How to Maximize Your Training With Minimal Equipment: Overhead Press

Learn how to manipulate the weights so that you can get a strength workout no matter what size bells you have available.

A common issue that our online members and fans who train at home is that they just don’t have access to every weight out there. Kettlebells are expensive and many people don’t have more than a few sizes. Then when they try to get a strength workout and that single bell just becomes far too easy.

Today we will cover the overhead presses and how to manipulate the exercise to make sure you can get a full strength workout no matter what.  We previously covered Cleans and Snatches in the first part of the series here.

The first way is to change the basic type of exercise.  All of these exercises can be done with 1arm or 2arms.  From easier to hardest it goes:

  • Jerk > Push Press > Military Press > Seated Press

The difference between the exercise is the amount of power (momentum) as well as how much the rest of the body is able to assist the press.

  • Jerks –  Power exercise with two movements with the legs.  The initial dip and the squat under.
  • Push Press – Only one movement with the legs, but they still assist the movement.
  • Military Press – A pure strength exercise with no leg assistance.  The kettlebell(s) will move slower.
  • Seated Press – Removes any sort of leverage advantage and engagement from the rest of the body.

Each level of difficulty will decrease the reps by about 20-30%.  So if you can do 30 reps of Jerks, you should be able to do about 24 reps of Push Press > about 18 reps of Military Press > 12 reps of Seated Press.

Once you have gone through the four basic exercises and still need to make the exercise harder, you can manipulate how you move the arms.  All of these variations can be done with either the standing Military Press or Seated Press.

  • Alternate Arm Press – One kettlebell stays in the racked position while the other presses.
  • Walking Alternate Press – This forces significantly more engagement, stabilization, and coordination through the entire body.  As you step forward with one foot you press with the opposite.
  • Overhead Alternate Arm – Instead of holding the racked position, keep the other arm in the overhead position.  This forces even more time under tension.  This can be done either standing or seated too.

Manipulating the Pace

The standard pace is just controlled through the entire movement.  To make it even harder, control the negative for a full 3 count (seconds).  Next is 5 seconds or more.  This further increases the time under tension.  It can also an added layer of difficulty to all the previous variations.

Bottoms-Up Kettlebell

The last variation creates a significantly more unstable position.  This is a great variation for anyone dealing with shoulder issues as it forces more stabilization and control through the entire movement.

  • Arm stacked directly under the bell
  • Neutral wrist
  • Elbow in the side

The hardest possible overhead press would be to combine all the variations.

  • Seated + Overhead Alternate + 5 Count Negative + Bottoms Up

This point of all of this is that no matter what equipment you have available, you can get optimal benefit from it.  Play around with the variations and find the level that allows you get a great strength workout no matter what.

Have any questions?  Let us know in the comments!