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.
- 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.
The One Arm Swing
- 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:
Bottom Up Press
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.
P.S. Ready to improve your kettlebell training? Grab a copy of Kettlebell Essentials