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.
This is perhaps the single most important point and key distinction of the kettle bell press. 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. This small difference enables a stronger and more efficient overhead press.
These are the three key distinctions of the kettle bell press based on my own observations and experience. The tool design, the natural movement in the plane of the scapula, and the wedging effect make the kettle bell press 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 kettle bell press 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. 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.
In the video, you will note that Mike demonstrates two different pressing angles that he recommends, which allows the kettle bell to remain stable throughout the movement. 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.
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 kettle bell press 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. There are a great many kettle bell shoulder press variations for you to practice adding to your workouts in order for you to keep things interesting.
Activates most of the muscles in the body when performed correctly Improves overhead strength for daily tasks Develops better alignment throughout the body Increases cardio due to the heart having to work harder to pump blood to the top hand Conditions the shoulders and upper body Adds variety and spice to existing workouts and combinations 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.
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.
By getting tight your can ‘ up regulate ‘ your muscle activation and become much stronger in your movements. 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.
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.
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.
Keep one knee on the floor in the lunge position as you press overhead. 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.
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. An excellent full body and cardio based kettle bell exercise.
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. So how did the early fathers of strength — men like Sand ow, Hackenschmidt, and Saxon — build such impressive upper bodies?
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. 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. Imagine someone trying to knock you over as they walk past — tense your body the exact same way.
In this position — a standing plank — you will be tight with legs locked, abs and glutes switched on, and body rigid. 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. It’s always funny to me that people understand that swings are a whole body exercise.
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.