The Half Kneeling Bent Press Series

Sometimes the best way to teach something is not to teach it.

I’ll give you a moment to…you know…think about that.

The bent press is sometimes one of those things. A good bent press requires a high level of hip and t-spine mobility with great shoulder stability and “core” support. It is a unique lift in today’s gym culture, in particular, and most students were unaware of the lift prior to their StrongFirst experience. Therefore, it can be a challenging lift to teach and to learn. So, don’t teach it…rather, build it—one step at a time.

Please note that the prerequisite for using the half kneeling bent press series is the half kneeling windmill series, also included in this Instructor-Only article section.

The half kneeling bent press series actually begins with the Bent Arm Bar (formerly known as the Crooked Arm Bar).

Bent Arm Bar

Begin the in the Arm Bar position (side-lying, not turning the hips) and turn the palm toward the face as the kettlebell is pulled down so that the forearm is vertical and the elbow is “behind” the ribs. Keep the head on the biceps and don’t overstretch. Pause in the bottom position for 10-15 seconds and then perform a floor side press to exit the position.

Please note that the degree to which the palm faces toward the head will vary based on individual structure.

Once the bent arm bar is performed, the student will know how to activate the lat and properly position the kettlebell in the “open rack” position for the bent press.

Please note: the bent arm bar is performed separately and is not part of a continuous series.

The next step is the Open Half Kneeling Windmill to the Elbow

  1. Begin in Half Kneeling with the heel of the “up” leg almost in line with the plantarflexed ankle of the down leg.
  2. One arm will be overhead supporting a kettlebell and the opposite arm will be bent to 90-degrees at the elbow.
  3. While looking at the “up” arm, begin to hinge the hips back folding into half-seiza to take the elbow of the opposite arm to the ground.
  4. Use your t-spine rotation to align the spine in a straight line off the hips.
  5. When the elbow of the opposite arm reaches the ground, it should be close to (perhaps even touching) the down knee.
  6. Return to the start position with the kettlebell overhead.

Next is the “Give and Take” Press

Karen Smith, Chief SFB and Master SFG showed me this step in the half kneeling bent press progression while we were co-teaching an SFG Level II. But the name is a combination of a cue from Jay Weedall and a student at a recent SFG Level II, Ryan Invers. Jay’s cue was that in this press you are taking the length of one arm and giving it to the other/pressing arm (brilliant). And after I had said it didn’t have a name, Ryan said: “Just call it the Give and Take Press” (again brilliant). Henceforth it shall be so…

“Give and Take” Press

  1. Begin in the T-position of the get-up with the kettlebell “overhead”. (This is where you end up after returning the knee and hand to the ground in the get-up—hand is on the same line as the down knee.)
  2. Once stable, pull the kettlebell down so the triceps and lat get compressed and the elbow is slightly behind the ribs—like the Bent Arm Bar but not as far down/behind the ribs since we want a flared/solid lat to “press” from.
  3. Now press yourself away from the kettlebell as you bend the base/down arm so eventually the elbow reaches the ground (and is close to and in line with the down knee).
  4. You are “taking” the length of the straight arm and “giving” it to the “up” or “kettlebell” arm through a solid lat.
  5. You should be able to lock out the kettlebell arm before or as the elbow reaches the ground. (Please note that some individual structures will not allow for this, i.e. long arms and short torsos, but the skill of pressing yourself under the weight through the lat can still be learned.)
  6. Once you are stable at the bottom position, extend the bottom arm to press back up to the start position and repeat if desired.

Half Kneeling Bent Press

  1. Begin in half kneeling so that the rear shin/hip is pointed in at approximately 45 degrees and the “up” leg is on the perpendicular 45-degree angle.
  2. Cheat clean a kettlebell to the rack position.
  3. Once there and without losing height, move the kettlebell to the Open Rack position with a vertical forearm—the elbow will be slightly behind the ribs but don’t allow it to sink—rather, form a shelf between the lat and triceps.
  4. Now “shove” your hip under the kettlebell as you press yourself away/under the kettlebell.
  5. You should be able to lock out the arm before the elbow of the down arm touches the ground as in the Give and Take Press.
  6. Once stable in the bottom position, extend the hips to move to the half kneeling position with the kettlebell overhead.

After practice of the half kneeling windmill series and half kneeling bent press series, the transition to the full standing bent press will be more easily achieved if it doesn’t transfer immediately to the desired skill of the bent press.

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Brett Jones
Director of Education | StrongFirst
Brett Jones is StrongFirst’s Director of Education. He is also a Certified Athletic Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Specialist based in Pittsburgh, PA. Mr. Jones holds a Bachelor of Science in Sports Medicine from High Point University, a Master of Science in Rehabilitative Sciences from Clarion University of Pennsylvania, and is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

With over twenty years of experience, Brett has been sought out to consult with professional teams and athletes, as well as present throughout the United States and internationally.

As an athletic trainer who has transitioned into the fitness industry, Brett has taught kettlebell techniques and principles since 2003. He has taught for Functional Movement Systems (FMS) since 2006, and has created multiple DVDs and manuals with world-renowned physical therapist Gray Cook, including the widely-praised “Secrets of…” series.

Brett continues to evolve his approach to training and teaching, and is passionate about improving the quality of education for the fitness industry. He is available for consultations and distance coaching—e-mail him for more info.

Follow him on Twitter at @BrettEJones.
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