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Alright, so we know that “core” training is en vogue, from various fitness publications to hardcore powerliftrrs and bodybuilders to the oxygen channel, everyone is talking about how you should be training you “core”. Well the truth is that real CORE STRENGTH comes from the synergy of a bunch of different muscles working together (from your lats down to your hip complex and everything inbetween), namely to stabilize the spine. I know, I know, its all about “core stability” – but for combat athletes and strength freaks, we’re looking to go beyond planks and other more direct movements in favor of multi purpose movements that give us a huge bang for our buck. Squatting, deadlifting, lunging, chin ups are all great choices and should incorporated into everyone’s program in one form or another, but there is still a huge component missing from most people’s training!
The answer? Heavy single hand overhead work – namely strict presses and push presses. Simple clean a heavy dumbbell or kettlebell to your shoulder and press overhead – using leg drive if needed – while maintaining a rigid core. This movement alone will engage everything from your glutes to your lats, requiring your stabilizers to work overtime! Along with thrashing your pressing muscles (shoulder complex and triceps), these are a total body movement that will get you strong all over! Back in the days of the old time strongmen, you were not considered strong unless you could press HEAVY weights overhead.
Single hand dumbbell and kettlebell work were staples in those guys training programs! In addition to traditional dumbbells or kettlebells, i’ve recently added weight to my 24kg kettlebell by attaching 20lb chains to the handle. This makes the movement extremely difficult, with the chains swaying back and forth, your body has to work very hard to stabilze throughout the entire range of motion! Heavy single hand overhead work can serve as an awesome workout alone, maybe with some weighted pull ups thrown in for good measure, to work your entire musculature and multiple energy systems in one shot. That’s what I call training economy!
Here are my 3 favorite ways to do heavy dumbbell or kettlebell overhead work. With each of these options, rest periods will be limited, which is great for power endurance and lactic acid tolerance. For fighters or athletes looking to to just get leaner, mixing in some of these options would of huge benefit.
With a heavy dumbell or kettlebell, perform five presses or push presses with your left, switch, and immediately do 5 reps with your right side. Rest ONLY AS NEEDED, and try to get through all 5 sets as quickly as possible
Perform 3 reps each side on the minute for 5-10 minutes. Only add more load once you can get in all 30 reps in 10 minutes. Go HEAVY with this one.
Ok, this is actually a clean and press on each rep, but that just means more muscle is being used (not a bad thing!). You’re going to perform 1 left with your left, put the weight down, then one rep with your right. The goal is to get through all 20 reps in 5 minutes or less. This is awesome for fighters and the like as it replicates non stop explosive efforts over a relatively short period of time.
So grab some weights and throw that sucker overhead!