Slaying the Beast


The 48kg Kettlebell, referred to as “The Beast,” is massive iron ball that few athletes in the world have truly mastered. To press the Beast overhead with one arm is considered a high level of upper body strength for an average to large sized man.

My goal was a bit loftier: To press a pair of them overhead while staying at my bodyweight of 180lbs. I had seen only a handful of men able to press a pair of beasts overhead and all of them were well over 200lbs.

All I had ever pressed up to that decision was a pair of 40kg kettlebells– a far cry from double 48’s.

My available equipment did not include a pair of 44kg kettlebells, which would have been a perfect stepping stone, so I had to improvise. Handstand pushups done to a full ROM (hands to shoulders) fit the bill perfectly, it was the same plane and range of motion required for the double beast press.

The Plan
The plan to manhandle 48’s involved the following:

A. Double Cleans and Jerks/Push Presses with 48’s
The reason for the double cleans and jerks/push presses was to get as comfortable as possible with the clean and handling the weights overhead. A bad clean will kill any press attempt. These were performed less frequently than the Handstands because they were harder to recover from.

B. Handstand Pushups with added weight (vests, chains, ankle weights)
One major advantage to handstands and handstand pushups is that the recovery time is much faster than that of pressing weights overhead. The reason for this stems from the fact that your lower body does not have to support the overhead load. The overall systemic fatigue from the exercise is much less, and is easier to recover from.

Beast Challenge
The primary reason most people attempt to press the Beast overhead is that it is a required part of the “Beast Challenge.” The Beast Challenge involved performing a single leg squat, pullup, and one arm press with the 48kg kettlebell. There are only a dozen or so athletes who have performed this feat.

My sights were not specifically geared toward the beast challenge, but I mention it, because in my quest for the double beast press, I was able to also perform the beast challenge just a few weeks later.

I have watched countless people miss heavy kettlebell presses for a variety of reasons. Mainly they are either to weak, or they deviate from ideal technique. The 48kg bell is massive and you have to respect the odd weight distribution. Many people end up picking up bad habits such as excessive sideways lean to compensate for the lack of strength and stability. The really cool part about double pressing is that I have never seen anyone miss this way. By grooving lots of double presses, you get more consistent, quality reps in, without the potential for deviation from proper trajectory.

When you can press a pair of bells, pressing one at a time is insanely easy. The carryover is a one way street though; if you can press a pair of bells, you can press a single. If you can press a single, you can’t (probably) press a pair of that size bell.

There is plenty to be gained from single arm pressing, especially bottom up presses. They are an excellent way to groove the proper pattern for your press, while at the same time reinforcing proper core firing and stability during your overhead movement.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8c-NsVbot4M

In the end, the very frequent and heavy handstand pushups paired with less frequent cleans and push presses paid off in spades. The result was a fairly smooth double 48kg press:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w46yocgvPeg

Pressing the beast can be a daunting task, and should only be attempted after a solid base of strength is truly owned. Supposing that you are already strong to quite strong, let’s get into specifics.

1. Only focus on the double press, even if your goal is a single bell press.
2. Utilize full ROM handstand pushups to allow yourself to train more frequently
3. Use bottom up presses to groove the proper single bell press trajectory.

Sample Program
Here is what I would suggest for a 3 day per week program geared toward a beast press:

Day 1

Superset the following for 12-15:00:
Full ROM Handstand Pushups x 3
Double 48kg Clean x 6
Thoracic Mobility Drill of your choice

3 Sets:
Ring Row x 80% effort
Bodyweight Triceps extension x 80%  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hc3Ql4ktt7I

Day 2

Superset 12-15:00:
Double Beast Clean and Push Press x 3
Rest/Mobility

3 Sets:
Ring Row x 80% effort
Bodyweight Triceps extension x 80%

Day 3

Superset 12-15:00:
Weighted Handstand Pushup x 5
Double Beast Swing x 8-10
Rest/Mobility

3 Sets:
Ring Row x 80% effort
Bodyweight Triceps extension x 80%

The real trick is to get lots of quality sets in, and not get so hung up on each individual set. The idea is to make each set look easy and enjoy the steady progress upward. The ring rows will facilitate lat development which provides a stable platform for presses as well as reinforce good posture which will make your pressing easier. The Thoracic mobility drills will also make your presses feel less restricted and easier.

The handstand pushups can be done either freestanding: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8weP6ne0zQ

Or against a wall:

http://youtu.be/YG6iubITPR4?t=37s

Obviously if balance is an issue, the wall is the correct choice here especially when you start to add weight. It should go without saying that if you weigh well over 200lbs you probably won’t need to add any weight to your handstand pushups to get your beast press!

I believe it is truly as simple as this. Get comfortable with the weights in your hands, practice frequently pressing in that vertical plane. You will be surprised at how quickly you progress if you keep it fast and easy.

Enjoy!

-Max

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