Shoulders are awesome. These complex ball-and-socket contraptions allow for incredibly diverse movement and function. But this versatile setup can also be a common area of pain when mistreated.
Using a kettlebell is one of the best ways to promote the proper functioning of the shoulder, while also building size and strength. Below are the five best kettlebell shoulder exercises for use in your training.
Note: If you have zero or limited experience with kettlebells, I suggest you find an RKC- or SFG-certified instructor to take you through the movements and correct any individual movement patterns.
Best Kettlebell Shoulder Exercises
1. Single-Arm Kettlebell Press
This is one of the basic exercises with the kettlebell. You can vary the weight, repetitions and tempo depending on your goals. If strength is your goal, do lower reps (1-5 range) with high intensity and frequency. If hypertrophy is your goal, go for a high-rep range (8-12) and eat a lot of meat and calories on the side.
Rest the kettlebell inside your shoulder.
Brace your core. Inhale before pressing. Exhale as you lock out.
Stack the bell over your shoulder and hips when locked out.
Avoid shrugging. Cover your ear with your biceps.
2. Bottoms Up Carry
The kettlebell is your coach when performing Bottoms Up Carries. Your shoulder has to work hard to stabilize your scapula and humerus. This is a great way to recruit your rotator cuff, which can lead to pain-free and healthy shoulder movement.
Grab a kettlebell and flip it upside down, pointing the bottom side toward the ceiling.
Prevent the bell from resting against your body and your elbow from wedging against your ribs.
Walk slowly for 10 to 30 yards, keeping the kettlebell as still as possible.
3. Half-Kneeling Bottoms Up Press
This combination of the first two movements requires an enormous amount of control and strength. It will expose any stability issues that need to be addressed. Use a relatively light kettlebell, because stability is required to hold it upside down. Do not fret about gaining strength; it will be developed once you gain proficiency in the lift. Aim for the 1-6 repetition range, since staying light will not require enough stabilization.
Place one knee up in a kneeling stance.
Flip the kettlebell with the bottom toward the ceiling.
Press overhead using the techniques from the Arm Kettlebell Press.
4. Turkish Get-Up
This is a complex movement. Your shoulders will work hard to find optimal positioning, while maintaining incredible tension. The exercise is great for strength, size and health of the shoulder. Balance a shoe on your knuckles to earn your right to use kettlebells. Perform 1-5 reps per side. Watch the video below for the correct sequence.
Keep your arm locked out and knuckles toward the ceiling.
Keep you eyes on the kettlebell until you reach a lunge position.
Shoulders stay away from ears. Avoid shrugging.
5. Turkish Get-Up with Press
This is a variation of pressing for advanced kettlebell enthusiasts. Use at your discretion and take your time to master the positions. Strength and movement are fun, but only when you have a great foundation. You can combine any of these movements in your training. Check out the video to see my friend Dewey Nielson performing the Turkish Get-Up with Press at each position.