2 Secret Weapons of Kettlebell Training


Kettlebells have stood the test of time as workout tools. However, many people are still confused about which movements to focus on, and how to combine kettlebell training with other modalities. Hopefully I can help everyone out by shedding some light on the situation.

Two kettlebell moves rise high above all the others—the One Arm Swing and the Bottom Up Press.

The Bottom Up Press
This movement is unique to kettlebells and helps fix many issues related to shoulder mechanics.

Benefits:

  • Rotator cuff activation
  • Vertical forearm
  • Lat activation
  • Core activation
  • Glute activation
  • Tall posture

The beautiful part about the bottom up press is that all of the above happen AUTOMATICALLY because of the nature of the movement.

Squeezing the kettlebell handle actually facilitates the rotator cuff activation necessary for good shoulder mechanics. In a bottom up press, squeezing the handle is mandatory.

I can’t even count how many times people have come to our gym with shoulder pain during presses who were able to do the movement pain free when they switched to the bottom up press.

Bottom up presses are magic.

  • Extra glute activation
  • Core activation and force transmission
  • Opposite movement of sitting down
  • Shoulder and lat activation
  • Grip strength
  • Connecting the “X”

The two largest muscle groups in the upper and lower body respectively are the lats and the glutes or “Glats.” The one arm swing is one of THE best ways to connect them. Many coaches say that if a person has a strong “X” they are guaranteed to be a strong athlete.

There are other important movements for a balanced training program, but these two are the best exercises you can do with a kettlebell.

How to Put It All Together

There are the four main movements we want to hit EVERY training session:
-Upper Push (push-ups or presses)
-Upper Pull (pull-ups or rows)
-Lower Push (squats or lunges)
-Lower Pull (swings or deadlifts)

If you hit all of these movements in equal amounts, you are pretty much guaranteed to have a balanced training program. Onc you can correctly categorize movements, you can plug in the bottom up press and one arm swing anywhere.

The bottom up press is categorized as a strength movement and an upper push. Use it in place of pushups, bench press, overhead press, handstands, etc. You can also add the bottom up press effectively as a warm up for the shoulders before other heavy upper body lifting movements.

The one arm swing is categorized as a lower body pulling exercise which can be used for power, strength or endurance

Power: Low reps (1-5) at the beginning of a session
Strength: Low to medium reps (1-8) in the middle of a session.
Endurance: Multiple sets of medium to high reps at the end of a session.

 *My personal favorite:  Do 10 reps with the left arm at the top of the minute and 10 reps on the right arm at the 0:30 mark. After five minutes, this equals 100 swings. If you can easily complete that drill, it’s time to add some weight.

These movements even fit nicely within a more conventional strength program:

Superset 1
Bottom Up Press
Barbell Deadlift

Superset 2
Dumbbell Row
Goblet Squat

Endurance
One arm swing intervals for 5:00 as above

Regardless of what you decide to do, it’s important to have good technique and a balanced training program. By using these two secret weapons, it will be one heck of a lot easier to get stronger and stay healthy.

Better Every Day,

-Max

P.S. Ready to improve your kettlebell training? Grab a copy of Kettlebell Essentials


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5 thoughts on “2 Secret Weapons of Kettlebell Training

  • Max Shank Post author

    Hi AJ!
    I would imagine that is due to the range of motion being reduced in the HSPU. Keep up the good work! If you continue having trouble, I strongly recommend Simple Shoulder Solution (maxshank.com/shop/simple-shoulder-solution). Have a great day!
    -Max

  • Max Shank Post author

    Hi Jorda,
    You’re likely twisting too much at the top. Doing alternating swings forces you to square up at the top. One tip from Kettlebell Essentials is to tap the bell at the top with the opposite hand on one arm swings.

  • Jorda

    I’ve had problems with one arm swings in the past when I would do a set without alternating arms my lower back would bother me. But if i switched to alternating swings I wouldn’t have that problem. Any thoughts?

  • AJ

    Almost 2 years ago, I had been doing clean and presses and started feeling pain in my left shoulder. A mobility specialist said I had some scapular winging due to a weaker rhomboid and that was the root cause of the pain. So instead of presses I did a ton of ring work (inverted rows, pullups) to try to strengthen the entire back.
    A few weeks ago I started a routine of presses and pullups. I used the bottoms up press for the reasons you stated but after a few workouts my shoulder pain started resurfacing. I finished out the 5 week routine with handstand presses and no further complications. Why do you suppose I can do the handstands with no pain but not the overhead presses?

    Thanks