Accomplishing your RKC Level 2 Half Bodyweight Press

Posted: December 20, 2011 by mrsghp in RKC Level 2, Uncategorized
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Hello everyone.  Hope you are training smart, plus taking care of yourself and the ones around you.

I want to start a discussion about achieving your 1/2 bodyweight press requirement for RKC Level 2.  From reading the RKC Forum and through speaking with individuals who have trained for RKC Level 2.  It seems the most common reoccurring theme for males were issues achieving the 1/2 bodyweight press requirement.

It seems that those who did not pass Level 2 certification could not achieve their 1/2 bw press and those who cancelled attending RKC Level 2 usually did due to some type of injury from training to achieve the 1/2 bw press.

I trained successfully for RKC Level 1 by performing Enter the Kettlebell Rite of Passage program of pressing ladders.  The ROP is a fantastic program for building a solid foundation for swings, cleans, and presses.  This was especially successful for building up my strength and endurance to achieve 5 double kb presses with a significant amount of weight (one of the requirements for passing RKC Level 1).

When I signed up for RKC Level 2 in August, I planned out all the requirements on a piece of paper and listed them from what would be the most challenging to achieve and that I felt I had a decent grasp upon.  I did this to determine how I would program my workouts to achieve all the RKC Level 2 requirements.  At the top of the list was the 1/2 bw press.

I decided to take a different approach to this requirement and not do the ROP clean and press ladders.  Instead I planned on doing a few different things to see if I could achieve this goal.

  1. Complete a Functional movement screen (every 4-6 weeks) to make sure that I am symmetrical and that my programming is taking me on the correct course (my baseline).
  2. Use bottoms up kb cleans, walks, squats, and pressing (self limiting exercises) to accomplish the proper alignment and technique to accomplish the press.
  3. Train for the press, pull up, and pistol by performing sets of 1 repetition.  Since that is what the requirement stated, I am going to train accordingly.

I brought up this plan of action to my mentor, Master RKC David Whitley, and he suggested an alternate route, the bent press.  As we were sitting there discussing my goals, he stated that the bent press is a way to achieve the type of mobility and stability necessary to achieve the 1/2 bw press.  Plus you get the opportunity to get heavy loads above your head and then train the pressing pattern eccentrically.  I was very intrigued by this idea and was willing to give it a try, but I had one problem.  I had no idea how to properly bent press.  David worked with me about a year before on my BP and I failed miserably.  At the time I did not have the type of mobility to achieve such a lift.

So David spent the next 45 minutes with me bodyweight patterning the bent press.  It was quite the learning experience and I cannot say enough of how fortunate I am to learn from the best.  David sent me home with some points of the bent press and told me “to practice”.  So for the next 10 weeks I made it a priority to improve my bent press to really see if it would have a carry over to the 1/2 bw press.  My previous heaviest kb press was the 36kg at RKC Level 1 (my performance baseline) so with the bent press I began with a 24kg to see if I could get the movement down.  The movement felt akward, and uncomfortable.  But in my experience that could necessarily mean that I am learning so I kept with it.  I got a lot of positive feedback just by videoing myself performing the bent press and then seeing the movement in my mind.

My 10 minute workouts throughout the day would go something like this:

  • Bent press 1/1 followed by single arm swing 5/5
  • I would review the video I did on my technique during my rest period
  • I would play out the proper movement in my mind, maybe even go through the motions with just bodyweight
  • Rinse and repeat

Once I felt I was no longer learning during my practice sessions, I would stop and do other things and then come back to the movement later that day or the next workout.  As I progressed within the movement, the 24kg no longer gave me the type of feedback that I needed to progress so I moved up in weight to the 28kg.  In not much time at all I progressed onto the 32kg bent press followed by single arm swings with the 32kg.

I still continued to video myself and occasionally sent the video onto David for some feedback.  I always tried to keep learning during this movement.  I learned along the way that if I achieved a new weight with the bent press that this new achievement did not mean that it was my new practice weight.  I needed to keep learning during practice and when my practice kb was no longer giving me the feedback I needed, then and only then, would I move up.

2 weeks ago I bent press the 44kg for 1 repetition on each side.  2 days later just to measure progress I was able to strict press the 40kg for the first time ever.  I was also able to bottoms up press the 24kg.  This is the type of progression I was looking for.  I am going up on my press weight and am not suffering from any shoulder/neck issues currently.  As a matter of fact, my shoulder mobility now is the most symmetrical it has ever been.

Some finer points I want to emphasize if you are planning on trying this method:

  • Get your FMS screen:  In my opinion there is a minimum requirement of mobility and stability to begin practicing the bent press.  When I tried it before and was so bad at it, I had not yet achieved that minimum standard and it was only when I got more symmetrical that the learning experience could include
  • The bent press is a SKILL just like all other lifts:  You need to get expert instruction and be willing to practice the skill.  It will be uncomfortable (but not painful!), it will be difficult, but you need to communicate with your body and keep making progress.  Stop the practice session when you are no longer making progress.

So my experiment is not yet done but I will continue to work on it and report on my progress.  As a matter of fact, after another one on one coaching session with the Iron Tamer himself, I achieved the 48kg bent press.  I still have some work to do but I know I am on the proper path as I have my baseline (my FMS score) and my strength continues to increase.

Would love to get some feedback from other individuals as how they achieved their press requirement for Level 2.  I am not saying that this is the only way to train for it, but it has worked very well for me and is something to consider especially if you have suffered from shoulder and neck issues in the past.

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Comments
  1. David Palmer says:

    Nice article. I’m really digging the side and bent presses at the moment.
    Mr Whitley is pretty much the modern bent press king IMO. You picked a good tutor.

    • mrsghp says:

      Well said David! The irontamer is the king. The bent press is highly technical so I believe it is crucial to have some instruction.

  2. blackstonevalleykettlebells says:

    Great article. I completely agree with you about the ROP. You start getting knicked up with the volume. I saw Dave’s video a year ago and immediately went downstairs to try it. It is definitely a different movement to say the least. Great work Mark!

  3. Kevin Knapp says:

    Great post Mark. Grats on the progress look forward to seeing you in April

  4. TC says:

    Hey Mark
    Awesome post and thanks for sharing your experience with the 1/2 bodyweight press for RKC II. I’m currently training for it and have met Iron Tamer in Melbourne for the bent press as well. I did some bent presses here and there and felt awkward still. I tried the Kenneth Jay’s Perfecting the Press program and had given me problems on my crooked left shoulder due to the heavy volume. But it did helped me get to 32kg press. And after speaking to Dave, I got back to ROP and seems better in my shoulder and now very close to a strict 40kg press. But will throw in more bent press in my training. It seems to help in your case.

  5. Filippo (Italy) says:

    Great post Mark.
    I’ll begin with your tips and I’ll let you know my progress. For now my PR on press is 36 kg (Bodyweigth 90). So.. I have to work.

  6. […] another great post regarding the Bent Press from RKC Mark Snow Check it out here Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

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