Exercises You Should Be Doing: Seated KB Curl to Bottoms-Up Overhead Press

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It’s been a few weeks since I’ve added a new exercise to the Exercises You Should Be Doing arsenal, so here you go.  How’s that for straight and to the point?

What Is It:  Seated Kettlebell Curl to Bottoms-Up Overhead Press

Who Did I Steal It From:  It just so happens that former CP intern, Jordan Syatt, stopped by the facility for a cameo yesterday and I noticed him performing this deceivingly challenging exercise towards the tail end of his training session – so all credit goes to him.

What Does It Do: As is the case for every exercise I throw onto this list, for me, the biggest determining factor is whether or not it provides a lot of bang-for-one’s-training-buck. A huge reason why I rarely (if ever) include machine based exercises or “isolation” exercises is because, for the most part, I view them as a waste of time.

Granted if you’re a bodybuilder, have an aesthetic bias, and you’re looking to bring up a lagging body part, it makes sense to include those types of exercises in your weekly training repertoire. I don’t feel they should make up the crux of your training, but they do have a time and place.

Outside of that, since most people who read this blog aren’t stepping up on stage anytime soon, lets just move on.

Oh, and least I forget (because I know someone will inevitably get their panties in a bunch and mention it): I should make note that isolation or machine based training does have merit with regards to people who are post-surgery or who are woefully deconditioned.

With respects to the former, take ACL repair as an example.  Motor control will definitely come into play, and it’s often advantageous to introduce “load” in a more controlled, predictable manner.  So things like leg presses, leg extensions (and the like) will definitely come into the picture.

As far as the latter:  you can bet that if I’m working with an obese client or someone who’s just really deconditioned my main focus is going to be on getting them moving and eliciting some semblance of a training effect, and less on whether or not they can do an ass-to-grass squat, deadlift 2x their bodyweight, or beat them into submission and have them perform burpees until they can’t feel the left side of their face.

If I have to resort to a pec deck or utilizing a Cybex circuit – so be it.

But just so we’re clear: the bulk of my time is still going to be on working on improving certain movement patterns like the squat pattern, hip hinge, push-up, core stability, and not to mention I have yet to meet anyone who can’t push a Prowler.

But I’m getting a little off-track here.

Today’s exercise is a bit sneaky.  It looks simple and nondescript enough that I wouldn’t be surprised if many who watched it probably dismissed it right off the bat.

I mean, seriously TG…….a KB curl?  I thought you just said you don’t like isolation-type exercises? What’s next….crunches on a BOSU ball?

Fair enough. But lets break this badboy down before everyone grabs their pitchforks and storms the castle.

Yes, there’s a curl involved. But in the grand scheme of things it’s not like I’m expecting this exercise to add four inches to your arms in two weeks. In fact I could care less about the curl component. The curl in this sense actually serves as a sorta “self-pertubation,” forcing you to fire your entire core musculature synchronously so as to PREVENT any lateral flexion or rotation.

I’ve expounded on my preference for one-arm training in the past, so I won’t belabor the point here.  But because I don’t want to leave any new readers hanging, simply put, performing more off-set loaded exercises (where you hold a DB or KB in one hand only) places a HUGE challenge on your core because everything has to fire so that you don’t fall or tip over.

Moving on into the bottoms-up position and performing the overhead press, while the action itself still offers a significant core challenge, it also forces the rotator cuff to fire like crazy through a process called irradiation.

Basically you MUST grab the handle of the KB with a death grip (I like to tell people to melt the handle), so that it doesn’t fall over.  In doing so you send a signal to the rotator cuff (irradiation) to “pack” itself which makes the joint more stable.

Moreover, because holding the KB in the bottoms-up position makes it more challenging (unstable), you force the muscles of the rotator cuff to do their job in a more “functional” manner, which is to center the humeral head in the glenoid fossa.

What’s more, it’s an unparalleled scapular stability exercise to boot!

In short, with this exercise there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye.

High five for the Transformers reference!

Key Coaching Cues:   You won’t need a whole lotta weight in order to do this exercise, so be a bit conservative with this one.  I believe I was using the 17 lb KB in the video and I was struggling.  Take that for what it’s worth.

Glue your feet into the ground, and brace your abs.  Your torso should be completely upright and you want to avoid any HYPERextension of the lower back.

From there I think it’s pretty self-explanatory.  This is more of a CONTROLLED movement, so try not to rush.

I’m more inclined to think of this as a nice finishing exercise to complete a training session, and I’d shoot for 2-3 sets of 6-8 reps per side.

Also, if you wanted to make it more challenging you could do the same thing in the standing position.

And that’s that.  Give it a try to day and let me know what you think!

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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