I’ll explain this movement’s unique distinctions so you can discover the key benefits, as I have. First, we need to address the prevalence of shoulder injuries with resistance exercise in general.
Soft tissue injuries (injuries to the rotator cuff, biceps tendon, and PEC major), acromioclavicular disorders, instability, dislocations, mobility restrictions, and nerve injuries can occur with strength training and have been reported in research on resistance exercise. However, the vast majority of strength-training related injuries can be avoided by focusing on proper techniques, improving muscle imbalances, maintaining or improving shoulder joint mobility, and avoiding stressful joint positions such as the high-five position (we’ll discuss this momentarily).
The kettle bell rack is a more optimal resting or starting position to press from. Finally, when pressing with the kettle bell, you are free to move and adjust the plane of motion, which is not as restrictive as with the barbell.
Believe me, I love overhead pressing with a barbell, but it is different from the more natural movement you can perform with the kettle bell. The plane of the scapula (POS) is the normal resting position of the scapula on the posterior aspect of the rib cage (the shoulder blade resting on the back of the ribs).
The scapula (shoulder blade) sits in a position that is approximately 30 to 45 degrees anterior to the frontal plane. In other words, your shoulder is in an optimal position when you raise your arm (or in this case, perform a press).
The natural resting position of the scapula, which is 30 to 45 degrees anterior to the frontal plane. Soft tissue injuries, such as PEC major ruptures, have been reported to occur most often in the high-five position.
This position also stresses other anterior structures and the capsule in the shoulder joint. You use full-body tension to increase stability between the ground and the kettle bell (or any other tool) to generate more force production.
Once again, you can certainly “wedge” with a barbell or a dumbbell, but the shape and design of the kettle bell make it different from the other tools. If you try this and compare the feeling between a dumbbell and a kettle bell, you’ll see exactly what I mean.
This small difference enables a stronger and more efficient overhead press. The tool design, the natural movement in the plane of the scapula, and the wedging effect make the kettlebellpress a unique variation.
You can do anything you want, but it’s a lot more comfortable and efficient to press with a kettle bell compared to other tools. M. Older, et al. Shoulder Injuries Attributed To Resistance Training: A Brief Review,” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, June 2010, Volume 24, No 6, pp.
Martin Kelly and William Clark, Orthopedic Therapy of the Shoulder. Scott Marcella, MPT, CSS, SFG II, NFL, ISSN, Saw, CA CWC.
With over thirty years of unique experiences, he currently coaches kettle bell and Weightlifting techniques to small groups in South Florida. The kettlebellpress is a popular workout technique used to strengthen and build muscle in your deltoid, upper pectorals, and triceps.
Every well-balanced training program should incorporate an overhead press in some manner, and kettle bells are a great piece of equipment to utilize in your workout. Watch as Kettle bell Kings trainer Mike Salem and our good friend Justin Andrews from Mind Pump Media break down the essentials for a high-quality kettlebellpress.
In their training experience, Mike and Justin have seen a number of people fail to maximize the use of their muscles and put themselves at risk by using the incorrect form. Justin notes that some bodybuilders perform a “half- press,” in which the arm is only half-extended above the head, in an attempt to better isolate certain muscles, but this variation is not necessary and may even be less effective overall.
By utilizing the correct form for your press, you not only work these muscle groups but you also generate a safer movement that reduces the risk of injury. Although this is the standard position, you also have a range of angles you can place your arm in that isolate different parts of the upper body and allow you to perform more repetitions.
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 kettle bell overhead press exercise and understand why and how it should be used for maximum results.
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.
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.
When you press a kettle bell overhead you can increase your overall strength by activating as many muscles as possible. 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.
When you hold a kettle bell overhead it challenges your smaller endurance based stabilizing muscles. Use the following 4 overhead kettle bell stabilizing exercises in order to strengthen your muscles in preparation for your heavy lifting later.
Practice : Holding, Walking or Performing the Overhead Warm Up for 60 seconds non-stop is the ultimate goal. Practice : 5 repetitions on each side is enough as the exercise is performed slowly and deliberately.
The shoulder will be challenged from all angles as you stand up and then lay back down again all while keeping the arm locked. The kettle bell bottoms up clean is a fun exercises that will help correct shoulder and arm alignment issues.
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.
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.
Do not let the hips slowly track backwards as you progress through your repetitions. The classic standing kettlebellpress or military press takes the kettle bell from the racked position and overhead.
