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How to Press Kettlebells for A Strong & More Mobile Upper Body

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In both kettlebell and the Ultimate Sandbag world, pressing overhead is the most standard way of pressing. These tools really shine in these environments and offer solutions for common problems. I’m guessing right now you are thinking, “oh man, I got bad shoulders I can’t go overhead!” For one thing, if you have pain bringing your arms overhead that is a health, not a fitness issue. I would suggest you find a health professional that could help you. However, if you have just always found pressing overhead challenging, stay tune!

Pressing overhead was the standard of upper body strength until the bench press was really designed around the 1930’s. Whether out of necessity, or having the genius back then, what going overhead actually demonstrates is the ability to have a stable core, how to use the body efficiently, and how to integrate the entire body to have strength and mobility at the same time! I often use the example that pressing overhead is an extended plank when you think about it. In other words, stop thinking of the shoulders and start thinking of the entire body. How do we get you to be better? Here are some great DVRT ways that show you how PKM is simply going to open the options available to our training!

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Step 1: Go Horizontal

Many people have a negative preconception of going overhead. It causes them to be very apprehensive and they have a hard time learning how to move better because they think it is going to hurt. That is why we can often teach important concepts of going overhead actually in the horizontal position. What is it that we want people to learn?

-How to use their hands and feet to create core stability

-How to create tension for better body control

-How to integrate from the ground up

-How to connect natural chains like the left foot, hip, core, and right shoulder

Everything sounds pretty good until the last one right? What the heck do I mean by left foot, hip, core, and right shoulder? While more and more people are gaining familiarity of the chains of the body, there are also many this is new to as well. Even those that are familiar with it generally don’t apply it to their exercises.

While there are many chains in the body, the spiral line is an easy way to explain to people. Based on the diagram above you can see that chain I was referencing. Cool, but so what? Well, that means our shoulders are largely impacted by the core, opposite hip, and even foot. So, our exercises are only really effective in building real world strength if we can make these connections. That is why we start people with some of our Bird Dog progressions you see below.

Using these concepts and some additional progressions we move to our lateral ISO pulls and drags as DVRT master Cory Cripe describes.

You might be wondering, “wait Josh, didn’t we skip kettlebells in the bird dog?” My answer is really no. Not every tool matches every exercise. If you look at where kettlebells would start someone on the ground you see they aren’t optimal for bird dogs.


“What about doing them from a bench and rowing?” You might ask. Still no, because if you understand the INTENT of the bird dog, you will see Jessica can’t create stability with her hand and it is terribly awkward for the lower body. What you end up with is an exercise that LOOKS okay, but when you know the purpose of the drill you realize where we are falling short. We will use kettlebells, just not yet! That is the point I am trying to convey, not just throwing tools in to use them, but knowing HOW to optimize them.


Once we do build some time on those bird dogs, ISO pulls, and lateral drags, THEN I like to use kettlebell renegade rows.

Is this model purely linear? Not really, to be honest, as you get to these higher level movements it takes A LOT of strength, stability, and body awareness. However, I did want to show a more linear model just to keep with why we do these drills and how we keep building. The reason that I bring this up is because a lot of people after the bird dogs can benefit from using half kneeling drills like our Arc Press and how we introduce kettlebells.

Half kneeling is a position we use so much because it helps reinforce the ideas of using the feet and connecting the core/shoulders. Cory is back to show common errors people make and what we are actually trying to teach in regards to a strong and healthier upper body. This is great for people even with “cranky” shoulders because of the position of the shoulder joint and it really is a one arm movement!

Physical therapist, Jessica Bento, shows some ways we can use the Arc Press in other environments to build these connections but also how we can increase the intensity by incorporating our Core Strap and bands. In doing so we are really forcing the feet and core to work while RESISTING lateral movement.

Where are all the kettlebells at though? After spending time with what the Arc Press actually teaches we can introduce kettlebells. They do require a bit more shoulder mobility than the Arc Press so usually they come after. However, they are very valuable because we can train one arm at a time which helps people with some mobility issues. In doing so we need to teach the other side how to create stability. Check out these two DVRT exercises and how we are building a strong and more mobile upper body while going overhead!

That starts to open the door with building progressions like you see Jessica use…

We can then use the half kneeling position to bring back the Ultimate Sandbag and because both arms have to move at the same time, it requires us to have really refined how our body is used in this position.

Kettlebells and Ultimate Sandbags should function very similar but fill in different progressions. The Arc Press is a great start, then kettlebell presses with some counter load, pressing kettlebells from the fists, and then double kettlebells. This doesn’t mean that any one of these are “better” than another because we have variables like load, speed, and other variables to use that can make any very challenging, or be brought back to an easier level. What DVRT coach Travis Moyer shows is the last concept of changing body position. When you start to unlock these systems you just don’t have more exercises, you have better progressions to build greater solutions. I can’t wait to unlock the playbook next week with PKM. However, I did want you to see how everything fits together and kettlebells and Ultimate Sandbags together can create some incredible results.

Physical therapist, Jessica Bento, shows how many different ways we have to approach building strength, stability, and mobility in our upper body to get pain free and strong overhead presses. Find out more solutions in our DVRT Rx Courses, Progressive Kettlebell Movement & L.I.F.T. certifications 35% off with code “corrective” HERE