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Kettlebell Question regarding Kettlebell Press

mvikred

Level 5 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
I've observed something very weird today (maybe not weird because there is an explanation) when I was pressing. So here's the background to my question. 36kg KB is my 1RM. Typically for pressing I always cheat clean (with 2 hands) and then get everything aligned and then press. Today I was running a few sets of cleans with the 36kg KB and after the last set thought I would just press. And this time rather than cheat clean, I did a normal single hand clean and went for a press, and to my surprise the bell went up very quickly. There was no struggle, no slowing down at the sticking point, nothing. I just couldn't understand why. Ofcourse, I did not try to cheat clean after this and try the pressing again, as I was toast. But wondering if there is some logic to this. Is it because there is some stored energy in the lats when you clean that assists the press? I have no idea and I am only asking this out of curiosity to understand.
 

Kev

Level 6 Valued Member
I've observed something very weird today (maybe not weird because there is an explanation) when I was pressing. So here's the background to my question. 36kg KB is my 1RM. Typically for pressing I always cheat clean (with 2 hands) and then get everything aligned and then press. Today I was running a few sets of cleans with the 36kg KB and after the last set thought I would just press. And this time rather than cheat clean, I did a normal single hand clean and went for a press, and to my surprise the bell went up very quickly. There was no struggle, no slowing down at the sticking point, nothing. I just couldn't understand why. Ofcourse, I did not try to cheat clean after this and try the pressing again, as I was toast. But wondering if there is some logic to this. Is it because there is some stored energy in the lats when you clean that assists the press? I have no idea and I am only asking this out of curiosity to understand.
It’s a bit finicky if you ask me and I don’t pay it much mind in my own training but if doing clean and presses some folk say there should be a pause after the clean, before you press so that any elastic recoil dissipates.
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
@Stefan Olsson, I refer you to "Enter The Kettlebell." If someone would like to cite where in the book, that would be great; if no one does, I'll do this when I get to my other computer, which is near where I keep the book.

Thank you.

-S-
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
It’s a bit finicky if you ask me and I don’t pay it much mind in my own training but if doing clean and presses some folk say there should be a pause after the clean, before you press so that any elastic recoil dissipates.
Yes and no. Like the pause on the chest in a competition bench press, there can be no bounce into the press, but one can learn to store some of the tension generated by the negative and still have a legally-long pause. People often go the other way on this, cleaning and then allowing all the tension to dissipate. The ideal kettlebell clean "sets you up" for a stronger press after a 1-second or so pause in the rack position.

-S-
 

Steve W.

Level 8 Valued Member
Please, explain how to the body stores energy like in the example.
I don't really buy the "stored energy" idea. Unless you're using the stretch reflex, where would the energy come from and how would you "store" it? What would be the mechanism for this storage of energy? A one second pause might not blunt the stretch reflex completely, but two or three seconds probably would.

You might generate or maintain a high level of tension in preparation for the press, but that's not storing energy. It's just getting or staying tight, which uses energy.

Today I was running a few sets of cleans with the 36kg KB and after the last set thought I would just press. And this time rather than cheat clean, I did a normal single hand clean and went for a press, and to my surprise the bell went up very quickly. There was no struggle, no slowing down at the sticking point, nothing. I just couldn't understand why.
Here's my hypothesis:
1. Cleaning the bell and catching it in the rack had a disinhibiting effect on your nervous system. Swinging the bell around and tensing up to catch it, especially for multiple reps, lets your nervous know you can handle the weight. It tells your nervous system, "I've got this; this weight is not a threat to me." I often do this as a minimalist warmup for presses. Just a few cleans with the target weight always makes the press feel light. I hypothesize that the ballistic nature of the clean (vs. a cheat clean), helps disinhibit the nervous system because you have to reflexively generate the tension to catch the bell. Before your nervous system can register that the bell is heavy and interpret it as a threat, you've already caught it. And then doing a couple of more reps reinforces the message.

