If you’re looking for strong and stable shoulders, dialed-in
technique, laser focus, improved grip strength, and an incredible
lesson in tension, the bottoms-up kettlebell position might just be
your new favorite thing!
The bottoms-up position refers to a kettlebell held vertically
by the handle with the bottom of the kettlebell facing up and the
handle on the bottom — hence the name “bottoms-up.” It might
elicit some funny looks from across the gym floor, but the
bottoms-up position packs a serious punch.
What Exercises Can Be Performed Bottoms-Up?
The bottoms-up position lends itself well to pressing and
carries, as well as any movement you would do with a kettlebell in
the rack position (squats, lunges, etc.) or overhead (get ready for
the most focused Turkish get-ups you’ve ever done!)
Even ballistic movements like cleans and snatches can be
performed in a bottoms-up fashion.
6 Benefits of Bottoms-Up Training
Want more incentives to start working this way? Consider the
1. Cultivate Stability and Strength Through Instability
A bottoms-up kettlebell is inherently unstable, and therein lies
the magic: to overcome the challenge, a greater number of motor
units and muscle fibers are recruited.
You’ll feel the work in the muscles of your rotator cuff,
lats, core, wrist and forearm during carries, presses, and more
2. Sharpen Your Focus and Get Instant Feedback
One of the biggest reasons I love incorporating bottoms-up work
in my sessions is the focus that a bottoms-up kettlebell requires.
While you can get away with a less-than-great kettlebell press or
Turkish get-up when you’re working in the rack position, the
bottoms-up position is unforgiving. If you lose your focus and
control, that bottoms-up kettlebell is likely to come crashing
There’s an additional benefit in the instant feedback received
by the bell either staying vertical or flopping over: you’ll know
it when you’ve nailed it!
The bottoms-up kettlebell provides clear, instant feedback on
whether or not you’re executing the movement well.
If you’re struggling to dial in your technique for the
kettlebell press, a bottoms-up version is a great place to spend
some time greasing the groove. The bottoms-up press requires the
bell to stay held vertically overhead, demanding a vertical forearm
and a smooth path up, led by a strong and stable shoulder. Because
of this, the bottoms-up kettlebell press is one of the easiest ways
to learn and teach superb pressing mechanics.
While everyone’s body is different, those who struggle with
traditional overhead pressing can often find a welcome variation in
the bottoms-up kettlebell press. If your shoulders have been less
than thrilled in previous attempts, flip over your bell and give
the bottoms-up a try!
4. Get a Grip
The bottoms-up kettlebell position challenges the wrists in a
different way than most other movements. In most movements that
challenge our grip strength, the load is below our grip, as is the
case with deadlifts, pull-ups, farmer’s carries, etc.
The bottoms-up position places the load above the grip,
providing a novel challenge to the muscles of the wrist and
5. Perfect Tension and Core Connection
Learning to ramp up
tension (or dial it down) and truly feel the integration of the
core musculature with movements like squats, presses, and carries
can be challenging for some. The challenge of the bottoms-up
position teaches the necessity of “meeting the tension to the
task” (a phrase coined by Antony Lo, PT).
Too little tension and the bell is tumbling. Too much and
you’ll find it difficult to move (or will fatigue early). For the
person looking to master that “Goldilocks” level of tension,
bottoms-up kettlebell movements are an excellent tool.
Additionally, most bottoms-up movements are performed
unilaterally, further requiring our deep stability system to do its
job to keep us upright.
6. Make Use of Light Bells
Dust off those light bells you haven’t used in a while for a
bottoms-up Turkish get-up, or overhead press! The degree of
difficulty means that you won’t need much load to get a training
If you’re somewhere with only light bells available, or
you’re simply looking to get more use out of the bells you
haven’t used in a while, bottoms-up kettlebell work is a great
way to make the most of the range of kettlebells in your
When Are You Ready for Bottoms-Up Work?
Want to get started on bottoms-up training, but not sure
you’re up for the task? You might actually be more ready than you
Bottoms-up kettlebell training is a self-limiting activity,
meaning it requires greater engagement, awareness, and connection.
While bottoms-up work might look more advanced, I prefer using it
early on in training to build greater awareness, teach the concept
of tension, and solidify good habits.
As with anything else, we run into potential issues when we
exceed our capacity. Starting to train bottoms-up positioning
should be a gradual process aligned with your abilities.
Getting Into the Bottoms-Up Position
Those comfortable with cleans will likely find a clean to the
bottoms-up position to be the most comfortable way to get into a
For this, you’ll start with the bell in front of you, with the
handle turned 90 degrees (parallel to your feet, not perpendicular
like a normal clean), hike the bell back, and then clean it so that
it lands handle down, bell up.
If you aren’t comfortable cleaning yet, I would recommend
curling the bell up to the bottoms-up position assisted by the free
hand. Try to keep the bell balanced over your hand, forearm, and
elbow, and keep your eyes on the bell at all times.
How to Get Started
Before moving to more advanced bottoms-up training, I invite
everyone to feel solid in a bottoms-up hold with a light bell.
You’ll want to clean or curl the kettlebell into the bottoms-up
position and practice standing there with the bell held in its
Once someone is proficient at isometrically controlling the bell
in a standing position, I like to add the challenge of marching,
walking, pressing, and squatting the bottoms-up bell (remember: any
movement that is performed with a kettlebell in the rack or
overhead position can be done bottoms-up!).
It can be tempting to jump straight to flashier movements with
heavier bells, but remember that the benefits of bottoms-up
movements are in the finer details; give yourself ample time to
build the strength and skill and prioritize quality over quantity
If you’re looking for a new challenge, you don’t necessarily
need new equipment. Just flip that kettlebell bottoms-up!
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Source: FS – All-FitnessBlogs
Why You Should Try Bottoms-Up Kettlebell Training