How to Double Your Kettlebell Press in 6 Weeks Without Touching a Bell

The StrongFirst Bodyweight Instructor Certification is likely coming to a city near you soon. Now, if you are like me you may be thinking what is the big deal about Bodyweight Certifications? I mean really, I have grown up in a traditional martial arts school and have been doing bodyweight work my whole life, so what is the point of going somewhere to learn how to do push-ups and pull-ups?

How wrong I was! What I found was that the SFB is not your typical calisthenics course where eking out more shaking reps than the last time was the end all-be all goal to self-improvement. No, what is delivered is a system of knowledge that allows the user to get a powerlifting type of strength practice anywhere, anytime, with little or no gear. As the description says on the StrongFirst webpage, “In Case Civilization is Temporary.”

How to Double Your Kettlebell Press

How to Double Your Kettlebell Press with Handstand Push-ups

Case in point, I travel all the time teaching workshops and certifications so it is not always easy to stick to a strict kettlebell pressing program. It’s hard to travel fast and light with a kettlebell. Therefore, the solution for me during one particular busy section of the year was to do handstand push-ups. I simply did Pavel’s Rite of Passage from Enter the Kettlebell.

The Rite of Passage program, in case you are not familiar with it, is a surefire way to systematically work your way up to a strict military press using a kettlebell around half of your bodyweight. The student practices pressing a bell using ladders starting with 3 ladders of 3: (1-2-3) (1-2-3) (1-2-3) and gradually over time works himself up to 5 ladders of 5.

Well, what I did was substitute handstand push-ups for the kettlebell presses and followed the same program. What David Whitley laughingly calls “Enter the Handstand Push-ups.” The whole time I did this, about six weeks, I never touched a kettlebell and in the back of my mind, I was concerned I would lose the starting strength of my kettlebell press.

The reason for this fear is when you think of a handstand push-up, you are really only going through the top two thirds of the motion compared to a kettlebell press, because you are only able to lower yourself to the top of your head. Where the kettlebell press starts from the rack and travels all the way to lockout, the concentric phase of the handstand push-up starts at the top of your head and goes to lockout—a much shorter or partial movement. I thought I was really going to have to spend some time with a kettlebell to makeup for lost ground.

When I finished the six weeks and was finally able to test the press, I grabbed a 44kg and accidentally pressed it eight times—my best before was only four hard reps. Therefore, in a little over six weeks I doubled my kettlebell press without touching a kettlebell.

How to Double Your Kettlebell Press

These Aren’t Just Any Handstand Push-ups

Let me make one thing very clear: I was not just practicing a flailing all over the place handstand. I was practicing the SFB handstand push-up using every tension technique in the curriculum, practicing super stiffness and all of the “magic” power generating irradiation techniques to plug up in any power leakages in my body.

You have all had a taste of these during your SFG Level I, but the Bodyweight Certification takes the principals and amplifies them beyond belief. When you apply the knowledge that you will gain at the SFB Bodyweight Instructor Certification, your kettlebell lifts will get stronger, way stronger—guaranteed.

Therefore, to recap: the core bodyweight moves are just the vehicle we are using to teach the system and the system is were the gold is hidden.

Why Take the SFB Certification?

Here are my top reasons:

  1. To get real world usable strength. The freaky in between strength that is so important in everyday life. Strength that fills the gaps and patches up the chinks in your armor—”strength for everyday carry.”
  2. To learn how to systematically reverse engineer the bodyweight powerlifts—the one-arm one-leg push-up, the pistol, the tactical pull-up, the handstand push-up, the hanging leg raise, the front lever, and much more. Master these power moves, but more importantly learn how to help your students achieve these seemingly superhuman moves in the safest, most effective manner possible. In addition, please, do not be afraid if you are currently unable to do any of these moves. You will learn how to eliminate the guesswork and trial and error to fast track both your progress and your student’s progress. Once you know the system, you will be able to complete your strength test within the six-month period.
  3. Learn how to seamlessly combine the kettlebell and bodyweight training for the best possible results.
  4. Lastly challenge yourself to become a perfect StrongFirst instructor. What does that mean? When I was coming up through the ranks in my martial arts study, my grandmaster told us that to become a perfect master one must be well versed in three martial arts. My system is Korean, so Taekwondo for punching and kicking; Hapkido for throws, takedowns, and locks; and Kumdo (a Korean form of fencing) for weapons training. Only then do you have the complete system, the whole story.

