Bottoms up…

Put down your adult leisure beverage. I’m talking kettlebells here.

The kettlebell has a knack for exposing weak areas. Holding the bell in the bottoms-up position utilizes the awkward design for unique benefit. (Bottoms-up meaning that the bell is gripped so that the flat bottom is facing up.)

Balance, alignment, grip, and core activation make any b-u exercise a full-body exercise.  As a self limiting exercise, sloppy form with ambitious weight is met with prompt failure.

Though cleans and presses get the most bottoms-up treatment, nearly any exercise can be supercharged with this tricky tweak.

Get-ups, floor presses, carries, holds, squats, and stacked presses all benefit from the neuromuscular (mind/muscle) connection.  Bottoms-up work embodies the ideal of strength as skill. It must be learned and ingrained as well as muscled.

Mark Reifkind notes that bottoms-up pressing requires all the same muscular cues as a good bench press. Perpendicular forearms, strong grip, weight on the heel of the palm, power from the lats, and a compact shoulder girdle combine for the optimal pressing groove.

My first bottoms-up experience came at the instruction of a fellow trainer during a workout when I had to walk a long length of soccer field with a measly 12kg.  The right side was challenging but doable. I could barely hold up my left arm after 2 steps.  Asymmetries will jump out and slap you in the face once the balance factor enters the equation.

Here are some suggestions on incorporating bottoms-up exercises:

3×3 light single arm bottoms-up cleans and presses before a shoulder workout.

1 very light, slow bottoms-up TGU before heavy get-up practice.

Max rep bottoms-up double floor presses on bench/chest day.

Cap off your ab routine with a heavy bottoms-up rack hold for time.

Pistol squats while holding 1 or 2 bells bottoms-up.

True crushing power


Check out these monster bottoms-up lifts by Brett Jones –


Further Reading:


Performance U