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The bottoms up press

Why I like the bottoms up press for post-rehab shoulder work.

For the video version of this, click here.

The bottoms up press is a great exercise to teach one to actively grip when lifting, increase grip strength in general, and/or in a post rehab stage of an old shoulder injury.

To perform the bottoms up press, either swing it into the start position with the KB in an upside down position (known as a pistol grip) at shoulder height, or pick it up and put it into position, if that proves a little too difficult to start with. I would suggest for the newer lifter, or someone fresh out of rehabbing their shoulder, pick it up and place it there rather than swing it, for the meantime.

Then simply press the weight directly overhead. Turn the arm to face the palm out as you press up.

To further the challenge, you can either lift heavier, or you can move into a variation similar to that of a single-sided Arnold press. Where you wing the elbow out to start it, then perform the press.

Make sure to keep the shoulders and hips from rotating the torso, as much as possible.

Keep the core braced, the glutes squeezed, and the big toes dug into the floor throughout this movement.

Keep your eyes on the KB the whole time. This will increase proprioception. Don’t look into a mirror for visual feedback.

If you are worried, keep the free hand by your face, so that it’s ready to catch it.

When lifting in general, in my opinion we should always aim to crush the bar, or whatever we are lifting, to help engage musculature and keep tension. This tends to be synonymous with being able to lift more weight when this is done. Rather than having a passive grip in movements such as single leg deadlifts, or holding a KB whilst performing a split squat, and letting it just hang in the fingers, thus the tendons. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but I think that should be a last resort as the grip starts to fatigue. Also, involving this active grip in movements such as the bench press to me makes sense. Creating such tension through the arm and the shoulder will help to keep everything in position, and at a lesser risk of injury, and increase the efficiency of the lift.

Of course, this much more active grip is going to increase grip strength in general, trying not to let the KB fall out of position.

This will also be a good exercise for someone who can perform it mostly pain-free, in a post-rehab stage of a shoulder injury. You’re forced to use a lighter weight than usual for overhead pressing because of the instability of the KB, and it creates a challenge for the stability muscles in the shoulder by doing so, which is why I like this for the rehabbed lifter.

Thanks for reading!




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