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The Bottom-Up Kettlebell Press: A New Path To Shoulder Strength

Photography: Glen Burrows; Model: Daniel Ventura

If you want to get stronger, the obvious way is to pick up a heavier weight and try harder. But the smart way, says leading kettlebell coach Mike Mahler, is to use the same weight but perform a version of the exercise that’s more challenging, such as the bottom-up kettlebell press.

The bottom-up press isn’t just a show-off move. The extra challenge and instability encourages you to find the most efficient pressing path, which will help you when you want to go heavy in shoulder-building conventional kettlebell presses.

“If you do an exercise and you get to a point where it’s really easy for you, try doing a more challenging version,” says Mahler. “That way, rather than just getting better at the exercise but allowing your technique to get sloppy, you optimise your technique. For example, if a traditional one-arm kettlebell press where it is racked normally becomes really easy, you could do a bottom-up press, which is much harder. You could even do a stacked press, with the kettlebells on top of each other. Each of these kettlebell exercises reinforces the proper technique. When you have a strong foundation in technique, you can go into new weight territories and not worry about getting injured.”

How To Do A Bottom-Up Kettlebell Press

Start by holding a kettlebell at chin height with your wrist straight and your elbow directly below your wrist. Press the weight directly overhead, then lower it slowly under control. If you can’t control the kettlebell, you either have weak wrists or are trying to press in an inefficient path. Reduce the weight to perfect the technique, then add weight once you can do a set of six presses.

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