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Progression with Presses

June 12, 2009 07:53 AM

Pressing heavy just feels good. There is something about prying yourself between a large amount of weight and the ground. For many of us it is a test of strength. But also, for many of us in the kettlebell community, it is a formidable challenge. When I started pressing kettlebells, they only came in 18lb increments; now they come in 9lb increments. This can lead to quite the jump from one weight to the next. As a trainer, I understand the method of progression. But for some reason, when I fell in love with kettlebells, I frequently failed to apply that rule to my own training. A 9 lb jump on an overhead press is a pretty big step. An 18 lb increase is no longer a jump, but more of a leap of faith! Many of us in the Dragon Door community are familiar with Pavel's Power to the People! When it comes to deadlifts, we progress our way up in poundage from 5 to 10 lb increments. Again, for the giant pulling muscles of our posterior, we are willing to progress up in weight in small methodical increments. Why then do we seldom think twice about leaping up in weight for our smaller pressing muscles when it comes to pressing a kettlebell?

Dr. Eric Cobb, of Z-health, frequently says "the best athletes make the extraordinary look ordinary. " Perhaps one way to accomplish the extraordinary is to follow a simple progression plan as we try to increase our pressing power. For me, I want to make pressing the bulldog ordinary. One method that has been working well for me is taping 2 ? lb plates to the bottom of my 32kg kettlebell. This is allowing me to increase my pressing strength; while making small, progressive increases in poundage. It has been a great help in closing the 18lb gap (canyon) between my 32kg and my 40kg kettlebells. When I get comfortable handling the 2 - ? lb increase, I'm ready to add a little more.

Try this for yourself. As the weeks pass (and it may take weeks, but that's okay!!) your pressing poundage will have increased in a safe, progressive manner without the intimidation of the 9 to 18 lb jump between kettlebells. Yes, this form of progression is not "sexy" and it may take a while, but that's okay. It works. I plan on pressing heavy 20 years from now, so I'm really in no hurry. And sometimes, the slower you go, the faster you get there?

A word about safety: Make sure if you tape a plate to the kettlebell, it is secure! It does no one any good to drop a plate on their head. That would not be progress. I use 200 mph duct tape. If it can hold a Nascar together, it can hold a plate to the bottom of my bell.

See pics below:

Tim, RKC II, is firefighter and kettlebell instructor near Raleigh, NC. He has been a personal trainer for 10 years and loves the opportunity to infect people with kettlebells. Tim can be reached through his website at