The Kettlebell Press

Standing 1 arm Kettlebell Press. SteveCotterIKFF

The introduction of kettlebells to the fitness public about 15 years ago helped to repopularize the Standing Overhead Press, which had gone out of vogue in previous decades in favor of the more popular Bench Press. The Bench Press is a primary mass and strength builder for the upper body, however, the restricted range of motion it places the shoulders in can pose problems for tight shoulders, especially with heavy loads.


The Standing Overhead Press is performed on your feet and develops usable overhead strength, offering carry-over into real world applications such as placing a heavy box onto a high shelf.

Performing Standing Overhead Press with Kettlebells offers certain advantages over the Barbell equivalent. 


Because we are not perfectly symmetrical, the discrepancies between the dominant and non-dominant sides of your body creates a bilateral deficit. The weaker, non-dominant side of your body will be a “weak link” in your strength and fitness. For example, if you press 50 lbs with your Right hand, but only 40 lbs with your Left hand, the Left-side lags behind. When pressing with both hands at the same time, the weaker side deficit will hold the strong side back. A unilateral Kettlebell Press gives you the chance to work both sides independently and improve the weak, non-dominant pressing strength.


The kettlebell design lets you find a neutral hand position, so there is no hyper-extension in your wrist to cause pain or early grip fatigue. Good news for anyone who experiences wrist pain when working with the Barbell Press, and this more relaxed hand position allows for a larger volume of training.


Increased Shoulder Range of Motion

Because of the unique design of the kettlebell, the load sits on your forearm, not in your hand. In the press, this load distribution stretches the shoulder down in the start position and extends the Range of Motion further in the overhead position. Controlled ROM is good for joint health and helps to counter-act the negative effects of gravity (downward pull) by extending your chest and shoulders, benefitting posture. 

Increased Stabilization

A Press with 2 x 35lb kettlebells is more difficult than a Press with a 70lb barbell. The total load is the same, but the kettlebells require balancing two separate implements whereas the bar is only one. Increased stability is important for joint health. Mobility without adequate stability will cause loss of control in the movement and lead to injury. 

Here is how to perform the 1 arm Kettlebell Press:

Bring a single KB to your chest. Insert your hand deep into the handle and keep your wrist straight 

Before pressing, “close” your ribcage on the side of the pressing arm, as if loading a coiled spring.

From that compacted position, press the KB directly up until your elbow is completely extended in the  overhead Lock-out position

Keep your arm close to your head so that the KB stays in a vertical line over your feet. Find a position that feels comfortable without stress or pain in your shoulder 

Lower KB back down to your chest by moving the shoulders back slightly so the KB can fall directly down the center line

Exhale through the mouth as you squeeze your ribs at the start of the Press and exhale again as your arm reaches full overhead extension. Inhale while KB is fixed and controlled in the overhead position, then exhale sharply again as the KB drops back down to the chest. 

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