Mar 27, 2018
Pressing Onward

Is your team lacking when it comes to upper body strength? Have you noticed your football players aren’t able to hit deep passes, or your runners haven’t been using their arms as much to drive to the finish line? If so, consider adding the kettlebell floor press, also known as the kettlebell chest press, to your training program to build your athletes’ upper body.

According to a blog for JohnnyFit by ACE-Certified Personal Trainer Johnny Nasello, the kettlebell floor press works the shoulder more than a dumbbell press, as the off-centered balance of the kettlebell requires recruitment of stabilizer muscles. It also limits the athletes’ range of motion to 90 degrees, which is more gentle on the rotator cuff. In a blog for his website, John M. Cissik, MS, CSCS, echoes this sentiment.

“…because of the limited range of motion it’s a great exercise for athletes with shoulder concerns,” writes Cissik. “This is something I would use with pitchers and other overhead athletes.”

This exercise not only works the chest, shoulders, and triceps, but also the core. And athletes can perform two different versions of the exercise. When working with the bilateral chest press, or double chest press, both sides of the body are used evenly and athletes can often press more weight. The other option is to work unilaterally, or with one arm at a time.

“Doing a unilateral kettlebell chest press requires greater effort from the core to prevent the body from turning towards the weighted side,” writes Nasello. “Doing unilateral exercises is a great way to reveal any weakness or deficiencies that you might have in one side of your body vs. the other.”

Here are the methods for carrying out both the unilateral and bilateral floor press, laid out by Nasello.


  1. Roll to your side with the kettlebell on the floor in front of your chest and shoulder. Firmly grip the handle and use your arm as a fulcrum lever to lift the kettlebell off the ground as you roll to your backside.
  2. Extend the arm holding the kettlebell straight and press the kettlebell so that it’s held over your shoulder.
  3. For support and stability, bend the knee and plant the sole of your foot into the ground on the same side that you are holding the kettlebell.
  4. Lower your triceps side of your arm to the ground with the elbow in the range of 45 to 90 degrees of the shoulder. Once the triceps touches the ground, your upper arm and forearm should be at a 90 degree angle with each other.
  5. Extend your arm straight and press the kettlebell back over the shoulder.


  1. With kettlebells on each side of your body, grab the handles and use your core strength to lower yourself down to your backside. Use your forearms as fulcrum levers and the weight of your upper body to lift the kettlebells off the floor.
  2. Extend the arms straight and press the kettlebells up over your shoulders.
  3. Bend the knees and plant the soles of your feet on the ground.
  4. Lower your triceps side of your arms to the ground with the elbows in the range of 45 to 90 degrees of the shoulders. Once the triceps touches the ground, your upper arms and forearms should be at a 90 degree angle with each other.
  5. Extend your arms straight and press the kettlebells back over the shoulders.

When your athletes are engaging in the kettlebell floor press, there are some issues to watch out for. Cissik recommends not allowing the arms to bounce off of the ground at the bottom of the movement. To keep this from happening, have athletes pause at the bottom. Another tip is to keep the kettlebells from hitting each other at the top of the movement.

“While this sounds hard core, it also takes the stress off the muscles and can lead to more wear and tear on the kettlebells,” writes Cissik. “Third, the hips need to stay on the ground. Fourth, keep the wrists neutral.”

To see the kettlbell floor press in action, check out this video from Nasello.

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