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Testing Radiant Tension Variations for Increased Performance in the Kettlebell Press

Jedd Johnson
Pavel writes about a concept called irradiation, which is a coordinated tension that allows us to execute more strength in a given movement when we tighten other parts of the body, especially the hands.
For instance, in one article, Pavel refers to the increased strength one can gain when performing dips if he squeezes the grips with the hands throughout the movement.
In many of the products I have released I refer to this same concept, only I refer to it as Radiant Tension. 
For instance, when bending nails, if you approach it as solely a hand and wrist strength activity, you will only be able to bend at a certain level. However, if you consciously squeeze with the hands, arms, shoulders, and upper torso muscles (especially the lats), you will immediately see an improvement in your bending ability.
In another example, if you set out to tear a deck of cards without first flexing your lats and creating the circle of strength, you will probably struggle through the deck. However, if you harness the entire upper body and create this radiating, pulsating, hydraulic radiant tension, you will secure all the joints, and better transfer power from the big muscles of the upper body down to the hands and into the cards.
Of course, feats of strength like bending and tearing are not the only types of strength execution where Irradiation or Radiant Tension can benefit you. These same techniques can help you in the squat, bench press, and in kettlebell training as well.
Most of you probably already know this and are practicing it in your kettlebell lifts. If you have tried feats of strength and run into trouble, this might be the missing piece of the puzzle, but that is not why I am writing this article.
I am writing this article because recently I tested the concept of Radiant Tension in my kettlebell training effectively for the first time.
Since 2004, I have owned a 95-lb kettlebell and only recently I have been able to press it with legitimate form right handed for an occasional single or double, but I have never pressed it left handed even once unless I truly cheated the movement. However, for whatever reason, it never occurred to me to employ Radiant Tension in order to improve in the movement until after I attended the RKC training in September. I did however give it a try just a few weeks ago with tremendous results I’d like to share with you all here.
In a recent upper body push session, I performed Overhead Log Lifts, Close-Grip Bench Press and finished up with kettlebell overhead press. I went for a press with the 95-lb kettlebell, and I was successful for one, slow repetition Right handed but could not get any Left handed.
I then decided to give Radiant Tension / Irradiation a try, so I grabbed a Pony Clamp. A Pony Clamp is a tool used in carpentry that is similar in shape to a Gripper. 
You might be wondering why I chose a Pony Clamp and not a Gripper. I did so because in Pavel’s article he mentioned how important it was to not change the dominata of the movement. In other words, while some tension in the body is good, too much tension in one part of the body can cause you to essentially have trouble concentrating on your main goal. In my case, my main goal was pressing the kettlebell, so it was my dominata. If I’d gone and grabbed a number 4 Gripper, I would have changed the dominata of the lift and probably done even worse with the press.
I tested the effect of the Irradiation and sure enough, my pressing ability improved. I was able to get 2 repetitions with my Right Hand and an amazing 1.5 reps with my Left Hand. Yes, Radiant Tension enabled me to press the 95-lb kettlebell for the first time, a PR that I was very impressed with.
In fact, I was so impressed that I just had to review the video of the feat. What I saw was something I did not expect to see…
In review, I could get one rep right without Irradiation and zero left. With irradiation, I got 2 right and 1.5 left. But I noticed when I reviewed the video that when I squeezed the Pony Clamp with the left hand, my hand was much higher, way up near shoulder height during the press and when I squeezed right-handed, my hand was way down near my hip.
Was it possible that the joint orientation of the opposite limb could help in somehow improving the coordinated tension of the musculature? I decided to test it out again and this time I changed the position of each hand: I kept my left hand down and my right hand up while I squeezed the Pony Clamp and pressed the kettlebell with the other arm.
To my surprise, when I held my right hand up to squeeze the Pony Clamp, I PR’d again, hitting two reps in the press left handed with the 95-lb kettlebell.
Also, when I switched the position of my left hand during the right handed press, I lost a rep.
So what does all this tell you?
Without a doubt, Radiant Tension / Irradiation works and you should try to make use of it in your lifts in order to stabilize across joints and create more coordinated contraction across muscle groups in the body. On top of that, your body may be able to coordinate this Tension even more if you find out the way your joints and appendages are best aligned. Sometimes, to maximize the effects of this Tension, all you have to do is modify a joint angle slightly.
Here is an example of how to test if Radiant Tension/ Irradiation works for you, and which arm position and what kind of item to squeeze may help you achieve a PR:
With a moderately heavy kettlebell
  • First set a baseline – warm up with a clean and press ladder on your right and left arms – say a ladder of 3, and then take a short break and complete 5 right/5 left clean and presses – assess fluidity, strength and quickness of your lift.
  • With a Pony Clamp (or a tennis ball) in your non loaded hand down at your side, use the principals of Radiant Tension/ Irradiation and perform another set of 5 right/5 left clean and presses – assess fluidity, strength and quickness of your lift, and if it felt easier or harder to complete
  • With your non-loaded hand with elbow bent and hand at shoulder level, perform the above again and reassess
  • With your non-loaded hand straight out to the side, parallel to the ground, perform the above again, and reassess
  • You can also test with something much harder to squeeze, like a #1-4 gripper to assess how more tension in another area affects your lift.
  • You can test with other arm positions, and other items to squeeze as well.
I’m interested to hear if anyone else has experienced this in their training, or tried playing around with joint / appendage placement angle in their lifts in order to increase strength performance in their lifts.
Jedd Johnson is a CSCS, RKC, Captain of Crush #3, Red Nail Bender, and owns the World Record in the Two Hands Pinch. Jedd loves all forms of strength training and readily competes in Grip strength competitions. For more information check out Jedd’s strength training website,, or email him here: