I always really struggled with my pressing. I’m not just talking about building pressing strength. I’m talking about the actual execution of the press. My press had never felt smooth, never had a comfortable path to follow.
I Was Told I’d Never Succeed – But I Did
I remember hearing Master SFG Shaun Cairns say that pressing was for intelligent people, but I never understood that comment until recently. There are so many considerations for the press, many of which cannot be truly experienced until the weight becomes considerably heavy.
After my RKC, I was told I wouldn’t make it to a level two instructor because I displayed “poor shoulder mechanics.” I was told that because I had a history of impingement, i would never press heavy weights – like the Beast. At this stage, I could barely press a 32kg.
Despite this, I was determined to find a way. I worked hard on my thoracic mobility and length tension relationships of my entire trunk and managed to eliminate my pressing pain. I registered for the SFG Level II instructor course, giving myself six months to work on my press.
How I Planned to Best the Beast
I decided to go with four main exercises for the six months of training. I chose the double kettlebell clean and press, pull-ups, sumo deadlift, and get-ups. I used ladders for the press, supersetted with pull-ups, and easy strength for the deadlifts.
This program tested my patience. In the past, I had a tendency to change programs every four to six weeks because I was never really committed to my goals. I had to keep reminding myself of how crucial it was to stick to the plan, as I was determined to pass level two.
I pressed ladders three days a week for nearly four months. In my opinion, the program didn’t really start until I was using the 32kg bells. The first two months were all about building volume and getting my pressing groove. Then, the next two months were all about breathing and tension.
I hadn’t dropped a single rep the whole program until week one of the third month. They just felt so heavy. I soon realized the problem was my clean. I needed to power it up in order to press the bells effectively. I started doing some dead stop swings with a 56kg. From then on, everything fell into place. My cleans were crisp and therefore my press felt lighter.
The extra power I gained through my glutes from the sumo deadlifts was incredible, and I could really feel them contract while pressing. This made a massive difference when trying to stabilize and push through sticking points. Finally, my presses started to feel strong and I found my groove.
Five months in, I was pulling a 190kg deadlift for five reps (that was my previous 1RM weight) and had gained 15kg of bodyweight (100kg at 12%BF). I was eating more food than ever before and sleeping whenever I found time. My body told me what I needed to do and I listened.
Once I had finished the pressing ladders and built sufficient volume, I moved onto Mark Reifkind’s program for six weeks. I didn’t use a great deal of variety presses, just some bottoms-up presses for tension and then heavy singles. I believe it was the assistance exercises combined with pressing speed that pulled it all together for me.
After all the ladders, I was looking forward to pressing heavy and seeing where I was. I found my new 1RM clean and press to be 44kg and my 1RM deadlift was 230kg. I pressed singles on the 44kg. As long as I was gaining reps each week I felt comfortable I would press the Beast at the cert. On week six of the program I locked out the Beast and managed to get a pull-up with it as well.
My Pressing the Beast Program
- I trained Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but any combination will work as long as there is a full day’s rest in between each training day.
- I started each training day with get-ups, 5 left/5 right, and went up in weight when the current weight felt light.
- I started the ladders with double 24s at a body weight of 85kg.
- I included weighted pull-ups between each set, doing the same number of reps as the presses. I started with a pull-up weight I could comfortably do for 8 reps. For me, that was 20kg.
- I felt that completing every rep took priority and therefore used the “rest as much as you need but as little as possible” method. Toward the end of both the ladders and Mark Reifkind program, my rest periods between sets were over five minutes.
- Each round of ladders took four weeks and one day. I took the rest of the fifth week off to recover, and started the next cycle fresh on Monday. After each month of ladders, I went up in weight to the next size kettlebells.
My Press Ladders
D1: 1-2-3 x 5
D2: 1-2-3 x 6
D3: 1-2-3 x 7
D1: 1-2-3 x 8
D2: 1-2-3 x 9
D3: 1-2-3 x 10
D1: 1-2-3-4 x 3
D2: 1-2-3-4 x 4
D3: 1-2-3-4 x 5
D1: 1-2-3-4 x 6
D2: 1-2-3-4-5 x 2
D3: 1-2-3-4-5 x 3
D1: 1-2-3-4-5 x 4
MONTH 2 – Go up in weight and start again from month 1, week 1.
For anyone who doesn’t think level two is achievable, think again. Come up with a plan and stick to it. Consistency and listening to your body will get you there in good time.
START PREPARING NOW FOR THE LEVEL II SFG