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Tips for KB Pressing Power

May 18, 2009 09:40 AM

Everyone wants to add more power to their press and they want it yesterday! Strength is a skill (where have I heard that before?) and you will need time and perfect reps, but there are a few things that can help you along your journey.

1) Head Position
Your head should be neutral at all times and make sure it does not move out like a turtle peeking out of its shell. The thoracodorsal nerve receives its fibers from the sixth, seventh, and eighth cervical nerves. If you feel around on your lower neck you will find a "bump" near the bottom, which is C7; so go down a bit and up a bit and you are in the right area. When there is additional pressure on this nerve, the body perceives it as a threat and starts to shut down some muscular function as a protective mechanism (arthrokinetic reflex). This is not what we want for a strong press! When the neck is forward, the lats can be weak, so keep your head neutral and no turtles!

2) Open palm pressing when using a lighter KB
The wrist for many KB comrades (I always wanted to use that word) can take a beating and you may need to work the opposite—pushing the wrist "open." As discussed above, if the body thinks you have a messed up wrist, how much weight do you think your brain will allow you lift? My guess is less than you want! Plus with the open palm you will not be able to use grip strength to "hide weaknesses" via increased tension. Try it with a lighter KB for some higher reps and a nice side effect may be some increased muscle size too.

3) Mobility work on the wrist and down the line
The body is a large "X" in regards to force transfer. If you are pressing with a KB in your right hand, the force primarily travels down your right arm to your low back where it crosses to the other side of your body and all the way down to your left foot/ankle. If you want increased strength, make sure your mobility in those joints is up to par at a minimum.

Considering doing your shoulder mobility work (I like Z Health) with your palm back (in full extension) and spread your fingers. You are working to open the wrist and hands to signal to the brain "no problems here, full speed ahead."

4) Use your eyes
Your body has built in reflexes, so use them! When pressing the KB up, look up (I said LOOK up not move your head up, your head stays in neutral remember). When lowering the KB, move your eyes from the up position back to the neutral position (so you are moving them down as you lower the KB). Be sure to check out Dr. Cobb's article here on this topic:

So there you have some quick and easy tips to increase the power of your press. Drop me a line and let me know how it goes for you!

Mike T. Nelson is a PhD Candidate at the University of Minnesota in Kinesiology (Exercise Science). He received his MS in Mechanical Engineering specializing in Biomechanics from Michigan Technological University and a BA in Natural Science from St. Scholastica.

He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) by the NSCA, Z Health R, I, S and T Phase certified, Z Health Master Trainer intern, and a RKC instructor. .

He currently trains athletes of all types in White Bear Lake Minnesota and can be contacted at

Be sure to check out his blog at for the latest in performance enhancement.