The Kettlebell Overhead Press

Is it the king of overhead pressing, or just a pretender?

The overhead press is one of the most important movements in resistance training. It doesn’t matter if you’re using a barbell, a dumbbell, a kettlebell, or a big old rock. It’s important.

Once upon a time, the measure of strength wasn’t the bench press, but the overhead press.

While it’s prominence has fallen in many ways, the overhead press is still pretty damn important. Even while focusing on the kettlebell snatch, I’m still making it a point to press with a kettlebell too.

There are a lot of people who claim that pressing with a kettlebell is the bee’s knees.

But is it?

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Soviet-Era Study On Kettlebells And Strength

While I spent a good bit of time looking at recent studies on strength, there was one that I wanted to find that I wasn’t having any luck on. You see, in Pavel Tsatouline’s books “Enter the Kettlebell” and “Return of the Kettlebell,” he makes reference to a soviet era study by a scientist named
Voropayev.

He uses the study a great deal to illustrate how kettlebells can be used to develop strength.

The question is, what does the study actually show? After all, Tsatouline doesn’t exactly quote it.

But it’s something that we kind of need to know, right?

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Do Kettlebells Actually Help You Burn Body Fat?

Does it really do anything to help you burn fat? Or are the claims just hot air?

One of the many touted benefits of kettlebell training is that it can supposedly help you burn body fat, making you a weight loss machine.

However, we’ve already seen that the kettlebell will increase strength and is a good conditioning tool. It would seem that it would help you lose weight if matched with a proper diet, but does it?

Well, I decided to take a quick look at any studies I could find on the topic, and what I found was fascinating.

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An Overview of the Conditioning Impact of Kettlebell Training

Just how much conditioning do you get out of traditional kettlebell training?

I’ve written before that kettlebells are great for conditioning, but I haven’t really supported that. Not scientifically, at least, and it’s time I fixed that.

However, like almost everything with regard to kettlebells, the science is a little muddled. Part of that is due to design, but is that all there is?

Let’s take a look at see.

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One-Arm Or Two-Arm Swings: Which Is Better?

For kettlebell practitioners, there are two types of swings. The two-arm is sort of the entry-level swing while the one-handed is the more advanced move.

However, many people who use a kettlebell never seem to progress beyond the two-handed stage. After all, the one-handed swing is a logical progression if you’re looking to do cleans, snatches, high pulls, or any number of other exercises.

If you’re just looking to get fit, though, is one better than the other?

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The Difficulties Of Evidence-Based Kettlebell Training

When I started down this rabbit hole of looking for evidence backing up kettlebell training, I figured it wouldn’t be that hard. After all, the blasted things have been around for centuries. There are pictures of old-time strongmen like Eugene Sandow hoisting the things.

Anything that old and that linked to historic physical culture should have a lot of research behind it by now, right?

Eh…not so much.

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Do Kettlebells Actually Make You Stronger?

What does science actually say about strength training with kettlebells?

If you’re going to look at any kind of training such as kettlebell training, you need to know if it’ll do what you want it to do. While I do think that your enjoyment should play a factor, as previously noted, I also think you need to understand what will happen if you engage in a given training modality.

With barbells and dumbbells, even with calisthenics, people already generally know what to expect. If you lift weights, you’ll get stronger and can get bigger muscles. Similarly with calisthenics.

But kettlebells are different animals. Despite having been around for centuries, few people really understand what they can really do.

That includes me.

So, as part of this ongoing quest to figure them out, let’s look and see if they can really make you stronger.

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