Kettlebells For Power Lifting Part 2: The Bench Press - Bottoms Up Press

Kettlebells For Power Lifting Part 2: The Bench Press - Bottoms Up Press

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This is Part 2 in our series of kettlebell workouts to improve powerlifting. If this is your first time reading about the subject, we recommend you read Part 1 here. As previously mentioned, a lot of the great and most accomplished kettlebell lifters we have met since starting our business are former powerlifters. We believe as workouts and strength building continue to evolve with each generation, people who identify as a certain thing, i:e 'power lifter', 'kettlebell lifter' will fade away and there will continue to be more blending of different modalities to create better overall lifters and athletes.

By Zack Henderson

Shoulder Mobility & Stability

Mentioned in Part 1, you can read about the Bottoms Up Press below. The most common gym injury happens to the shoulders. It's no wonder considering that not only are our postures compromised by hours of sitting and phone use, but shoulder issues get compounded when we go to the gym and do lots of pressing exercises. Pushing big weight with stiff, rounded shoulders is a recipe for disaster.

The nature of the bench press presents two issues for shoulder health. One, lying on a bench effectively forces the movement to be done with as little scapular motion as possible. Two, the press requires a symmetrical movement from a (likely) asymmetrical base. Nearly everybody has a shoulder that is more mobile or stiff than the other.    

Bench presses are perfectly safe in their own right, they simply present a risky environment for compromised shoulders. To simultaneously give the shoulders some extra mobility and stability work, we need look no further than the Turkish Get-Up. The TGU takes the shoulder joint through various ranges of motion with a locked out arm. Specifically, doing this exercise with a kettlebell presents a unique challenge to the rotator cuff and “opens” the shoulder without forcing a static stretch.

A strong low bar back squat position is dependent upon thoracic spine mobility as well. A powerful drill for t-spine health is the kettlebell arm bar. Much like the TGU, the arm bar develops shoulder stability by moving around a locked arm, but really double-downs on t-spine mobility by the nature of the hip positioning.


Read the description of this movement below!

As discussed earlier in the article, we could all use more resilient shoulders. The bottoms-up press is a self-limiting exercise. This means that that you can't actually get by with doing it “wrong.” Because there is a big stability and balance component, it’s a great option for working the shoulders in a safer, smarter way. Additionally, by working on one side at a time, we get the opportunity to focus more attention on our “lagging” side.

Light B-U presses should be used during the bench press warm-up to prime the shoulders without undue fatigue. Heavier B-U presses can take the place of traditional barbell military presses for high set/low rep practice.

Stay tuned for Part 3 in which we will cover movements to improve your deadlift numbers! Make sure to subscribe to our posts through the sign up form below to be notified when Part 3 is realeased. Speaking from personal experience, the movement we will cover added 50 pounds to deadlift max in about a month.


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About the Author

Zack Henderson, SFG II, SFL, SFB, enjoys coaching people of all skill levels to become stronger than ever. His students include powerlifters, kettlebell enthusiasts, and the everyday athlete who wants to look and feel better.  

Zack trains locally in Nashville, TN and offers online training at his website. To learn more, check out The Kettlebell Core Challenge, a free 21-day challenge to obliterate weakness, lose fat, and forge an iron core with the power of the kettlebell!

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