push press however the goal is not the strict lockout immediately following the leg movement. In the jerk the bell is only moving upward with momentum ever so slightly and the body drops underneath it allowing for a strong squat to complete the repetition.

You now have all the tools needed to perform a proper kettlebelloverheadpress and numerous variations to make your shoulders strong and resilient to injuries. Below I’ve listed 7 kettle bell exercises for you to use to improve you shoulders resilience.

kettlebell bell kettle lunge press leg swing workout exercises drive overhead lunges fitness legs does benefits quick weight arms alternating
(Source: wwws.fitnessrepublic.com)

If you want to develop strength and power without the worry of injury then you need to progress your shoulder exercises correctly. For example, the rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder can be considered stabilizers whereas the deltoid are the prime movers.

Once you have developed a strong framework with the stabilizers you can then progress on to the dynamic overhead exercises. As mentioned previously you need to go through a progressive conditioning process that focuses on the shoulder stabilizing muscles.

Hold a kettlebelloverhead with your wrist straight, elbow locked out, and shoulder back and down in its socket. The second progression involves taking a walk with the kettle bell held overhead.

The kettlebelloverhead warm up takes the overhead static holding position to the next level and adds further stabilization demands. The same holding technique applies to all overhead exercises, locked out elbow, straight wrist and shoulder down and away from the ears.

Keep your core braced and tight through the complete exercise and prevent your lower back from overarching backwards. Mix up the sequence so you change which legs are used to stand up from the tall kneeling position.

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(Source: www.pinterest.com)

Unlike the two static kettle bell holding exercises listed above the windmill works the shoulders through a rotational movement. The shoulder stabilizers have to work hard as the arm stays vertical and the body is rotated underneath the kettle bell.

Push your hips backwards as you load the hamstrings and reach down following the line of your front leg. The overheadkettlebell squat is a challenging exercise that requires good upper back mobility.

Brace your core muscles tightly to prevent an overarching in the lower back. If you find your body is falling forwards when you don’t have the same issue when performing the goblet squat, then your upper back (thoracic spine) is the reason why.

It is important to realize that although the shoulder needs to be mobile you don’t want it to be hyper-mobile to compensate for a tight upper back. If you can’t perform the overhead squat work on your upper back mobility on a daily basis.

The kettlebelloverhead lunge will challenge your shoulder stabilizers while at the same time strengthen your legs, core and buttocks. Holding a kettlebelloverhead will shift your center of balance and increase the demand on your core muscles.

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(Source: www.shape.com)

As with all overhead exercises the arm should remain locked out, the wrist straight and shoulders away from the ears. Static Hold Workout : master the lunge first and then progress to 12 reps on each side.

Practitioners of the Turkish get up will achieve strong shoulder stabilization in all positions as well as a more functional core and improved mobility. Beginners should start with the half Turkish get up which involves moving from the lying position to sitting with the kettlebelloverhead.

You can work through several repetitions of the half get up on each side before progressing to the standing part of the exercise. As with all these overhead exercises a straight wrist, locked out arm and shoulder kept back and down is vital.

The kettle bell straight arm sit is a demanding core exercise that also works the shoulder stabilizers from horizontal to vertical. You can use the kettle bell to assist in the hardest part of the exercise by angling the arm slightly in front of vertical as you start to sit up.

Lower from the top position back to the floor slowly over 3 seconds resisting the pull of gravity. Static Hold Workout : progress to 10 repetitions on both sides with a 3 second lower for each rep.

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(Source: www.youtube.com)

Always remember to never press overhead what you cannot hold overhead and you will have strong and healthy shoulders for many years to come.

Other Articles You Might Be Interested In

01: Starting Kettlebell Weight For Men
02: Deadlift Kettlebell Workout For Butt
03: Tips For Kettlebell Swing
1 www.mensjournal.com - https://www.mensjournal.com/health-fitness/5-tips-perfect-kettlebell-swing/
2 www.menshealth.com - https://www.menshealth.com/fitness/a29687821/kettlebell-swing-mistakes/
3 www.stack.com - https://www.stack.com/a/proper-kettlebell-swing-form-a-step-by-step-guide
4 www.t-nation.com - https://www.t-nation.com/training/tip-two-tricks-for-a-better-kettlebell-swing