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

Whew! It has been over 6 months of work, but we are close to releasing our new Progressive Kettlebell Movement certification on Monday. When I started this process, my biggest concern was that people were going to think we were “jumping ship” on the Ultimate Sandbag and just hopping on the more popular kettlebell train. The reality is, I have spoken quite a bit about it, that I was actually doing kettlebells before I got into the Ultimate Sandbag. In fact, there was a lot of inspiration I got from kettlebells that helped me shape a great system in DVRT. So, you could imagine, instead of thinking one is “better” than another I want to show how kettlebells and our Ultimate Sandbags can work together to create better results. Showing you how it relates to wanting to build more mobile and stronger upper body I think is the perfect canvas to do so!

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!

kettlebell training

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.

spiral line orig - How to Press Kettlebells for A Strong & More Mobile Upper Body

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…

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We often overlook the amount of different fitness qualities we can achieve through what looks like simple exercises. Physical therapist @jessicabento_mpt does a great job of showing us just that as she breaks down why kettlebell half kneeling presses we use in DVRT can be super powerful if we put the right intent behind them!➡️CHECK OUT LINK IN BIO FOR MORE! ……. At first glance this may seem like just another shoulder exercise, but if we look deeper there is so much more! ….. 💣 Half kneeling #kettlebell presses offer us so many opportunities to build greater and smarter fitness. For one, being slightly unstable we are required to drive our feet into the ground which is key for a strong press and stable shoulders. …. 💣 Pressing into the ground we integrate the core and #glutes which give our shoulders a stable platform to move from. By using these kettlebell presses we get to integrate more lateral #strengthtraining and teach how the hips, core, and shoulders work together. ….. 💣 Pressing out a @perform_better super band help gives us the stability of a #plank which helps us learn that pressing isn’t about the shoulders but how to use these chains correctly. Using these presses not helps build a stronger upper body but dynamic #corestrength and even the beginnings of teaching other movement patterns like lunging.

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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 as DVRT UK master, Greg Perlaki shows below…

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Progressive Overload Is Adding Stress To The Body, Not Just Adding More Weight! Drop me a 🙌🏼, if you agree.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ These are 3 different level of Pressing variations that all help to improve lateral stability, core strength and build stronger lunges integrating the body as a whole using the feet to push down to the floor and hands to grip actively.⠀⁠⠀ ⠀⁠⠀ ➡️ Half Kneeling Arc Press:⠀⁠⠀ It's not only a press it is also a pull on the opposite side, both hands and feet should be active here to create stability.⠀⁠⠀ ⠀⁠⠀ ➡️ Half Kneeling Press: ⠀⁠⠀ It's one of the higher levels of pressing in the Dvrt System. Keeping the sandbag on the fists is like an active front plank. The shoulder joints are in their neutral position, still needs to resist lateral movement here.⠀⁠⠀ ⠀⁠⠀ ➡️ Half Kneeling Press w Leg Switch:⠀⁠⠀ Switching legs between every reps makes it so much more demanding on the core to constantly stabilize. It also requires mobility in the hips so it's something to consider before giving it out. ⠀⁠⠀ ⠀⁠⠀ Half Kneeling, sprinter stance or split stance positions are all great for introducing the frontal plane stability and more often than not load helps to improve posture and integrating the body as a whole. ⁠⠀ #fitnesslondon #functionalfitness #coreworkouts #olympiclifting #crossfituk #functionalfitnesstraining #ukpersonaltrainer #kettlebellworkout #fitnesslondon #ukfit #ukfitness #sandbagtraining #hiit #hiittraining #dvrt #halfkneeling #lunges #lateralstability #gluteworkout #trainsmarter #progressiveoverload #overheadpress

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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.

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If your workouts consist of 90% barbell work and you don’t train professionally for a barbell based sport, your workout is stupid! 💥 Now that I have your attention I will say that ANY workout, for the most part, is better than NO workout. Love Zumba, do Zumba. Love aquacise, do aqua use. You get the point. But for the general population a barbell-centric workout doesn’t make sense. 🤔 The barbell has many limitations. It’s limited by: 1️⃣ space 2️⃣ movement in different planes 3️⃣ use of both hands at once (unless you are an old timey strong(person) 💪 Barbell training is not real life strong. In our daily lives we move laterally, rotationally and of course up and down and forward and backward. Barbells don’t work well with the first two planes. It’s just a fact. 🙊 Additionally, for the most part, to challenge yourself further with a barbell workout you only have the options of more weight, more sets, more reps. 🏋️‍♀️ In the above videos I take an overhead press through a VARIETY of progressions without adding weight, sets, or reps to increase the challenge. So you can beat the crap out of yourself week after week to add another 5# to your 1 rep max in the barbell overhead press OR get smart and branch out into other planes which will also invariably increase your 1 rep max as well as prepare you for *gasp* life outside the gym. 💥 SIDE NOTE: I couldn’t do barbell work in my small, old Clintonville basement but I can do everything I need with sandbags and kettlebells. That, also, is just a fact. 👍🏽👊🏽💪🏽 Let’s work out smarter, not just harder. #sucessfulnotperfectandchallengednotoverwhelmed

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