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. Once the kettle bell is moving upwards you can then use the momentum to help with the rest of the overhead press.
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 kettle bell overhead 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 kettle bell overhead 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. 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 kettle bell overhead. You can think of the exercise as an even more exaggerated type of push press with a full squat at the bottom.
Practice : 10 continuous repetitions on each side will really get your heart rate racing. 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 Drive up from the bottom position using the momentum to press the kettle bell overhead.
You will need good core stability and cardio in order to perform a number of quality repetitions. Keeping the legs straight sit up and press the kettle bell overhead.
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.
If you find the last few repetitions too difficult then use the push press to finish off the reps. 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.
Finally, when you have mastered the overhead kettlebellpress 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 Overhead Press 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.
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. A little rotation in the shoulders, hips and even the torso can help the stubborn bell reach the top of the mountain.
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.
Pavel Tsatsouline wrote in Enter the Kettle bell that, “…if you work your overhead presses hard, you will hardly need to do anything else for your upper body.” Looking at the Herculean torsos and shoulders of the strongmen of yesteryear it would seem to be correct. The kettlebellpress is unlike a normal barbell or dumbbell press.
With the weight of the bell resting against the back of your arm, a kettle bell is always trying to pull you out of your groove and into a potentially dangerous position. I’ve always thought of this as a two-for-one bonus deal kind of thing because it means when I press a kettle bell I am getting a great shoulder stability workout as my rotator cuff has to work overtime to counteract these forces.
So step one in a successful heavy press is a solid and consistent clean. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make as they bell arrives in the rack is to let it knock some air out of them.
Letting your forearm go out of vertical increases the torque at the shoulder if it goes backwards or causes your arm to be caved in by the bell lying on top of it. Because of the need to keep the forearm vertical the upper arm needs to open out a bit to allow this to happen.
But all of a sudden we get to the press, and they revert to their inner bodybuilder and think it’s a shoulder exercise. Imagine trying to suck your shoulder blade on the working side down into the opposite hip pocket and keeping it there during the duration of the press.
When trying to get my groove, particularly with a new bell, bigger than one I’ve been used to training with, I like to perform a bottoms up press with an appropriate sized bell that makes a single rep difficult. I find this reminds me of good mechanics and how to develop tension.
After a short break I go straight to my new bell and try to get that same feeling of tension and alignment. The single rep gives you a high level of neural activation and actually makes completing a set of five immediately after easier, allowing you to use a heavier weight which in turn leads to more strength and muscle gain.
If you follow the drills above and take your time you’ll build a strong press and an upper body to make Sand ow jealous. Up until 45 years ago, the overhead military press was actually the third event in Olympic weightlifting, along with the snatch and the clean and jerk.
The military press was considered the main yardstick for measuring strength. They didn’t even know what the rotator cuff was, and, in fact, there is no mention of it in the kinesiology textbooks of that time.
In the bench press, the shoulder blades are locked in an abducted and depressed position, which inhibits the action of the serrated anterior muscle. This is because the serrated anterior muscle is responsible for the protraction, as well as the rotation and elevation, of the scapula, which is exactly the opposite of what happens during the execution of the bench press.
Not surprisingly, the serrated anterior muscle is activated when the shoulder blades can move freely during the overhead press movements. Our goal is to become strong in an absolute sense, and remain so for a long time.
Rather, you are really strong when your strength can be useful in a variety of endeavors, it protects you from injuries, and it allows you to do what you like, for a long time. The kettle bell pressed overhead from the rack position helps the shoulders to stay packed and move according to optimal biomechanics.
This enables an optimal lockout overhead, and thereby helps to develop strong and healthy shoulders. In deeply studying the kettle bell military press, I have concluded that it represents an excellent choice when it comes to transfer to the bench press, as it allows the practitioner to cover the entire range of motion of an overhead press, and it involves in totality, thanks to the lockout, the muscles of the upper back, including the para-scapular muscles and those of the rotator cuff.
This is totally different from what happens with dumbbells and offers unique advantages in regard to the joint’s health. A sample of ten athletes participated in the study, some of them students of the University of Rome “For Italics,” Sums.
The subjects, all coming from the world of strength, were instructed by me until they could perform a strict military press for 5-8 reps with a given kettle bell size. By strict, I mean a modality that meets all the SFG standards of the military press.
The press program that the subjects followed involved rep ladders, with a volume that increased every week. By the fifth week, during the heavy session, they had to perform a total of 150 military presses.
