There is something truly primal about lifting a weight above your head. It’s as if our own primitive, caveman-like selves are awakened by practicing the over head lifts. The Military Press has a particularly unusual ability to make us feel stronger just by merely practicing the lift. Friend and fellow kettlebell instructor, Daniel Byrnes, said it quite well one day while we were discussing our heavy single arm press. Speaking like a true cave man, he uttered “This is my rock. I must lift rock to highest place. Important to lift rock. Always. I will be strongest self”. And really, that’s what our Powerful Pressing Program is all about. We want to lift heavy things consistently, and the military press itself offers some unique benefits for your body that go way beyond your upper body. If you want great shoulders, a strong back, solid abs and some nice looking glutes and quads, practicing the kettlebell press will yield all of the above and then some more!
The Press and Your Shoulders
With the exception of a shoulder impingement, I have found that the kettlebell press is great for strengthening the shoulders as it forces the rotator cuff to work hard to stabilize the kettlebell weight itself. Remember, unlike barbell presses, kettlebell presses force weight on the back of your hand due to where the weight has to rest. You have to push the kettlebell back up against gravity that is applying more pressure than usual on your arm due to the nature of the weight. To compensate for this, yoru rotator cuff goes into muscular overdrive to quickly force that weight back up above your head safely. Consistent practice with this lift will strengthen the rotator cuff and make for some seriously sexy looking shoulders.
The Press and Your Lats
Your lat muscles are some of the strongest muscles you can have in your body. They take up the portion of your back that runs directly under your shoulder and down to your glutes. These muscles are of particular importance when moving heavier weight upward. Generally, we get a lot of lat activation with swings and pull ups, but these lovely lats get turned on with our kettlebell press as well. In my own experience, strong lat muscles lead to a powerful press. While our rotator cuff fires at will when we are pressing weight above our head, we need more stabilization into our back to make our pressing look effortless. The lat muscles will not only aid in stabilizing the kettlebell above your head, but they will also add to the overall strength of your press. If you’re ready to strengthen you back, practice yoru press!
The Press and Your Abs: The Vertical Plank
Perhaps one of the most over looked components to the kettlebell press is proper abdominal tension. Remember, maximal tension will lead to an efficient press, and your abs need to be firing away to get that weight above your head. This gets back to stabilization. When you get your kettlebell in the racked position, you want to have your abs so tight that it feels as though you are doing a hardstyle plank on the ground. This ab tension will not only give you the proper set up to stabilize a heavy weight well, but it will also give you some nice looking abs by default. Excuse the vain remark, but who doesn’t want strength and some nice looking abs to go with it? Think about that for a moment.
The Press and Your Glutes. Yes. Your Butt!
Here’s another commonly overlooked component to a single arm heavy press: your butt. Yes. Your butt! Creating tension into your glute muscles will facilitate (you guessed it) tension to stabilize a heavy weight. When I teach the kettlebell military press to new clients, I tell them to imagine that there is a $100 bill between their butt cheeks and that no one is to snag it from you. I know, it’s a strange visual, but what this does is cause the trainee to contract their glutes so much so that their glutes become rock solid. This muscular contraction will facilitate more lower body stabilization and forces more lower abdominal contractions to sustain the load of a heavy weight. Oh and it will make your butt look amazing too 😉
The Press and Your Quads: Prepare for Super Strong Legs!
I have a 32kg pistol squat (a single leg weighted squat), and I don’t practice pistols very often at all. To be honest, I attribute my pressing strength to my pistol strength. Here’s why. In order to press super heavy kettlebells above your head, full body tension is a must. Perhaps the most important area you will create tension in for this lift is your LOWER body. When you fully contract your quad muscles you generate some serious lower body power that is enough to help aid your overhead press. In order to activate all that leg power, I recommend a very effective visualization. visualizing yourself pushing your feet into the ground actually makes your press easier. It gets back to the whole tension bit. As you begin to execute your press, your going to want to visualize pushing your feet downward into the ground. This will cause your quads to tense which adds to the tension into your glutes and abs. I often tell my clients that you want to visualize pushing your feet hard into the ground as if you are leaving an imprint on the floor. It’s as if you are moving out of the way of your kettlebell, not just pushing it upward. Trust me, this works! If you’re looking for serious leg power, practice pressing. I guarantee you’ll have might strong legs with a proper pressing program!
As you can see, the kettlebell military press is not all about upper body strength. The kettlebell military press is a lift that demands activation and stabilization with your shoulders the whole way down to your quads. Mastery of your press will not only lead to some super strong shoulders, but expect your back, abs, and legs to get stronger, leaner, and more powerful as you work hard into your pressing routine. The military press makes your entire body stronger. Period.
Want more? We are about to launch our Powerful Pressing Program here for the masses, both in Pittsburgh and abroad! Keep following the blog and our posts online via facebook, instagram and twitter. We are about to share our strength secrets with the entire world at large!
Until next time. . .
Master your instincts!