By Tony Gracia, Head Coach and Co-Founder at Industrial Strength.

This series of articles will highlight fifteen of my favorite exercises that I think are awesome and do not get the appreciation they deserve.  The first week of installments focused on major lower body strength developers, and this week will focus primarily on upper body strength movements.

UNDERRATED EXERCISE #4 = Bottoms Up Press

The military press (in any variation) is a time-tested display of strength as well as a proven strength builder.  Due to the resurgence of barbell training over the past decade, the barbell military press has become a staple in many people’s training plan.  If someone has an adequate level of preparation for barbell pressing then that is great, however due to today’s lifestyle of being hunched over at our phones & computers all day, most people are not able to get into great positions to press from.  Of course, you could spend lots of time working on your posture and mobility (probably not a bad idea), but experience tells me that most people simply do not do that, so an alternative exercise may be in order: enter the bottoms up press (BUP).

The BUP is performed with a kettlebell rather than a barbell, is most often performed one arm at a time, and offers many advantages over a traditional barbell military press. First, more people will be able to perform a BUP well and pain-free than will a barbell press (largely due to its unilateral nature).  Second, the BUP is one of the premier exercises for developing a great pressing groove – it is self correcting, meaning if you come out of position you are going to drop the weight!  Third, the BUP is one of the best developers for both the grip and the rotator cuff of anything out there.  In order to succeed at the BUP you need to crush the handle of the kettlebell, hence developing your grip and wrist strength.  As an added bonus, the neurological mechanism of crush griping in this way also gets fantastic activation of your rotator cuff muscle group in your shoulder, leading to strong, stable, and healthy shoulders.

 

HOW TO DO THEM

  • Grasp the kettlebell with a pistol grip, making sure to squeeze tightly and crush the bell before taking it off the ground
  • Hike pass the kettlebell back through your legs, then swing it forward and perform a bottoms up clean – the clean should finish in the rack position with your body straight and rigid, core tight, your forearm vertical, your elbow against your body, and your fist below your chin
  • Stabilize for a moment before you press, ensure your quads, gluts, and abs are all tight, and that you have the kettlebell steady
  • Press the kettlebell smoothly to an overhead lockout, making sure to watch the kettlebell the entire time in case it starts to fall (note, if it does fall, let it drop … it is dangerous to try and save it)
  • During the lift, maintain tight abs and gluts – a slight hip shift is OK if the weight is heavy, but avoid leaning backwards or sideways from the lower back (your abs must be very tight to avoid this)
  • Once you have finished your lift, stabilize the kettlebell overhead for a moment to display control, then bring it back to the rack position by doing an active negative; in other words, think about doing a one-arm chin up to active your lat to pull the bell back to the rack
  • When training these, keep the volume relatively low and always end feeling strong.  In spite of the BUP requiring relatively light weights compared to those used for other types of pressing, these can be quite taxing on your system and are easy to over-train