Craig Fingrutd: RKC, AKC, MKC
Izzy Barish: AKC
Presses are a tried and true exercise that are known to most people all over the world. The problem with the press is many people endanger themselves, specifically their shoulders when doing a press. This is more then a shoulder workout. The scapula, lat's, stomach, legs and gluts are all engaged. In fact try squeezing the opposite hand as you perform the press. This creates more overall body tension and tension is strength so the more tension you can create, the stronger you will be at that time. The first thing that is critical to not only the form but to prevent injury is to pack the shoulders. If you do not pack the shoulder then they are not protected and you increase the possibility of injury. Packing the shoulders is where you keep them pulled back and down. Keep them this way throughout the press, from beginning to end. Do not shrug the shoulder at any point in the press or come forward with the shoulders. If this is done correctly, when your arm is extended overhead there should be space between your head and your shoulder. When pressing do not tilt your head in any direction. Do not lean your body forward or backward when doing the press unless the technique specifically calls for it.
The force of the press should come from the scapula and lat not the shoulder by itself. Do not shrug the shoulder at any time, keep pulling down from the upper back but push the arm forward at the same time. It is a push and pull feeling. If you are working with a heavier then normal weight shift the hip more to the lifting side so your frame can carry more of the load. This engages more of the lat much deeper on your side from this position. In this position do not lean back. Keep the entire body tight. Keep your forearm vertical and not angled it away or towards your head. Keep the lat flexed. Squeeze the kettlebell tight as you press it out and keep the wrist straight. At the top of the lift lock out of the elbow. When lowering keep the shoulder still packed and pull down controlling more with the lat. Bring it back to the clean position and repeat.
Don't forget to use your breath. There are several breathing methods but the one we usually use is a matched breathing. We breath in right before we start the press, and slowly breath out as we are pressing up. Exhale on the way down as well. The only question is if you have time to take a breath at the top right before the downward exhalation. It depends on the speed you are moving, and your breathing but we usually take a breath at the top.
Press – BASIC TECHNIQUE Bent Press Side Press Bottom up Press Waiter Press Push Press Jerk Press Military Press Elbow Raise Graduated Press Press & Pause Yield Press Isometric Press See Saw Press Seated Floor Press Floor Press Bridge Press Seated Press Tree Press Sots Press Helping Hand Press
The Press starts standing with the kettlebell in the rack (Cleaned) position. Get the arm into this position by cleaning the kettlebell or using any number of other techniques. Take a breath of air in, then lock it down and start to exhale as you press the kettlebell up overhead until the elbow locks at the top. The arm should not come out to the side, but instead go up in an slightly elliptical arc. The elbow will rotate up and out with it pointing outside the body at the lock out position. The arm will rotate with the elbow and the base of your your palm will face forward at the extension. The arm should be pulled back in line from the ear to the biceps with space between the neck and the shoulder. Do not overextend your shoulder, keep it packed. To bring the kettlebell back down, take another breath in. Start to exhale and rotate the elbow inside and down while you actively pull the kettlebell down. Do not let arm fall into the rack instead pull the weight down with tension until the bell is back in the rack. The most important thing to remember is to keep the shoulder packed.
The Bent Press starts with the kettlebell held out to the side while the trunk of the body is pitched to the opposite side. The free arm can go behind your back, hang at the side or inside your body. Drop or bend down at the waist while extending the arm. Ideally the kettlebell will not move that much higher up from its starting position. Feel as if your body is falling away from the kettlebell while you extend your arm. Keep the shoulder pulled back and down. Stand up while the arm stays locked out. The feet should be 45 degrees to the opposite side of the bell. Also the feet do not have to be wide. This is not a windmill but it can be performed similarly. You can either put 90% of your weight on the back leg as in the windmill or more of a 50/50. Try both, see which you like better. To continue, pull the kettlebell down to the rack and move back into the starting position.
The position for the Side Press is similar to the Bent Press except the stance is wider, the free arm has the forearm leaning on the thigh and your weight is 50/50. Place emphasis on the lat's, oblique's and abs to protect the shoulders and assist the triceps. Push the weight up away from you. Lower the kettlebell slowly. The key is to put the weight on the lat's by flaring them during all the time while pressing. This is different then the bent press where you fall away from the weight. The Side Press pushes the weight away and lowers it back down from a static body position. Another variation is to be higher up in the body position. The free hand can be placed on the hip instead of low on the thigh.
The Bottom Up Press is performed the same as the Press except the kettlebell is in the bottom up position. This is one of the best techniques for developing hand and wrist strength. You will find the need to engage your lat more to help hold the bell steady. Keep the elbow tucked in in the starting position and close to the body. The proper handle and palm grip position is another critical factor in the balancing of the bell bottom up. The smaller the handle of the kettlebell the harder it will be to hold and control. Usually a smaller handle will be found on lighter bells but try them and see how much harder it is even with the reduction in weight.