So from my point of view, the perfect StrongFirst instructor has the SFG Kettlebell Cert, the SFB Bodyweight Cert, and the SFL Barbell Cert. “One Mind, Any Weapon.” Perfection is a journey not a destination, so I invite you to take up the challenge with me. I promise you will not regret one single step of the journey.

Jon Engum is a 7th Dan Kukkiwon Certified Taekwondo Grandmaster and in addition holds Master rank in Hapkido and Kumdo. He is the author of Flexible Steel and is a StrongFirst Master Instructor who teaches Workshops and Certifications throughout the world. Join him for the SFB Bodyweight Instructor Cert in New York City or Seoul, Republic of Korea.

Related Articles

Getting to the Bottom of a Great Pistol Squat: 3 Tips to Improve Yours The pistol squat is one of the hallowed movements among fitness lovers—especially bodyweight aficionados. While they're not for everyone, if they're ...
Your Journey to a Handstand Push-up: Part 1 Headstands are great place to begin your journey to a handstand push-up (HSPU). They allow you to get comfortable upside down while building your bala...
How to Build Up to 1 Pistol – Then 100 Consecutive Pistols The one-legged squat, or pistol, demands coordination, strength, and flexibility and has many positive effects. Every one of the muscles and joints of...
The Program That Nearly Doubled My Max Pull-ups Most of you probably remember back a few months ago when the New York Times wrote about how women can’t do pull-ups. I didn’t get involved in all the ...
Jon Engum
Master SFG
Jon Engum is a Master SFG Instructor and a 7th Dan Kukkiwon Certified Grandmaster. Engum is the author of Flexible Steel, Creator, Chief Instructor of the Flexible Steel System, owner of Engum’s Academy, Engum’s Taekwondo Association, Jon Engum’s Extreme Training and is a Vice President of the Minnesota Taekwondo Association. He has presented and lectured on several continents and teaches Workshops, Courses and Instructor Certifications worldwide.

20 thoughts on “How to Double Your Kettlebell Press in 6 Weeks Without Touching a Bell

  • Thank you for yet another excellent article.

    Although Jon Engum does not need anyone to run to his defense I feel compelled to validate that
    Mr. Engum is indeed the real deal; a gentleman and master level martial artist who carries his strength with humility… an instructor of instructors who walks his talk while performing AND living at a high level.

    Regardless of what you practice; styles, techniques and tools are only part of the equation, another part of the equation is the individual’s ability to unlock the full potential of the style, technique or tool in question. Another part of the equation is a unifying set of principles that ties everything together. Similar to MMA, the winner is not a matter of who has the better style or toolbox, the winner is the one who can more effectively apply the tools and techniques he has.

    Just about everyone in good health has the tools necessary to practice the handstand pushup, yet not everyone has learned to apply it and unlock it’s full potential.

    The application of the hard earned knowledge and wisdom in this article will benefit even the most hardened warrior.

    • look John I know you are a good guy but I know I beat jon with his TKD . MMA is the future of marital arts . my deep respect for pavel the bruce lee of strength I will shut my mouth. pavel you are the best in my book sir

  • The StrongFirst Code:
    I am a student of Strength.
    I am a teacher of Strength.
    I am a quiet professional.
    The way I carry my Strength matters.
    Strength has a greater purpose.
    This Code means something to me, and it is one of the underlying reasons that I choose to associate myself with the founder of Strongfirst. I consider myself “A student of Pavel Tsatsouline” and if this is his code the Grandmaster, Chief Instructor, Boss, Head Russian in Charge, etc. has spoken, therefore act accordingly.

    Having said that, I feel that Jon Engum has made a contribution to the Strength world, not by hype-ing a particular style of M.A. but by describing how to increase ones strength and knowledge with our bodies through physical and mental challenges. After reading Jon’s contribution I improvised and used the ladder’s on strict Wall Walks. A year ago I came across Jon Engum’s “Deep Six” and dared NOT improvise on that. Mr. Frank James take what Jon has contributed and include it in your arsenal, it may make you a stronger and better fighter so that you may increase your wins, and keep your losses at 2.
    Sincerely,
    David “A Student of Pavel Tsatsouline”

  • Love the article. I am getting ready to go on my yearly Military training on a boat and am not going to take a kettlebell this time. This will fit well.
    ALSO! What Federation TKD? International, World, Tang Soo Do?

