Archive for February 6, 2011

“The Riddle of Steel: KettleBell Pressing”

Posted in Articles on February 6, 2011 by oldcountrystrong

I spent this weekend visiting John from GreySkull S&C on the East Coast. While I was there I was lucky enough to sit in on one of John’s “GreySkull Methods Seminars” that he was holding at his gym. Squat, deadlift, bench, power clean, program design, Bony’s new cook book, and pressing were all game to be asked about and thoroughly discussed.

So as I’m flying home I was wondering what I was going to write about for Old Country today. Then it hit me. The press. But not just the strict barbell press, or the version of it they do at GreySkull (which is pretty sick). No, I’m talking about the ketttlebell and the muscle recruitment that goes with pressing one correctly.

Now I wrote a long “Coach’s Tip” about this in the comment section of the OCS Training Log for my athletes last Cycle. I also told them at some point I’d flesh it all out a bit (earmuffs). So as we find ourselves 1 week into another Cycle full of pressing I’ll revisit “contract and relax.”

It seems so simple doesn’t it? Cannon ball with handle. Take cannon ball with handle from the ground to the rack position resting comfortably (at least I think so) on your arm and torso. Then what do you do? Press your arm over head. Easy enough. A chimp could do this without learning proper form. Well know what,  chimps are strong as shit. Last I checked there aren’t any chimps at the Bronx Zoo checking Old Country, I could be wrong, so this applies to you.

So what happens when you start getting stuck on your KB press?

Lets take form out of the picture here. You’re not turning out too soon. You’re not laying back. You’re doing everything right. The bell should be over head, right? Why are you sticking in workouts and what can you do to help fix it? The knowledge I’m gonna drop on you applies to all KB pressing. Be it single PR bell presses, press ladders, or the grip busting complexes full of pressing that we see in CC.

It’s really simple for the most part. Muscle recruitment. Contract as much muscle as possible during a lift, such as the kettlebell press and you will see success.

But you’re tight in your press, right? You got a firm grip on the bell, your shoulder is tense and ready to press, you aren’t all loose in your trunk. Good right? Wrong. Being firm, tense, and not loose aren’t good enough (earmuffs).

How do you engage your whole body in the press? Squeeze your butt and legs together, pull your ribs down, power breathe. Power breathe? Breathe out with a tight TSISSSS sound. You should feel your body tightening from your trunk out. Why power breathe? Because you engage more muscle and hence have more muscle recruited to apply force to the bell.

Having trouble with grip failing while initiating such a tight grip during complex or clean and press ladders?

“Open hands at the top!”

I tell this to my athletes on all kettlebell movements on snatch, press, clean, push press, jerk… doesn’t matter.
I don’t want you beginning the press with open hands. When I spot on the bench I squeeze the bencher’s  hands around the bar right before I lift the bar off the uprights for them.

Because it causes you to squeeze the bar. This allow you to engage more muscle and bench more.

Do you see where I’m going with this?
If you’re pressing an object with your arm you have to hold it with your hand. To get through the sticking point (the position where you guys want to come up on your toes in the press or make that awful pig squeal sound) squeeze the shit out of the bell in your hand!

Now this is where contract and relax comes in as far as it goes with complexes and other workouts.
Yes you have officially squeezed your way through the sticking point and now have the bell over head. Now open your hands.

You all know what a grip buster complexes and high rep kettlebell workouts are. This is why you open at the top or in the rack position while resting. You relax and allow yourself to take the tension out of your grips.

So on review.

Start the press with a firm grip.

Death grip the shit out of that bell when you hit the sticking point.

When you feel you’re past the sticking point or the bell is locked out over head: Open your hands. RELAX.

Keep the hands open on the descent if you like. Or just have a loose grip on the bell. But make sure you maintain a straight neutral wrist while gripping.

Break the sticking point, save the forearms, contract and relax.

Posted by: Z