Military Press – Kettlebell Exercise Guide with Photos


Do the kettlebell military press to give your shoulders a unique workout. Using the kettlebells forces your body to stabilize the weights as they go up providing additional stress to the shoulders. This particular variation uses both arms at the same time which is an interesting variation, but you could also do the exercise with one arm. Keep reading about an exercise you should probably already be doing.


Muscles Targeted: Performing a military press with kettlebells provides a new stimulus to your shoulder capsules. The prime movers in this exercise are still your anterior deltoids and triceps. The trapezius and serratus anterior make an appearance in a stabilizing role. This particular variation forces your rotator cuff to constantly correct against the kettlebell.

Exercise Instructions: Take a shoulder width stance and hold two kettlebells using both hands with an overhand grip (palm facing in). Curl the kettlebells up and position them above your shoulders with your elbows tucked into your sides. Squat down to the bottom position and then explode up with your legs while extending your arms and press the kettlebells above your head. Slowly lower the kettlebells down to the starting position and repeat.

Why This Exercise is Important: The kettlebell military press is an important part of the puzzle in preserving your shoulder capsule’s integrity. Mix these in to balance out the effects of continually keeping your arms pressing in motions locked in by barbells and machines. There’s always a benefit to performing unilateral exercises as they are a great way to correct imbalances between the right and left arm. Unilateral exercises also cause your muscles to contract harder and this can lead to increased gains in strength and size. Kettlebells force your body to move in unstable pathways which can lead to activation of smaller stabilizing muscles that don’t get worked adequately when using exercises that are in a more stable pathway. Using your whole body is also a great way to tax your cardiovascular system. This system rarely gets pushed in a normal weightlifting routine, but can be enhanced with the addition of kettlebell movements.

Things To Avoid: You’ll want to keep your emphasis on the whole body in this movement and don’t turn it into an arm movement. Get your legs involved. Kettlebells only come in certain sizes and the jump from one to the next can be steep. Avoid going up too soon in weight. Don’t let the kettlebells pull you off track too much; keep your arms in as straight a path as you can to avoid stressing your joints. Don’t let your core loosen in this movement and expose your lower back to injury.

Reps and Sets: For kettlebell military presses stick with lighter weights that you can control well. The benefit here is in the stabilization of the weight, not the poundage. Stick with sets of 2-4 and repetitions from 8-15. When you can get 15 strict repetitions with both arms, then you are ready to make the jump to the next kettlebell.

Other Exercises To Use: Swap kettlebell military presses out for regular standing deltoid military presses. If your lower back is strained then opt to use the incline bench instead. Or you sit down and do seated military presses. View our extensive database of exercise guides for a comprehensive list of exercises that target the whole body.

The kettlebell military press will give you an opportunity to work your pressing motion with a weight that is off of the line that you press through. This gives you additional benefits in stabilizing your arm and can lead to increased stability in your shoulders. Increased stability means stronger shoulders and bigger lifts on other exercises. Get unstable in your shoulder workouts to keep moving your progress forward.

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