Seven Ways to Train for a Stronger Press – Part Four: Open Half Kneel Pressing


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This is the fourth installment of a seven part series about how to train for a stronger press. In this installment I will talk about the benefits of training your press in an open half kneeling position.

If you missed the first three installments you can read them here:

As I mentioned in my post “How I Completed The Iron Maiden Challenge As a Lightweight” after my first attempt at the Iron Maiden Challenge last September 2013, I took my press down to an open half kneeling position and trained press ladders in an open half kneeling position in order to clean up my press.

I dropped the weight significantly and started with 12kg (26lbs), then progressed to 14kg (30lbs), and then eventually 16kg (35lbs) as I worked through these press ladders in an open half kneeling position.

By training ladders in the open half kneeling position, I eliminated any tension leakages with my press and learned how to apply the necessary tension techniques for a stronger press (especially for a half bodyweight press), such as learning how to wedge properly and grind through a press by pushing into and under the kettlebell instead of away from the kettlebell. I learned how to use the correct technique, and all the correct muscles for my press instead of getting the bell above my head with brute force.

If you apply tension techniques correctly in an open half kneeling position, a light weight should feel challenging and you should be sore the first week or so in your abdominals, glutes, lats, and possibly quads.

Tension Techniques

  • Wedge
  • Position the kettlebell so that the handle rests low on the heel of your hand and deep in the crease of your thumb.
  • Squeeze the glutes and contract the abdominals so that your belt line is high. I like to call this “Trash Compactor Abs” or “Get short before you get long”.
  • Pull your kneecaps up to your hips and squeeze your quads like crazy.
  • Corkscrew your feet into the floor.
  • Maintain tension in your free hand.
  • Hold your breath or limit the exhale on the finish of the clean before the press to maintain tension.

When it comes to pressing and particularly pressing heavy, skill is more important than strength. Even if you have the strength to press a particular weight, if you don’t have the skill dialed in then you are not likely to be able to press a particular weight or it’s not likely to go up correctly.

See my Facebook Post below about To Press  A Lot You Must Press A Lot

I’ve included a video tutorial below about how to press in an open half kneeling position, the benefits of pressing in an open half kneeling position, and about how training your press in an open half kneeling position translates to your standing press.

In the video I talk about how when pressing from a standing position, your toes are likely to be slightly turned out (some people may be comfortable with their toes pointed directly forward, but not many). This turn out should not be deliberate or forced, just allow your feet to assume their natural turn out so that you are in a comfortable pressing position.

You will find that once you are in this position, when you go to engage your glutes, and tighten up your quads as you press that it’s easier to maintain tension through your hips and quads. You’ll know you’re doing it correctly because your butt and legs will be so tight that your inner thighs will feel like they are glued together from the rear. I forgot to go into this detail in the video, so I have to spell it out here 😉 ….

After you watch the video there are two ways you can incorporate open half kneel pressing into your training program. 

  1. You can do what I did and train press ladders in an open half kneeling position for 8-12 weeks. Then you can take the ladders to standing. (See Part III: Single and Double Kettlebell Press Ladders of this series for more detail on how to train the press ladders.) OR
  2. You can go about your regular training program, say with heavier standing pressing two to three times per week and incorporate some lightweight, low volume (e.g. 3 sets of 3-5 reps) half kneel pressing into your program for 4-8 weeks as an assistance drill like the bottoms up press.

In the next installment of this seven part series about how to train for a stronger press, I will talk about Double Kettlebell Front Squats and how heavy double kettlebell front squats translate to a heavy press. In the meantime, please let me know if you have any questions about open half kneel pressing!


If you would like to learn more detail as to how I structure programming specific to pressing or to train for a half bodyweight press then I hope you’ll join me for my workshop I Am Not Afraid To Lift on November 8, 2014 at Iron Body Studios in Needham, MA.  (The NYC I Am Not Afraid To Lift Workshop at Drive495 is sold out!)

If you have a current strength goal that you are working towards, or need help deciding on one, this workshop will help you to decide on a strength goal and learn programming to work towards that strength goal.

I look forward to lifting with you on November 8!




Learn more HERE ==>

Register HERE under EVENTS ==>

Early bird pricing through October 1 – $149.00

Regular price after October 1 – $199.00

I will see you on November 8 & I look forward to lifting with you!




One Comment on “Seven Ways to Train for a Stronger Press – Part Four: Open Half Kneel Pressing

  1. Good post friend and I love your programming of the press. As you are aware training to get stronger is a process and requires a lot of the same but different concept to stay fresh. Awesome job!

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