    • Thank you for yet another excellent article.

      Although Jon Engum does not need anyone to run to his defense I feel compelled to validate that
      Mr. Engum is indeed the real deal; a gentleman and master level martial artist who carries his strength with humility… an instructor of instructors who walks his talk while performing AND living at a high level.

      Regardless of what you practice; styles, techniques and tools are only part of the equation, another part of the equation is the individual’s ability to unlock the full potential of the style, technique or tool in question. Another part of the equation is a unifying set of principles that ties everything together. Similar to MMA, the winner is not a matter of who has the better style or toolbox, the winner is the one who can more effectively apply the tools and techniques he has.

      Just about everyone in good health has the tools necessary to practice the handstand pushup, yet not everyone has learned to apply it and unlock it’s full potential.

      The application of the hard earned knowledge and wisdom in this article will benefit even the most hardened warrior.

  • For those who remember the Rocky and Bullwinkle show, and the sidebar cartoon on that show with the coyote cavalry and gopher Indians, all I have to say after reading Frank James’ post is “what him say”? Would also like to know if Frank’s brother Jesse also fights MMA, and did they ever get to meet Wyatt Earp?

  • Good true article Jon. I am also noticed that my press in Kb went up without pressing it. I just did a lot of one-arm pushups.

  • Great write up Jon.

    I attended the first SFB in may, best cert ive ever taken. The manual is amazing; very concise and zero fluff. Full of all the progressions and very enlightening articles. I incorporate the principals from the course every day with my clients. The most valuable part of the course is learning how to reverse engineer and dissect an exercise. With that skill you can pick an appropriate progression path for anyone. Teaches you how to fish and feeds you. 🙂

  • Hi Jon,

    Great article. That rite of passage approach is a great formula for improving many lifts. While I say that, I have to do a better job of sticking with the program for a 6 week duration.

    Take care and I look forward to the next seminar in Winnipeg.

    Kevin

  • look jon I am with MMA pro team I think and I know tae kwon do and other Korea trash I beat guys with 3rd or 5th degrees in tae know do I think strong first is good thing my respects goes to mr pavel , jon MMA is the best art in the world admit it is , no OTHER sport or any art can beat MMA . IF YOU believe me let fight in a cage you can use your so call Korea art , I don’t walk the walk talk the talk let get it on ! sorry mr pavel this is your site that my trainers use I never disrespect you or your staff , I hate so call fighters become instructor of strength training and so call expert in it , you can be both to be the best . my 23 won 2 loss 19 ok

    • James,
      i think you may have missed the point of the article, I clearly state one should be well versed in all aspects of MA …is the not MMA? I was not dissing any other art. Perhaps your reading comprehension is a direct result of too many head shots 🙂

      • Frank, unless your “best art” MMA trains unarmed, impact, edged and projectile weapons against multiple attackers, ambushes and sneak attacks in any and all combinations, then what you have is a sport, not a true system of self protection.

        Also, to issue an INTERNET challenge to a guy who has 30+ years training in fighting arts is quite comical.

        • I guess I’m a hopeless optimist and thought that there may peace between martial artists 1) Jon Engum put together a pretty decent piece of programming as a way to practice same but different skills that can be implemented in any environment. The ladder is a great way to safely build volume in strength practice. Jon Engum knows what he is talking about.
          2) Tamer wins the response. Kind of hard to omoplata a glock. Just sayin’

    • English best language in world… you beat head with wiffle ball bat if no think so… ugga… ugga… chitty-chitty bang bang doo wop dee doo. Take that!

  • I did similar but found that after HSPU’s only I had trained pretty goody strength for only the top half of the press i.e. hands about level w/ forehead to arms straight overhead. Out of the rack I was dead meat. I had been doing sets w/ the 16 kg and push-pressing the 32 kg. After that break doing only HSPU’s I could barely do one or two w/ the 16.

This article is now closed for comments, but please visit our forum, where you may start a thread for your comments and questions or participate in an existing one.

Thank you.