One Weird Trick: Installment 8 – Improve Your Kettlebell Pressing Strength Instantly

There is a thought process that performing several different variations of a pressing, rowing, or various abdominal exercises in a half kneeling position will be beneficial for several reasons:

  1. Challenge unilateral lower body stability,
  2. Split a pelvis in order to recruit deep stabilizers in the hip, and
  3. [Re]-introduce the lunging pattern to an individual that can’t get into a this pattern – so a static version of a lunge will be helpful towards that goal!

Traditionally utilizing a pattern such as the half kneeling position will require a contralateral position of the working arm and opposite stabilizing leg.

In other words, if you are performing a half kneeling 1-arm cable row for example, and you are rowing with your right arm, you will have your right leg back in hip extension.

Half Kneeling 1-Arm Cable Row

Half Kneeling Ipsi-what?

However, this rule of “same arm that is performing the action, requires the same leg to move” is not a hard and fast rule.

One weird trick that goes against this notion that has helped involves using the same side for both the movement and the leg that is “up,” or in other words if your right hand is moving a weight, you should have your right leg up in hip flexion to help stabilize (instead of having your knee down on the ground).

The reasons this may be more efficacious towards instantaneous strength can be traced towards a sequence of developmental periods of growth as we grow from babies into functioning and developed toddlers/kids.

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:

There are also other reasons why this may work, as if you are attempting to push from a position that is compromised or restrictive in nature (half kneeling, for example), you can recruit the side that is pushing by bringing that same leg up into hip flexion, which will recruit more obliques on that side.

Further, you can create more stability in your posterior chain and “push” (or perform whatever action) in a better position via recruitment of your lats as you have that same leg up.

Interestingly enough, we don’t seem to question this stability in the Turkish Get Up, where you use the same hand that is holding the kettlebell, and using the same leg that is in hip flexion…

Make sure to recruit total body tension via irradiation as you perform these movements, which merely requires tightness throughout your legs, abdominals, and opposite hand that is not holding anything (Bonus Trick: Try holding a Fat Grip or other item and squeezing if you can’t develop tension in a hand that doesn’t hold anything).

How to Program

Well you can program this in any capacity for what it is worth. I usually like having half kneeling and unilateral stability exercises as a secondary or part of a “B Series” of exercise selection.

This doesn’t mean you need to adhere to this rule either, but it can help improve further push big numbers after performing a bench press or other bilateral movement pattern.

A1. [Bilateral Upper Body Push]

B1. Half Kneeling Ipsilateral 1-Arm KB Press – 3×5/side

B2. Half Kneeling Ipsilateral 1-Arm Cable Row – 3×8/side

These movements can greatly benefit you towards improving your strength and even hypertrophy, because if you can press more weight, well then you can recruit more muscular fibers, and perhaps even improve upon your physique.

So many fun things can happen when you begin to understand how to manipulate the neuromuscular system! :)

As always,

Keep it funky.


My Favorite Exercise Combinations – Installment 9

Motion at the shoulder joint has now been known to improve through several mechanisms:

  1. Improving soft tissue quality, so signaling can be improved to the motor units that are attached to the muscle fibers involved with these movers.
  2. Reorienting joint position of the glenohumeral joint by improving joint centration.
  3. Improving rib cage position/spinal position in order to improve the brain’s strategy for where “up” actually is with respect to upward movement of the arm.

In this exercise combination, I aim to improve the motoric control of the rib cage, while simultaneously asking the brain to move the shoulder upward through reflexive and reactive exercises.

A Left Jab, Right Hook Combination

After watching Creed about five times in the past 4 weeks, I’ve come to appreciate the simplicity that a simple combination can provide from a foundational level. The most intensive combos can be utilized in order to achieve an outcome – or you can just jab a few times, and give a good hook at the right time and get the same or better effect.

In my opinion, the following combination will be able to improve shoulder motion by doing the following:

  1. Improve rib cage position
  2. Improve recruitment of upward rotators of the scapula
  3. Inhibiting lumbar erectors as stabilizers
  4. Making the shoulder stabilizers fire reactively

So, if you are dancing, looking to improve handstand coordination, or simply aim to improve overhead motion during training, these simple drills can help you immensely.

A front plank has many benefits – it is a great first progression for anterior core involvement, can serve a purpose for a teaching tool for several different exercises, along with providing an adequate muscular endurance challenge for the individual that is lacking the endurance for an upright posture.

However, let’s take some of these other facts into account.

ProtractionWhen you perform a front plank correctly, you will have your shoulder blades slightly protracted and abducted, or fitting on the side of your rib cage. When this occurs, you have several intrinsic muscles within the shoulder girdle firing to stabilize.

Secondarily, you also recruit obliques if you are in a good position from a lower ribcage and pelvic position, so recruiting our athletes to “bring their belt buckle up to their nose” can improve abdominal positioning quickly.

Abdominal ObliquablesBy recruiting internal and external obliques, you can inhibit some of the extension based muscle groups that are often stabilizing in place of these obliques.

And lastly, you can also improve position of the neck by telling individuals to make sure your face is NOT near the ground, but maintain eyes and nose towards the ground – which will help recruit a neutral spinal alignment. This will help turn off some of the cervical neck extensors that many people exhibit during a forward head posture.

Bottoms Up, Bottoms Up…

Finally, you can improve motion of the shoulder by performing a Half Kneeling 1-Arm Bottoms Up KB Press.

Half Kneeling 1-Arm Bottoms Up KB PressIf the kettlebell is bottoms up, the weight will want to tip from side to side, and by reflexively or reactively asking your hand to grip TIGHT, you will also improve recruitment of the rotator cuff of the shoulders. I also try to not start in a retracted scapular position, or even a too protracted and abducted position. In fact, I find that improving thoracic position in the moment while holding the kettlebell will improve shoulder position into a more “packed” position.

As you bring the weight up, think of hiding your ears with your arms. This will make sure you keep a centrated position of your shoulder joint, and making sure you don’t fall forward with your hands or backwards with the weight.

In conclusion, you can combine these two exercises together in this fashion:

A1. Front Plank Arm March – 2 to 3 sets of 20 to 30 seconds (or 6 to 8 inhales / exhales)

A2. Half Kneeling 1-Arm Bottoms Up KB Press – 2 to 3 sets of 5 to 6 per side

If you’re finding yourself having some shoulder issues from a motor control point of view, give this a shot.

As always,

Keep it funky.