Bulletproof Your Shoulder - Kettlebell Press 101

By Coach Matt

Over the past year and half I’ve spent some time with my kettlebell, and without a doubt have seen some changes, both to my strength and my physique. I’ve learned many different skills, but always return to one that, just put simply, keeps me happy.

Coach Matt Comparison Photo

To me, pure happiness can be expressed through a well executed kettlebell press. The kettlebell press is an exercise all it’s own, requiring total tension through the body and more muscle engagement through the entire shoulder than I’ve seen. Over the past year, I’ve been able to take my press from 44 pounds to 106 pounds. That’s an increase of 240%! Something that just doesn’t make any sense, and I’ve been fortunate to see the carryover into my barbell movements, especially my standing military press.

Racking the Kettlebell:

The kettlebell press is unlike any. To start, you must get comfortable holding a bell in the rack position. Using both hands, you may place the bell into the rack. When there, the bell rests primarily against the forearm, resting parallel to the callouses in the hand. The hand is about clavicle height, and the arm is against your ribcage, instead of flaring out.

From here, you press the bell. While this seems simple, there are a couple of things to keep in mind before the bell even moves.

Tension:

Your body should be in a virtual plank the entirety of the press. This means many different things, and we’ll start at the bottom and work our way up. You should imagine that you are pulling your knee caps up into your hips, squeezing hard in the quads. Tense your glutes to the point that you could crack a walnut between the cheeks. Brace the abs as though ready to take a punch and protect yourself. The lats must stay tight and keeping the shoulders down. Your shoulders are ear poison, and should stay away from, packed into the joint. The hand that has the bell is white knuckle gripping the bell with all it can. The opposite hand is tensed, more than likely into a fist, aiding in the tension.

Breath:

Before you press, you’ll need some air inside. When you clean the bell, with one hand or two, sniff some air during the hike. Keep the air inside before a press. As you initiate the press, you’ll want to exhale slightly through your sticking point. When the press stalls a little, that is the time to use the breath! Press the tongue against the roof of the mouth to hiss, like sticking your thumb over the nozzle of a hose, increasing the pressure you have inside. As you pull the bell down to the body, you inhale in, ready for the next press.

Now the body is solid and ready to stand as our foundation for the press. The press is one that is a slow grind, not something explosive. That tightly cramped lat becomes our shelf, where we press from. Drive the weight overhead, controlling the bell slightly. Don’t let the bell roll to the inside, as this disconnects our shoulder, losing our strength, and becoming dangerous to the shoulder joint itself. The weight ends up almost behind us, slightly to the side still at the top, shoulder still packed, and body still tight. To bring the bell back down, we actively pull it down. The closest movement related to this is a one arm pull up. Do not allow the bell to control you and do what it wants, you keep control through the entirety of the movement.


Learn even more about the KETTLEBELL press with Coach Matt through the PressALot group coming april 2nd as you explore that meaning of happiness, getting some heavy shit overhead!