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A Quick Lesson in Balanced Strength Training Programs

Master The Kettlebell Program Design Page
Kettlebells have stood the test of time as workout tools. However, many people are still confused about which movements to focus on, and how to combine kettlebells with other training modalities. Hopefully I can help everyone out by shedding some light on the situation.

There are the four main movements we want to hit every training session:

Upper Push (push-ups or presses)
Upper Pull (pull-ups or rows)

Lower Push (squats or lunges)
Lower Pull (swings or deadlifts)

If you hit all of these movements in equal amounts, you are pretty much guaranteed to have a balanced training program.

In my opinion, two kettlebell moves rise high above all the others—the one arm swing and the bottom up press.
The Bottom Up Press:

This movement is unique to kettlebells and helps fix many issues related to shoulder mechanics.

Here are several things we want during the press but don’t always get:
  • Rotator cuff activation
  • Vertical forearm
  • Lat activation
  • Core activation
  • Glute activation
  • Tall posture
The beautiful part about the bottom up press is that all of the above happen AUTOMATICALLY because of the nature of the movement.

Squeezing the kettlebell handle actually facilitates the rotator cuff activation necessary for good shoulder mechanics. In a bottom up press, squeezing the handle is mandatory.

I can’t even count how many times people have come to our gym with shoulder pain during presses who were able to do the movement pain free when they switched to the bottom up press.

Bottom up presses are magic.
Master The Kettlebell Bottom Up Press Page
Similarly, the one arm swing also just makes things work too.

Benefits of the One Arm Swing:
  • Extra glute activation
  • Core activation and force transmission
  • Opposite movement of sitting down
  • Shoulder and lat activation
  • Grip strength
  • Connecting the "X"
The two largest muscle groups in the upper and lower body respectively are the lats and the glutes or "Glats." The one arm swing is one of THE best ways to connect them. Many coaches say that if a person has a strong "X" then they are guaranteed to be a strong athlete.

There are other important movements for a balanced training program, but these two are the best exercises you can do with a kettlebell.

How to Put It All Together

Earlier we looked at the main movements in a strength program, and as long as you can correctly categorize movements, you can plug in the bottom up press and one arm swing anywhere.

The bottom up press can be categorized as a strength movement and an upper push. It can be used in place of pushups, bench press, overhead press, handstands, etc. You can also use the bottom up press effectively as a warm up for the shoulders before other heavy upper body lifting movements.

The one arm swing is categorized as a lower body pulling exercise which can be used for power, strength or endurance.

Used for low reps (1-5) at the beginning of a session, it can be used as a power drill.

Performed for low to medium reps (1-8) in the middle of a session, it can become a strength drill.

Multiple sets of medium to high reps at the end of a session transform the one arm swing into an endurance exercise.

My personal favorite way to use the one arm swing is to do 10 reps with the left arm at the top of the minute and 10 reps on the right arm at the 0:30 mark. After five minutes, this equals 100 swings. Once you can easily complete that drill, it’s time to add some weight.

These movements even fit nicely within a more conventional strength program.

Superset 1:
Bottom Up Press
Barbell Deadlift

Superset 2:
Dumbbell Row
Goblet Squat

One arm swing intervals for 5:00 as above

Regardless of what you decide to do, it’s important to have good technique and a balanced training program. By using these two secret weapons, it will be one heck of a lot easier to get stronger and stay healthy.

Small Book Cover Master The KettlebellMaster RKC Instructor Max Shank is the owner of Ambition Athletics in Encintas, California. He is very active in martial arts, competes in the Highland Games, and promotes a holistic approach to overall fitness. For more information about Max please visit
Max Shank is also the author of Master the Kettlebell, now available in ebook format.