By Pavel Tsatsouline, Chairman
Here is how to set a kettlebell military press personal record within weeks.
You will be benching with a close grip. The close grip bench press is the best tool for strengthening the triceps. Its winning combination of very focused stress on this three-headed muscle and a very heavy weight used cannot be beat.
The volume required for great results is ridiculously low by kettlebell standards and the overall fatigue is a lot lower than from kettlebell presses, due to the movement’s lower coordination and overall tightness demands. Which means you can save your energy for important things like the U.S. Secret Service Snatch Test.
A Couple of Close Grip Bench Press Technique Subtleties
First, when you have positioned yourself on the bench, place your hands on the bar as you would for diamond push-ups: the index finger and the thumb of one hand touch their counterparts on the other hand. Without losing this angle, slide your hands out until you are barely touching the smooth part of the knurling with the insides of your hands. Make sure the bar is pressing against the meaty heels of your palms and finally grip the bat.
Second, “tear the bar apart” on the way up to maximally activate your triceps. If you do it correctly, you should feel your rear delts.
Your Weekly Training Schedule
- Day 1: Close grip bench press, other “grinds,” barbell and/or kettlebell
- Day 2: Kettlebell ballistics, work up to an easy clean and press single or two
- Day 3
- Day 4: Close grip bench press, other “grinds,” barbell and/or kettlebell
- Day 5: Kettlebell ballistics, work up to an easy clean and press single or two
- Day 6
- Day 7
Where it says “work up to an easy clean and press single or two,” you had better believe it. To use an example, if your best kettlebell press is 40kg x 2, your whole press session will look like this:
24kg x 3-5, 32kg x 1/2, 36kg x1
If you don’t own a 36, just press an extra single with the 32. This will feel like nothing after high volume pounding of the Enter the Kettlebell! Rite of Passage, but this is the idea. According to Drs. Verkhoshansky and Siff, “…the ‘degree of contrast’ in training… is a factor which enhances the functional responsiveness of the body.” Or, in Marty Gallagher’s words, “…institute a radical departure to what the body perceives as the current status quo…” It works both ways. When you get back to high volume pressing of Enter the Kettlebell! or Return of the Kettlebell, you will be a lot more responsive to it after your low volume stint.
In your first close grip bench workout, find your 10RM in this exercise. Do easy sets of five making big jumps between sets and resting plenty until you start noticing the weight, then add a little more, rest a lot more, and test your rep-max. For instance:
95×5, 135×5, 155×5, 175×5, 195×5 (starting to feel it), 205x9RM
It does not matter if you got 9 or 11 reps, this is close enough and this is your cycle’s starting weight.
In your next close grip bench press workout, do a couple of lighter, low rep sets to groove your technique, then do 5 reps with that weight. Rest for three to five minutes and do 3 reps. Rest for the same amount of time and put up 2 reps. Keeping the weight static and doing a triple and a double instead of a lighter set of five is a Power to the People! modification suggested to me by Jack Reape. This version has already made it into the Russian PTP edition.
The above workout will be very easy. It is supposed to be. When you are done, take 20% of the weight off and do three sets of five with as little rest between them as possible. Here is what our hypothetical girevik would end up lifting:
135×5, 155×3, 185×1-2, 205×5, 3, 2 (3-5min between sets); 165×5/3 (minimal rest between sets)
Every workout add 10 pounds to the 5, 3, 2 sets. Not 5, not 2.5, and definitely not those mini-plates. When you have reached the point where it takes all you have got to press the weight five times, next workout still add another 10 pounds, but skip the first set. In other words, instead of 5, 3, 2, do only 3, 2 reps.
Next time add another 10 and get rid of the set of 3 reps. You are down to one double. This is the end of the cycle. Skip your back-off 3×5 and in the next kettlebell workout test your kettlebell clean and press. Report your personal record on the StrongFirst forum.
Pressing power to you!