The press is one of the most crucial foundational exercises for any exercise program; this is a movement that not only builds upper body strength like no other, but also engages your core and stabilizer muscles. And we all know that without a strong center, we’re going to see minimal gains in strength or agility.
Here we’re diving into exactly why the kettlebell press is such an important move to master, and I’ll also walk you through exactly how to do it correctly.
Why Perfect the Press: The Benefits
Full-body, Functional Movement
The kettlebell press does much, much more than simply build shoulder strength. When performed correctly, the beauty of this movement is that it works almost every muscle in the body.
Starting from the legs up, you should feel your glutes should tighten along with your calves as they prepare to support the weight over your head. Following this, you core should immediately engage from all sides due to the asymmetrical weight over your head. The stabilizer muscles lining your obliques will fire and strengthen, which will translate into more stability, pushing power, and balance in all other movements.
From here, your chest and upper back will both engage to, again, keep the asymmetrical weight overhead from falling forward or backward as you press up. Your shoulders and biceps will then engage to press the weight overhead, followed by an eccentric resistance on the way down.
As you can see: the kettlebell press is the definition of a functional, full-body movement. These are the kinds of movements that cross-pollinate every other flow, as well as real-world situations where overhead and pressing strength are required.
Frankly, a correct kettlebell press demands near-perfect alignment to be able to be executed. This is simply due to physics: if there is any slouching (aka: uneven weight distribution) the kettlebell will pull to one side or the other and disrupt the flow, or even cause an injury.
Because it engages your stabilizer muscles so well, these muscles are then strengthened around your skeletal system in the correct position, improving your alignment even when you’re not performing the movement.
When you’re watching someone move through a press, it may not seem as though much is happening heart-rate-wise; however, any time your arms are over your head, your heart has to work hard to pump blood up to your extremities. Aside from the exertion of pushing weight, you’ll notice a heightened pump due to consistently pressing overhead.
Improves Eccentric Strength
Again, when done correctly, the press should be more than just “pressing” strength. Since the movement is controlled on the way up as well as the way down, you’ll notice a strong eccentric engagement through your lats and back when lowering the bell. This will improve strength for all other movements that utilize eccentric strength, such as pushups and even rope climbing.
How To Do The Kettlebell Press
In the following video tutorial, I walk you through the basics of a strict kettlebell press. Some key points to always keep in mind before you get started:
• Use your lats as your “base,” keeping control of the bell even during the fall.
• Keep your forearm vertical, as if you were preparing to punch the ceiling.
• Keep a strong wrist angle – you shouldn’t feel as if the kettlebell is pulling to extend your wrist if you’re racking properly.
• Keep your hand centered on the kettlebell to maintain a strong grip.
• Focus on feeling your body as a strong column of support that you push against. This keeps your stance strong and minimizes swaying, or having to rely on momentum.
• Focus on pushing yourself under the bell, rather than simply pushing the bell toward the sky. This sculpts a strong center and encourages proper posture and balance.
Flows and Workouts Featuring the Kettlebell Press
Once you’ve established a strong press with perfect form, you’ll notice it provides an epic foundation for all types exercises. I’ve listed some workouts below for you to integrate your presses into (go ahead and subscribe for new flows weekly as well).
- Moderate Kettlebell Press Flow
2. Single Kettlebell and Bodyweight Full Body Workout (#2)
3. On the Go Single Kettlebell Workout