This is a story of how one FitStrong client progressed from pressing a 28kg kettlebell well, a 32kg okay to pressing a 40kg overhead on each arm with one simple program.
Pressing or placing heavy stuff overhead has been a feat of strength favoured by many a strongman of yesteryear. Oddly enough it’s not just the twirly moustached gent that thrives off of pressing big bars and kettlebells and other odd objects. I see lots of every day people who love the feeling of pressing things over their head in what you could call a press of victory over gravity and iron kilograms.
This year so far we’ve had many ladies move up to larger kettlebells in their programs whilst others simply got more comfortable with their current presses – another valuable note of progress – but one chap started the year with a notable goal in particular.
TO PRESS THE 40KG KETTLEBELL!
I like to stay on top of peoples goals and whilst most don’t have any movement specific goals, I occasionally get interesting requests, like this one. “I want to press the 40kg kettlebell by the end of the year Jamie”.
I’ve never been great at pressing. A combination of long, skinny arms, former injuries from bike crashes holding me back and a natural propensity for endurance over max strength has left me with a humbling 32kg kettlebell press. Not terrible but, meh!
Anyhoo, I was stuck at pressing the 24kg for a very long time until I came across a program concept (that I have since run with on many other strength programs) that allowed me to finally press the 28kg with comfort and the 32kg with a bit of a grind.
The concept: TO EXPAND THE COMFORT ZONE GRADUALLY
Now, I’ve written about this concept before but because it keep delivering for not just me, but for other people with totally different make ups, it’s validity keeps growing stronger.
The key to making this program successful is in creeping up volume very, very slightly over the training cycle.
- Progress takes a forward, forward, back waved approach. We add a rep, add a rep then back step to a previously completed stage – it’ll make sense below but in essence we sneak the volume up a little and before it gets noticed as a stress, we back off to a comfortable level we’ve completed before.
- The program is very specialised and didn’t leave much room for progressing other lifts but the goal was to improve the press, nothing else.
- We train three times a week, with active rest days in between to work on mobility and other maintain other qualities.
- The programs progression can be overridden by biofeedback. If the body felt a bit battered or tight, we back off to a simpler days training. (You’ll see that below when we cut volume down to 24 total reps a couple of times)
- Start the program with a weight that can be pressed for 5 reps, or 70% of your max. 1 rep press.
- Always warm up each session with a thorough mobility routine like Original Strength, some crawling, farmers carries and a few swings.
- Ensure that each clean before your press is great. The better the clean, the better the press.
- Perform up to 20 sets.
- Rest 1 minute between sets or longer once the sets get longer.
The progression we used exactly is copy and pasted below.
To be clear about what the above means, let’s take session #5, 2223 x 5. This means, press x 2, rest, 2, rest, 2, rest, 3, rest, repeat the cycle again for another 4 cycles for a total of 20 sets, equalling 45 presses. Got it?
I’m not saying this exact layout will work for everyone, but I believe in the concept, the waviness of volume and expanding the comfort zone to achieve new layers of strength.
At the end of this program, the client rested a few days with active recovery before retesting his weights. The 40kg pressed up smoothly.
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December 2018 Update:
Here’s what an online client had to say about the program after a few weeks of following the above layout.