A lot of the skill of strength is in generating the neural drive to create the tension to lift the weight. When you fail on a lift, it's often partly because your nervous system perceives a threatening tension overload and shuts down the muscular contraction as a protective measure. The more you can mitigate that threat response, the less inhibited you are from generating tension and expressing strength.

2. Doing a ballistic clean and catching the bell in the rack forces you to reflexively and immediately generate the tension to support the bell. With a slower cheat clean, you can be less tight until you remove the assisting hand and all of sudden the bell is pinning your arm down and you have to ramp up the tension to initiate the press.

When doing a ballistic clean before a press, I find it makes a big difference if I keep my arm down as long as possible as my hips extend and then get the bell to float so I can quickly get my hand under the bell to catch it in the rack. So my arm is loose and quick in getting under the bell, and then suddenly tightens to catch the bell like a stiff spring. If my clean is too slow and lazy, and if I pull with my arm instead of keeping it down and using hip drive to ballistically launch the bell, and if I catch the bell by absorbing the force against my body instead of having my arm "spring loaded," the press is a lot harder.

This might be what people mean by "storing energy" from the clean, so it might be a semantic difference more than a substantive one. However, I don't believe it is a matter of "storing" anything, but just a technique for tricking your body into generating more tension. Then it's a matter of maintaining that tension and not losing it. But, again, generating and not losing tension both use up energy, they don't store it.
 
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Brett Jones

StrongFirst Director of Education
Master Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
Beast Tamer
A couple of things:

1) in your typical cheat clean and adjustment the amount of time spent adjusting and the loss of tension leads to a more difficult press.

It is the same reason any concentric start exercise is more difficult than those preceded by an eccentric load—bench press vs. DL for example.

2) we do want a pause in the rack before the press for testing standards (SFG, BT/IM).

3) the "stored energy" of the clean is in the tension set and used from the clean into the press—you want to land your clean so it is a loaded spring for the press and after the brief pause you let the spring go and press.
 

Stefan Olsson

Level 5 Valued Member
A couple of things:

1) in your typical cheat clean and adjustment the amount of time spent adjusting and the loss of tension leads to a more difficult press.

It is the same reason any concentric start exercise is more difficult than those preceded by an eccentric load—bench press vs. DL for example.

2) we do want a pause in the rack before the press for testing standards (SFG, BT/IM).

3) the "stored energy" of the clean is in the tension set and used from the clean into the press—you want to land your clean so it is a loaded spring for the press and after the brief pause you let the spring go and press.

Is there a science to it or is it anecdotal? Havent heard of it outside of the SF world and want to read about its origin.
 
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Kev

Level 6 Valued Member
Yes and no. Like the pause on the chest in a competition bench press, there can be no bounce into the press, but one can learn to store some of the tension generated by the negative and still have a legally-long pause. People often go the other way on this, cleaning and then allowing all the tension to dissipate. The ideal kettlebell clean "sets you up" for a stronger press after a 1-second or so pause in the rack position.

-S-
Yeah. I personally pause a tiny amount but I don’t let that stored energy get wasted. I find myself that if I try to exploit that stored energy the press looks pretty ugly and feels bad too but I certainly don’t stand in the rack for any appreciable amount of time. I’d say I finish each component of the C+P, neither rushed or slow. If that makes sense.
 

MikeL

Level 5 Valued Member
Is there a science to it or is it anecdotal? Havent heard of it outside of the SF world and want to read about its origin.
Creating tension, or getting tight, to lift heavier, is a very mainstream idea with plenty of sports science evidence. A quick Google will give you plenty of articles. All this is talking about is ensuring the muscle is activated for what comes next. It’s potentiation.
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
Is there a science to it or is it anecdotal? Havent heard of it outside of the SF world and want to read about its origin.
Try it both ways and report back, please. Use a weight heavy enough to make a difference, and try both singles and a few reps of pressing from the rack each time versus cleaning before each press. I think you'll feel the difference.

-S-
 

mvikred

Level 5 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
A couple of things:

1) in your typical cheat clean and adjustment the amount of time spent adjusting and the loss of tension leads to a more difficult press.

