The Kettlebell Press That Belongs in Your Next Lift

Stop waiting for the bench. Try this underrated move instead.

Two kettlebells on the floor.
Get down on the floor with these puppies — it beats waiting for the bench.
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Free yourself from the bench press queue. It’s customary, if you arrive at rush hour on the gym floor, to run yourself through some half-assed reps of anything else, all the while stealing furtive glances over at the bench. Can’t be much longer now. But you can do better — the whole gym is your oyster.

The bottoms-up kettlebell floor press is an underrated, effective and versatile alternative strength training exercise that’s ready whenever you are. Just grab some weights and some floor. A twist on the classic kettlebell floor press (which is often performed one arm at a time, with the bell facing down), the bottoms-up targets the same muscle groups as the bench press — chest, triceps and shoulders — while adding an element of core stabilization and grip strength.

How to Do It

The video above shows pretty clearly how intuitive this move is. But here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how to complete the bottoms-up press:

  1. Lie on your back on the gym floor, with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.
  2. Hold the kettlebell by the handle in each hand, with the bottoms facing up towards the ceiling.
  3. Position the kettlebells so your arms are perpendicular to the floor, with your elbows resting on the ground.
  4. Press the kettlebells upwards, fully extending your arms and locking out your elbows.
  5. Slowly lower the kettlebells back down until your elbows touch the floor.
  6. Repeat the desired number of reps.
Consider This 6-Move, Hemsworth-Approved Workout the Beginner’s Guide to Kettlebells
The kettlebell’s too important for you to be intimidated. Thor can help.

Common Pitfalls

You do not want to rush the movement, flare your elbows or neglect your core. You also don’t want to whip out mental math and try to decipher some sort of scale factor between the weight you normally put up on the bench and the weight you think you should be able to hoist from the floor. Bottom line: the bottoms-up press is a different exercise than the bench press. While it activates the same muscles, you’ll want to honor the core difference and proceed cautiously. That means starting with lighter weight. Remember, whenever the bell is further away from you, your grip will lose some stability, making it harder for you to complete the move. This is the core thesis of unconventional or “chaos” training; it’s a true test of grip strength and control.

Have Fun

Sure, it’s sort of dangerous to balance two rickety kettlebells a foot above your face. Sure, the gym floor probably isn’t that clean. But who cares? Fitness should be fun, not boring. And queuing for the bench press three days a week doesn’t sound particularly fun to us.

If you get in the habit of hititng the gym with an open mind (and a safe/informed approach), all sorts of moves and possibilities will open themselves to you. Start with the bottoms-up kettlebell floor press. Add it to your lift during the weekend.

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