The kettlebell strict press demands a place at the heart of your training program. It is the most beneficial upper body pushing movement for both strength and overhead mobility. I personally do some form of kettlebell strict press in nearly every training session, as do all of my trainees.
Herculean upper body strength requires a strong overhead press, and the kettlebell strict press is the best plan to attack it.
Of any foundational movement, I see the kettlebell strict press performed improperly most often. Ironically, it is the movement in which maximal benefit most hinges on proper form. A strong kettlebell strict press is built on a holy-trinity of factors: position, engagement, and intention.
Position: Set Yourself Up for Success
A strong press is built on a strong starting position.
- Begin with a vertical forearm, as though you are about to punch the ceiling, and your elbow packed in tight against your ribs, like a boxer’s defensive stance. This position ensures maximal engagement and optimal pressing mechanics in the bottom position.
- Maintain a strong wrist angle with your bottom knuckles pointing up. Remember, you are about to punch the ceiling. Allowing the weight to pull your wrist into extension disengages much of the available strength in the entire chain from your wrist and forearm through your shoulder and core.
- Keep your hand centered on the kettlebell handle. Gripping toward the thumb side of the handle makes it difficult to maintain a full and strong grip, which is paramount for a strong press.
Engagement: Press With Your Whole Body
A strong press is built on strong, full-body engagement.
To press well, transform your whole body into a strong column of support to push against. Maintain a relatively narrow stance, with your feet directly under your hips. The wider your stance, the more difficulty you will find in squeezing your glutes and core.
Bear down on your grip, both in your pressing arm and your non-working arm. Strong grip anchors strong core engagement. Use your grip in both hands to turn on heavy engagement from your whole arms, core, and glutes.
Intention: The Pressing State of Mind
A strong press is built on strong pressing intention.
Push Yourself Under the Bell
Most athletes intend to push the weight overhead. While this is the ultimate goal, an intention on pressing yourself down under the weight more consistently leads to a strong press. This intention forces you to prioritize your relationship with the ground and will keep your stance rooted. Pushing against the ground is where the power for your press initiates. This mindset also forces priority on core engagement. To hold something heavy overhead, you must transform your body into a solid support column.
This intention also helps you keep your shoulder down and away from your ear. Intending to lift the bell up will lead many athletes to shrug their shoulder to initiate the press. Keeping your shoulder packed leads to better engagement and proper alignment, and ultimately to stronger presses.
Press Your Forearm Into the Bell
This cue applies throughout the entire range of the press, from initiation to lockout. Actively pressing your forearm into the bell creates active wrist flexion, bringing your knuckles toward your inner arm as if knocking on a door. Even if the weight is too heavy to actually flex your wrist angle, the intention to do so engages your grip, forearm, and upper arm to their max.
The intention to push into the bell creates a slight lateral movement at the beginning of your press. Do not overdo this motion by swinging your arm far outside your base, but a bit of lateral opening creates movement to build momentum to bring you out of the hole at the bottom of the press.
Use these tools to build a strong kettlebell strict press. Be sure to check out the video below to see all these cues in action.