In fact, as we all know, the meaning of life is press heavy weights overhead,” right? We must feel good, be happy, and continue to cultivate our passions in a healthy environment.
Enjoying our time practicing our kettle bell military press is one way to achieve these objectives. If you are around online forums, social media, and fitness blogs, you may have heard this: “Yeah, who doesn’t need a he...
Gilda Flaming is an SFG Level I Instructor and a powerlifting athlete with the Form Club Team of Mona. She is a former professional swimmer and distance runner, and is a member of the Italian law enforcement.
She has trained with the greatest athletes in swimming and distance running, and she now studies strength in all its forms. Additionally, it is a great exercise to reinforce proper scapular control and tension to aid in injury prevention of the shoulders during most pressing movements.
The Z Press starting position can be performed in a power rack with a barbell or flat ground with dumbbells or kettle bells. Form Tip: Spend 5-10 extra minutes stretching and opening the hip before performing the Z Press, even if you already feel warmed-up.
The elbows should remain under the wrists in the press, and when locking out, the arms should be fully extended, with the head coming through the “hole” at the top. The body will more than likely want to press with the weight slightly in front of it to build better balance, but this should be resisted by maintaining core tightness.
Form Tip: If you’re falling forwards or backward during the Z Press, then more than likely, your bar path may be wonky. Once you’ve locked out the weight overhead, you’ll bring down the press with control, so the core remains upright through the whole range of motion.
If you find that you’re wavering and losing balance during the descent, then try to slow your tempo, as this can help clean up the bar path. For example, if the hips are aching or tightening, then more than likely, this is an area that requires a little extra work for Z Pressing with ease.
The Z press leaves very little margin for error when taking a load from the chest to the overhead position. By performing Z presses, the lifter cannot excessively lean backward, fall forward onto toes, or use any leg and hip dip to help gain momentum.
Be sure to continually practice the press, maintaining smooth and full control at the tip of the lift, and stay as upright as possible. The shoulders, primarily the anterior (front) head of the deltoid, are responsible for most of the force to press the loads overhead.
The lat muscles are used isometrically to help maintain an upright posture and the stability necessary to press and support loads overhead. The obliques and rectus abdominal work to anteriorly compress the rib cage during all phases of the Z press.
The erector spinal contracts to maintain the lower back’s rigidity during the pressing and overhead aspect of this movement. Below, we’ve included three types of athletes who can benefit from the Z Press for specific reasons.
Strength athletes like powerlifters, strongman competitors, and weightlifters can all benefit by performing the Z Press. All of these athletes can gain shoulder/core strength and hypertrophy with the Z Press, which is key for success in each of their respective sports.
Powerlifters: Great for improving hip mobility, which can be an issue for many athletes during heavy squats. Weightlifters: Fantastic movement for improving hip mobility/strength and increasing the ability to maintain an upright torso with a strong core, which is a fundamental aspect of the snatch and clean and jerk.
Still, it’s also great to use for improving muscular endurance capacity, which is a vital characteristic of successful functional fitness athletes. Second, it can help build a strong foundation of core strength and hip mobility, which are two keys that can translate to longevity in the gym.
Andy Gin/Shutterstock Z presses are a great way to prime overhead movements like jerks and push presses or reinforce proper torso alignment and rigidity for moves like overhead squats and front squats. Do two to three sets of five to 10 reps with a light to moderate load, working on control and movement coordination.
The important thing here is never to lose tension in the core and really focus on keeping the rib cage tucked in and down to allow for maximal recruitment and assistance from the obliques and rectus abdominal for added structural stability. You can mix in tempos and overloading principles like drop sets or supersets (with other shoulder/back movements) to enhance muscle growth further.
Some lifters may want to train greater muscle endurance (mainly for sport), in which higher repetition ranges and/or shorter rest periods are recommended. However, it can more easily be performed in a way that compromises core strength and posture (for example, many lifters will hit a sticking point and flare the ribs cage).
Kettle bells dangle lower than dumbbells when held, and this off-centered load creates an added stability challenge. However, the lifter performs a strict overhead press while at the bottom of the front squat.
This is a great movement to reinforce stability in the bottom of the squat while simultaneously promoting proper overhead mechanics and postural strength. While we always suggested you refer to your doctor and medical professional for questions like this, it is often advisable for individuals with poor pressing mechanics to use the z press to strengthen the upper back and learn to promote overhead strength without sacrificing the stability of the core and upper back.
If you experience pain, however, you either need to use lighter weights or stop performing this movement and consult a trained professional.