It is the same reason any concentric start exercise is more difficult than those preceded by an eccentric load—bench press vs. DL for example.

2) we do want a pause in the rack before the press for testing standards (SFG, BT/IM).

3) the "stored energy" of the clean is in the tension set and used from the clean into the press—you want to land your clean so it is a loaded spring for the press and after the brief pause you let the spring go and press.
This is what I thought was happening. When I cheat clean I do take an extra moment to let go off my other hand and then start creating tension for the press. When I clean, I have already created tension for that clean, and that 1 sec pause I take is to ensure that my wrist is positioned properly for the press.

Then the conclusion I take away is that even for the cheat clean I need to create enough tension - almost like the one created when I do a normal clean and let the side that will press take more load than distributing it equally on both hands.

Another question comes to mind then - the standard doesn't differentiate between the two cleans, I suppose? I would assume that with bells above 40kg, cheat clean would be the way to go to conserve energy for the press?
 

Stefan Olsson

Level 5 Valued Member
Creating tension, or getting tight, to lift heavier, is a very mainstream idea with plenty of sports science evidence. A quick Google will give you plenty of articles. All this is talking about is ensuring the muscle is activated for what comes next. It’s potentiation.
We talk about 'stroring energy' not creating tension. The former is something I've never heard of out side of the SF world. If its a semantic, thats fine. Was just curious.
 

Stefan Olsson

Level 5 Valued Member
Try it both ways and report back, please. Use a weight heavy enough to make a difference, and try both singles and a few reps of pressing from the rack each time versus cleaning before each press. I think you'll feel the difference.

-S-
I was asking for the science behind it or perhaps If its more anecdotal, which is fine. Seems to be hard to direct me to the text.

I know how it feels when I do it, but I dont understand how it 'stores energy' not even sure If it physically possible?
 
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Bauer

Level 7 Valued Member
Pavel explains it as prestretching the delts.

By the way, the idea elasticity and tensegrity of the body is catching on at the moment. The idea is that our bones are not only stacked on top of each other, but "floating in a sea of tension" (fascia), which is far more powerful. Think of a suspended bridge or a suspended chassis opposed to a stone bridge or a wooden charriot.

This is explained in detail in The Lost Art of Running by Shane Benzie.
 

John Grahill

Level 7 Valued Member
I mean no disrespect to anyone in this thread but.....

I dunno, maybe it's just me but I never cared about the science, just the results! I find that if I can get a solid clean that I'll have the confidence to press the bell(s).

I really don't know much about the science of "stored springy tension" if anything.....I just know it works for me. If I "cheat" clean a bell to the rack the press is often lousy...if I clean it sufficiently I usually have a good press effort.

Steve Friedes is spot on. Try a set of five clean and presses and then with the same weight try 5 military presses.....the military presses are harder.

I look at it like this, the trained instructors with this group spend a lot of time researching strength and conditioning through practical applications and classroom work. I like the methods advocated here because when I started this journey of mine I thought I was done with resistance training. Now I enjoy it.

I'm not a sheepish follower in life, but when it comes to training I just do what they suggest because it has worked for me. No sense in dissecting it, just get it done!
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
We talk about 'stroring energy' not creating tension. The former is something I've never heard of out side of the SF world. If its a semantic, thats fine. Was just curious.
I am not a sports scientist. It feels like like, as the kettlebell comes to rest in the rack position, that I am "coiled" and I can then "uncoil" that tension or energy or whatever you'd like to call it to make my press better, stronger than it would be without the clean. I feel fairly certain that someone, somewhere has quantified this, but I don't have a link to a study and I still haven't had a chance to look for a reference in ETK. If I have caused any confusion by my use of the word energy when perhaps I should have said tension, I apologize. But when you pull back on the bow in preparation for shooting the arrow, are you storing energy or tension? Whatever that is, the clean feels like that to me, and as others here have said in their replies on this thread, I think we all seem to be feeling the same thing.

@Stefan Olsson, it was a good question you asked - thank you for asking it.

-S-
 
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