4 Must-Haves for a Heavy Kettlebell Press
A few months ago, I was in Chicago assisting with the SFG (Strong First Girya) certification.
While I was there, I tested for the SFG Iron Maiden title, which consists of three lifts with a 24 kg (53 lb) kettlebell; a pistol, a press and a pullup.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous as I was standing in front of 150+ people for my press attempt.
I weighed in at 123 pounds that day, and was holding just under half that much in my hand.
I had only hit my press with the 24kg once during my training, when I hit the top of my strength cycle a few days before. It was the lift I was most concerned with, because presses have the most potential for something to go wrong.
(Credit for all photos: Mandy Whitley)
Here’s a list of “must haves” to hit a heavy press.
- A solid clean
- A solid backswing
- Strong hips and glutes to bring the bell to the rack position
- Straight forearm and wrist when the bell is in the rack position.
- A slight dip to the side
- Slight dip of the upper body away from the bell as it’s going up
- If this dip is too far, abs disengage and it’s over
- “The wedge”
- Wedging your upper body back under the KB immediately after the ‘slight dip’
- TENSION – most important!
- Tension throughout the entire body
- Fist with the non-loaded hand
- Squeezing the bell with the loaded hand
- Feet planted and pressing into ground
- Pulling your kneecaps “up”
- Glutes fired
- Abs braced
The more tension created throughout the body, the easier the KB goes up. The biggest mistake is thinking a press is an “arm” exercise. It’s really a whole body exercise.
A few minutes prior to my attempt, Master SFG Jon Engum was speaking to the new SFG candidates, and said “Pressing makes us happy.”
I nailed my press, and as you can see, Jon is right.
I didn’t get the IM that day. After my press I hit a 24k pistol, but couldn’t get the weighted pullup locked out.
Don’t worry IM title, I’ll be coming for you again!