Does this work your shoulders?” A seeker of information asked me as I trained the overhead press movement. My answer was it does, in part. But it is more of a pressing movement than an isolation exercise.  You see the concept of isolated exercises had leaked into the very center of fitness to the point of its ideas guiding our training decisions and knowledge. Now please don’t get me wrong isolated training is probably the best choice if you are a body-builder. But it isn’t the best idea for those who want to burn maximum calories, move well and athletes. Rather than go into the whole isolated vs compound movement debate, let’s get into today’s subject: The Overhead Press!


The Overhead press has a huge part in the world of hard-style kettlebell as you may already know. It is the test for absolute upper body strength and in some circles has being “manly” built into it. It is not an ultra-highly technical move; however it does have some inherit intricacies built into it that can determine your success in ever developing a heavy press and to keep you safe as you train it.


As I stated in the last paragraph that the overhead press is not the most complicated move in the world. Yet, It does require good shoulder mobility and stability as well as the ability to breathe while staying tight and a few other things.


1. Good Shoulder mobility:

This important and foundational principle more often than not gets ignored. To me this is a big reason why people hurt their shoulders as they train this move. Oftentimes the perspective overhead presser has a tight mid-back (t-spine) and maybe even their shoulder girdles are tight. This leads to the inability to develop a good pressing pattern or groove which in time can result in an overuse injury to shoulder and anything else that is in the move. (Elbows, etc.)The solution:  Get assessed to see what is causing your tightness and then deal with it with the proper corrective drills and progressions into your press. Doing it this way you  may be a little slower at first, but if you do you will get continual gains and have a better chance of avoiding problems that will make you take time off from training this “ruff and tuff” move!


2. Stability:

There are two different kinds of stability in the world. One is the kind that happens without conscious thought. This is called reflexive stability and can be seen if you stand on one leg as you do you will feel a wobbly feeling going on. That is your brain firing the opposing muscles on each to create balance. The second is a focused effort to create stability by using our large muscles and core bracing techniques to help us support an external load. The kettlebell military press requires both in order for you to be strong and stay healthy as you work on it.

If you do not have these two abilities than that is where you need to begin and after you have made it acceptable, you can than safely begin to press.



The technique of this move is as follows:


1. Develop a good, safe and fairly comfortable rack position:

Hopefully, if you want to do a kettlebell vertical press, you already have spent some time on the two-hande1235986_514650805283286_577300740_n[1]d swing. If so the bell and grab it with two hands with one on each side of the handle. Then pick it up and place the bell on your wrist by sticking your hand through the handle. Now make sure that your wrist is neutral (not bent back) pack  your shoulder (pull down and back) and brace your core as if you are going to get punched. Breathe in while staying tight and hold it for a few seconds set the bell down safely and do the other side.  (To see this point see the video below)


2. Develop your track or groove:

This should be first done without a load to feel the move. This upward move looks almost looks like a “J” and ends up by your ear in the lock out. Your elbow should be locked and your shoulder down and back. As your practice it, make sure that your forearm stays vertical or your wrist and elbow are in line the whole time. (To see this consult the video below.)


3. The Active Negative:

Good training never leaves a passive part to the exercise wherein you can think about dinner and all sorts of other  things than your present move. Instead, it makes you pay attention and focus on every part. In this case as you lower the bell down, you just won’t let it drop and let your shoulder do any old thing. Instead, use your lats to pull the bell down while keeping your forearm vertical. This technique is almost as you were doing a pull up or row to get the bell down. This will increase safety and performance. (Are you seeing the simple intricacies yet?)   (To see this point see the video below)


4. The complete press:

 After doing theses few progressions you should have a pretty good idea of where the bell should be in your rack position and how you groove works coupled with the active negative. Now just put it all together and you have press! Congratulations my friend! Just as you do the actual loaded moves make sure to use your lat. for stability as you press, by “pushing yourself away from the bell” rather than “pressing it up” Or suck your shoulder down into the socket as a turtle puts his head in his shell.  (To see this point see the video below)





After perfecting these few techniques you will love this old school strength move. You will find that as you train wisely, your gains will be incredible in strength development, fat-loss and muscle-building. Just spend enough time learning it, so that when you go to train heavy and or get a personal record. You will be so familiar with the moves that it will be done with little thought on its technique and form. As well as joining a bunch of overhead press enthusiasts that loves the move as much as you!   Lastly, my disclaimer: (of course) the best investment that you can make is to see a certified kettlebell instructor (RKC or so-on) to learn the move well and to avoid developing bad habits. Enjoy a life of pressing friend

For those that want help, I offer an online coaching service to help you with this and other fitness goals!
  1. […] Click here to learn how to do the overhead press […]


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