The Push Press is performed the same as the Press except the initial movement is done with the legs by slightly bending the knees and driving up while straightening the legs. When bending at the knees, do not go too deep and do not bend forward at the waist. Straighten your legs driving up and let the force of power created in the upward momentum from the legs raise the kettlebell up from the rack position. Push with the movement of the body rising up until the elbow locks and the arm is in the same position as in the top position of the Press. This is a great technique to use when you get worn out pressing but want to continue to press. It is also used to work with heavier weights and gives you the initial push needed to get the bell started upwards.
The Jerk Press is a combination movement of the Push Press and a partial Over Head Squat. Before you can attempt this technique you have to be able to perform a Push Press with correct form. If you can not perform the Push Press do not attempt this technique. Start by performing the Push Press, but instead of locking out the knees at the top of the movement, drop back down by bending the knees before the arm locks out at the top. At the end of this position you are in a partial squat with the arm locked out in an over head press. To complete the movement, stand up while the arm is extended. The Jerk Press is an intricate technique, it is all about timing. The hardest part of the movement is the drop and press after the push press. This is an unnatural movement. The Jerk Press is one of the few presses that work both the legs and upper body.
The Military Press is what can be seen in almost any weight room and has been performing for decades. Personally we do not like the Military Press as your shoulder is not as protected as it could be and this can cause injury. That is why I let Iz perform this technique. I like my shoulders the way they are. From the rack position bring the arm out to a 90 degree position to the side of the body. Press the weight up and stop as your elbow locks out at the top of the movement. Return the weight along the same downward path. We suggest not overloading the weight as there is more weight pulling on the shoulder and it is not as stable as in the regular Press.
The Elbow Raise starts in the rack position. Lift the arm laterally to the side and up until the arm is parallel to the shoulder. Keep the kettlebell on the arm through the entire movement. After bringing the arm up to shoulder level then control the weight back to the rack position. This can be done with one or two bells in a variety of combinations.
The Graduated Press works as it's name suggests, to gradually press the weight up higher and higher, then back down lower and lower. Because you are holding the kettlebell for an extended period of time you will work your muscles harder then most of the other presses. Start from a rack position and use any one of the press techniques from the regular, military, bottom up, waiter, etc. Press the kettlebell 1/4 of the way up and then return to the rack position but do not lose any tension in the arm. Immediately press with the same arm bringing the bell 1/2 of the way up and then return to the rack. Continue to the 3/4 position and finally all the way up. Now it is time to perform the negative part of this press. Starting from the top, go 1/4 way down, then back up to the top. Next go 1/2 the way down then to the top. Continue to the 3/4 and finally back to the rack position. The number of levels up and down can be varied. This can be done one arm at a time, power, or one in a static anchor position. Mix and match the sides you work on. This is meant to be done at a rather slow pace so keep it smooth and controlled throughout the movement.
The Press and Pause might appear to be the same as the Graduated Press but this press adds a partial isometric as you stop the motion of the kettlebell and hold it statically, then continue to press and hold along the way. The pause can be performed at any number of different positions on both the positive and/or the negative part of the press. This added static hold at different intervals will increase both strength and endurance. This can be done with almost any press technique. Perform the Press and Pause at a rather slow but steady pace. The breathing is critical in the movements. If you run out of breath as you are slowly exhaling as you press and pause take a quick in breath and continue. Do not take it to the point of becoming light headed. If you do, stop immediately.
The Yield Press is a negative press where the emphasis is on the lowering of the kettlebell. Start by putting the kettlebell overhead with a Push Press or any other technique you prefer to use. Take an in breath then start to let air out slowly as the bell comes down. Squeeze the handle, engage the lat and scapula and slowly let it down by yielding to the weight until it is in the rack position. This is a little different then the normal active pull down that is done in most other pressing. Think of it as if you are not pulling the weight down but as if it is pushing you down, and you are trying to slow its decent. This is a good technique to work with a heavier weight. By working on the negative this will improve your positive and you will be able to eventually put up more weight on the other presses. If the kettlebell cannot be lowered with absolute control use a lighter weight.
