The kettlebell alternating press or alternating kettlebell press is a functional shoulder-focused movement. The barbell, dumbbell, and machine press variations should be staples in your training, however, this variation certainly deserves a place in your workout regime.
The kettlebell is a unique training tool that can offer some great benefits.
In this exercise guide, we’ve explained the muscles work, exercise instructions, tips, benefits, variations, and how to effectively include the kettlebell alternating press into your training routine.
In This Exercise:
- Target Muscle Group: Deltoids
- Type: Hypertrophy and strength
- Mechanics: Compound
- Equipment: Kettlebells
- Difficulty: Beginner, intermediate
The kettlebell alternating press works several muscles of the upper body and we included short descriptions of each one.
The deltoid anterior or front deltoid is one of the three heads that make up the shoulder muscles.
This muscle is involved in arm flexion and stabilizing the arm while the deltoid lateral abducts the arms (raises the arm away from the midline of the body).
It also works with the pectoralis major to flex the arm when walking.
The serratus anterior, also commonly called the “boxer’s muscle”, is a fan-shaped muscle located along the outer ribs between the pectoralis and latissimus dorsi muscles. it’s actually divided into three parts.
It functions to protract the arms or pull them forward and it also works with the traps to upwardly rotate the shoulder blades and raise the arms overhead.
As the name suggests, the triceps is considered a three-headed muscle that consists of a lateral, medial, and long head, that when visible, usually creates a horseshoe-like appearance.
Each head has a different origin but all attach distally to form a single tendon. The triceps muscles are primarily responsible for extending the elbow.
The lateral head is on the outer side of the upper arm and is usually the strongest out of the three triceps heads. It also, when well-developed, contributes to the appearance of the upper arm having more width.
The medial head is located between the lateral and long head and isn’t typically as visible as the other two heads. Although, it still contributes to size.
The long head has its origins at the scapula and therefore, unlike the medial head, not only helps to extend the elbow but also has minor action at the shoulder joint (extension) as well. It also helps to adduct (bring arm toward the centerline of the body) the arm and prevent displacement of the humerus or upper arm bone.
How To Do The Kettlebell Alternating Press
While technique can vary between individuals, we can recommend how to do exercises safely and in a way that we believe will help you to maximize your results.
Here are step-by-step instructions for the kettlebell alternating press.
- Place the kettlebells on the floor in front of you with the handles parallel as shown in the video demonstration.
- Place your feet under your shoulders or a little wider than shoulder-width.
- Keeping your back flat, bend your hips and knees, and grip the kettlebells on the inside as demonstrated.
- Drive through your feet, and thrust your hips forward and up while pulling the kettlebells up and keeping them close to your body.
- Spin the kettlebells around your hands to land between your elbow and biceps and push your elbows forward at the same time.
- Be patient and make sure your body is set and rigid before you press the kettlebells overhead. Your wrists should be straight or slightly flexed but not bent backward.
- Tighten your lats and core muscles.
- Press one kettlebell overhead and rotate your wrist outward so the handle is in front and the weight is on the knuckle side of your forearms. You want to keep your upper arm close to your head.
- Lower the kettlebell by pretending to pull it back down to the starting position. keep your hand close to your body and make sure everything is nice and tight.
- Press the other kettlebell, return it to the starting position and then repeat alternating arms for the desired number of reps.
Here’s a video demonstration…
Kettlebell alternating press tips
- If the weight is too difficult to stabilize and press, use lighter kettlebells and practice perfecting your form and the movement before progressing.
- If you prefer, clean one kettlebell to the starting position before the other, instead of lifting them both simultaneously.
- Do not grip the kettlebells too tight. You want to be able to spin them around your wrists to get them into the clean position and it’s more comfortable during the press. Although, do not grip too loose as this can be dangerous.
- After you clean the kettlebells to the front rack position, take a second or two to gather yourself before pressing them.
Variations and Alternatives
While it doesn’t get much better than the kettlebell alternating press, we also really like these variations and alternatives.
Single-arm kettlebell press
Instead of alternating sides, you’ll only be performing this exercise using a single kettlebell. This will no doubt increase the stabilization and balance required to be able to safely and effectively press the kettlebell overhead.
You want to start with the kettlebell placed on the ground in front of you and clean it to your shoulders before doing the press.
Here’s a good video instructional
Kettlebell swing clean and press
The kettlebell swing is the foundation for many kettlebell exercises as it’s a hip hinge movement.
It works the posterior chain and involves triple extension, an essential component of building explosive power.
Start out by swinging the kettlebells through your legs and then clean the kettlebell to your shoulders before pressing it overhead.
Kettlebell bottoms-up press
For this variation, you press the kettlebells by balancing the weight over the handle. This will require even more stabilization and a little skill to do. It’s also a great way to challenge your core muscles and grip strength.
As a result, you’ll develop a stronger and more rigid midsection which is essential for all athletics and lifting in general.
Kettlebell floor press
While this variation will still work the delts and triceps, it’ll also work the chest muscles too. It’s a great option for training all of the pushing muscles (chest, delts, and triceps) and you’ll also benefit from the functional stabilization required to perform this movement.
Dumbbell alternating press
Don’t have kettlebells? The dumbbell alternating press, while a little different, will still challenge all of the same muscles. Although, the core may not have to work quite as hard.
Benefits of The kettlebell Alternating Press
Let’s talk about the benefits of doing this exercise.
Build and strengthen your upper body pushing muscles
This is the most obvious one, but this exercise can be a fantastic muscle-builder. Although, you’ll need to use enough resistance to challenge the muscles and force the growth and strength adaptation.
But you don’t have to use super heavy weights to get a productive workout.
The design of the kettlebell provides a challenge due to the stabilization requirement.
Kettlebells are considered to be very functional training tools. It was designed to be swung around and its odd shape creates more of a challenge when performing many exercises.
This can cause all of your muscles to have to work differently to control and lift the weights. Therefore, you can develop strength, power, and fitness in various positions which will make you better-rounded and more functional.
Training with the same equipment can get boring after a while. Using different tools can help to mix things up and the challenge of using kettlebells compared to other implements is a great way to continue making progress.
Additionally, the kettlebell design allows you to do exercises that barbells and dumbbells aren’t as fitting for.
How To Incorporate The Kettlebell Alternating Press Into Your Training Routine
The kettlebell alternating press is a great shoulder exercise variation that adds a unique element to your workouts, especially if you do a lot of basic barbell and dumbbell exercises.
If you want to develop better shoulder and total body control and proprioception while enhancing your physique, we recommend the kettlebell alternating press and its variations.
With that said, there are many ways to include it in your training. But there’s no perfect way.
Sets and reps
The kettlebell alternating press is not a max weight lift, but you should use a weight that will challenge you in the 6-15 rep range.
Feel free to try different rep ranges as long as there’s no excessive straining as this could result in injury.
3-4 sets should be sufficient to not only train your muscles but to also get the movement down pat.
Ultimately though, the sets and reps will depend on your goals.
Try the One Kettlebell Workout
We hope you’re convinced that the kettlebell alternating press could be a great addition to your training routine.
It offers several benefits and training variety and there are some great variations of this movement too.
Build muscle, increase strength and become a more well-rounded individual by including kettlebell exercises in your workout arsenal.