The Isometric Press is exactly the same as a Press with emphasis on extreme tension throughout the press. The word Isometric in the name of this press is a misnomer as it is really a super slow press integrated with extreme overall body tension along with forceful yet slow exhalation of breath. Start by taking a deep breath, then squeeze your core especially your lower abs and exhale with power letting the air slowly squeeze out. Perform this very slowly with tension coursing throughout your body as you press the kettlebell up. Time it so you are finished exhaling at the very top of the press. Take another deep breath in and start to exhale as you once again repeat the same form bringing the weight down. You should only take 2 breaths in this technique, one at the start and one at the top. Always gripping the handle with tension and tightening every muscle of the body with emphasis on the pressing muscles. Do not do a lot of repetitions as it is very tiring for the muscles and you can pass out if you let your breathing rise above your neck, so be careful. This is an excellent technique generating better and stronger breathing along with overall strength throughout the body so incorporate at least one workout per week.
The See Saw Press uses two kettlebell's at the same time where as one is pressing up the while the other is pressing down. Start with one kettlebell overhead already pressed out to the top position and the other held in the rack position. Press the one in the rack up and bring down the one overhead until they are in reverse positions. Both arms are moving at the same time.This can be performed a few ways. You can stand statically without moving your torso, or you can have a slight lean as you press up on that side.
The Seated Floor Press is exactly as the name states, sit on the floor and perform a press. Pay strict attention to the core muscles of the abdomen, hips and back. Before you start with a kettlebell, sit up and forward with a straight back by putting your hands directly behind your sides and push out of your lower back moving forward. This might feel uncomfortable at first but most people lean back too far when doing this press and you can injury your back, shoulder or elbow. This prep movement helps you maintain the same feeling in the lower body. The other key point is to keep the gluteus tightened up throughout this movement. If you relax the gluteus you will not have enough strength to stay strong with this movement causing possible lower back injury. The easiest and safest way to get the bell off the floor is to place the bell between your legs with the hand palm up in the handle. Tilting the bell toward you and bring the free hand in front of the bottom edge of the ball that is now tilted up. Pick the bell up with both hands until the bell is in the rack position then remove the free hand. Your free hand can be in several positions. Some people start to fall backwards because they are not flexible enough to sit on the floor with their back straight. If this is you, grab the inside or outside of your knee. This will help keep you up. Begin to press the kettlebell and keep tension with the entire lower body, especially keep out of the lower back by squeezing with your gluteus. If you lose the lower back, stop immediately, put the weight down, regain your position and try again. Perform this with two bells or other types of presses such as bottom up or waiter press.
The Floor Press is the same as a bench press but done from the floor. Be sure to keep the lower back flat to the floor by pulling the abdomen in as though a string was attached to the floor and your abdomen. As you pull down the abdomen this pulls the lower back tighter to the floor. Another way to keep the back flat and safe is to bend your knees placing your feet flat on the floor. As always one or two bells is used. You can also see saw the press.
A Bridge Press combines a bridge with a press. Use the same starting technique as a Floor Press with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor instead of legs straight out. Before pressing the bells lift your hips straight up by contracting your gluteus and pressing through your feet. This will put you in a bridge position. Make sure there is no pressure on the neck as the shoulders should take the weight of the upper body and the feet take the rest of the weight. This will challenge your entire body as you need to stay as rigid through the entire movement. During the press emphasis should be placed on keeping the hips up through tension of the gluteus and legs. A variation of this press is done by extending one leg up while doing the press. Keep the body level when doing this variation. Do not twist to either side and do not break in the middle of your lower back.
The Seated Press is exactly the same as a basic Press except it is done from a seated position. Once again stay out of the lower back when pressing by squeezing the gluteus and keeping the core tight through out the press. The Seated Press is more difficult then the Press because you lose most of the strength of the lower body. Try it and you will see what we mean.
The Tree Press is the same as the Press except it is performed from a one legged stance. The other anchoring leg can be in several positions, either as well as attached to the leg or hanging freely from the body. Try this with the standing leg on both the same and opposite sides of the kettlebell as well as with two kettlebell's.
Sots pressing is not for a beginner. The Sots press is a press performed from the squat position. The Sots press is a fairly recent (as far as these things go) exercise, named after great Russian weightlifter Viktor Sots. Squat with the bell or bells in the rack position. From the squatted position perform and overhead press. This technique should not be attempted till you have a firm foundation of both the Squat and the Press. Many factors come into play for this to be done safely. The packing of the shoulders through the entire movement, keeping out of your lower back, staying flat on both feet and not bending forward are all integral to the technique. Start with a lighter weight then normal to get the feel of how your body has to stay cored up so there is no injury from this press. There are many variations of this press. You might find that when working with only one kettlebell you lean inside when pressing up. This is normal. It can be done with the lean or without as you can see in the pictures below.
As the name says Helping Hand Press is just that, a press where your other hand helps out. This is excellent when you are working on getting to the next higher weight but do not have enough strength to get it up with one hand. The helping hand can hold the ball of the bell or the handle to assist the lift.