Bottoms Up: Press Stimulation
Press stimulation (also known as bottom-up or top down) is a type of training where the barbell is placed directly over your body during the exercise. A common example would be a kettle bell press with one end resting on a bench and the other being held overhead.
This type of pressing involves placing the weight directly above your head rather than having it rest on a bench somewhere else.
The idea behind this type of training is to increase blood flow to various parts of the body while decreasing the amount of time spent at rest. It’s claimed that this will result in greater strength gains, increased muscular endurance, and improved cardiovascular fitness.
In some cases, press stimulation may even lead to muscle hypertrophy which is when new muscle fibers are created from existing ones.
There are many benefits to using press stimulation including increasing strength, improving cardiovascular fitness, and helping with recovery. However there are drawbacks such as not being able to perform certain exercises due to the added stress of pressing the weight overhead.
What Is Bottom-Up?
Bottom-up refers to pushing against something in order to move forward. For example if I push my legs back towards me, then I’m going through the motion of moving them backwards. If I had a weight in my hands, then my arms would be going through the motion of pressing the weight upwards.
If I move my arms backwards, then the weight I’m holding will go from directly over my head to being forward of my face. If I continue to move them back then it’ll go in front of me and finally to the floor behind me.
The bottom up motion is a natural motion that most people perform on a regular basis. Let’s take a look at the movement of the arms when you swing a kettle bell from the bottom to the top.
You place it on the floor roughly in between your legs, then press it over your head.
Moving the weight from behind your legs to over your head is considered a bottom-up motion.
How Do You Perform A Bottoms Up Press?
To perform a bottom-up press, you need to be holding a weight in your hands. You then move your arms backwards, placing the weight over your head. From here you can perform the desired motion, such as moving it directly over head or back down behind you again.
An example of this would be a bottoms up kettle bell press where you bring the weight over your head and then straighten your arms to bring your hands to your side. You can then bring it back up and down from there.
Does Bottoms Up Pressing Lead To Better Strength Gains?
Holding a weight over your head while you perform your exercise can significantly increase the amount of upper body strength you gain. It is more than likely to lead to greater strength gains than performing the same exercise with the weight at your side.
This is because the weight is over your head which is closer to your centers of gravity. This makes it easier to keep the weight stable without as much muscle activation needed to maintain control of it.
Inverted pressing, or any exercise done with the weight overhead, requires a tremendous amount of core strength and motor control. If you lack either you’re not going to be able to perform the exercise properly.
If you lack both, then you’re not going to be able to perform the exercise at all.
However, overhead pressing has several benefits for the lifter.
First it trains the core in a way that’s very similar to real life situations. Second, training the core in this manner forces the lifter to use less weight than they normally would be able to overhead press.
Thereby strengthening and stabilizing the muscles without grinding them down.
The final reason that I can think of is that it’s just more fun to do. Whether or not bottom-up pressing leads to better strength gains is irrelevant if you’re hankering to do the exercise in the first place.
What Muscles Do Bottoms Up Presses Work?
Depending on how you perform the bottoms up kettlebell press, it can work a variety of muscles. Here are some of the major ones.
Your legs are worked throughout the bottoms up kettlebell press as they constantly need to stabilize your body as you move the weight overhead. Your abs, obliques and hips are all worked heavily as you fight to keep the weight moving in a straight line.
There’s a lot of upper body muscles that work during bottoms up kettlebell press but the two most important are going to be your deltoids and triceps. These two muscles are constantly working to move the weight.
Your lats, traps and pecs also get a good workout as these muscles help stabilize the weight overhead.
How Muscles Are Used In Bottoms Up Presses
There is quite a bit of stabilization required during a bottoms up kettlebell press so you’ll definitely be using your core, hips and legs to keep your body stable. Your shoulders work overtime to move the weight from your body to over your head.
More core strength is used than with traditional pressing because you have to fight to keep your body from rotating. Your shoulders are doing more work as well as your triceps.
It’s important to keep your body as stable as possible during bottoms up kettlebell press. If you don’t, the weight is going to be moving all over the place and you won’t get a good workout.
Your abs, obliques and hips are all working to keep your form correct and the weight in the right position.
Odds are you won’t be able to lift as much weight as you normally do because you’ll be focusing so much on keeping your body still. This is a good thing though since it means you won’t be grinding your muscles down as fast.
Your shoulders play a big role in bottoms up kettlebell press mainly because you have to move the weight from over your head, behind you, down to the floor and then back over your head. Your shoulders are also forced to work in sync with your core to stabilize your body.
As the weight gets closer to your body your triceps will come into play and help push the weight up and over the top. Your triceps are also worked during the entire bottoms up kettlebell press.
Your back muscles are worked during the bottoms up kettlebell press but not in the traditional way you might think. Your back muscles aren’t working to help you lift the weight overhead, instead they’re working to keep your body stable and from falling over.
Your shoulders are worked to help get the weight up overhead but they also help stabilize your body. The rotator cuff gets a good workout as well.
From start to finish, your arms are either holding the kettlebell or involved in moving it from one position to another. Your arms don’t just work the weight up, they also work to keep your body stable.
Your triceps are worked to help get the weight overhead as your arms straighten completely over your head. Your triceps are also worked to keep your body stable.
The Bottoms Up Press vs Other Kettlebell Exercises
So how does bottoms up kettlebell press compare to other kettlebell exercises?
Really it’s a combination of two popular kettlebell moves: the kettlebell swing and the bottoms up press.
Swinging the kettlebell between your legs and then behind you is very similar to the bottoms up press so your lower back, glutes and hamstrings all get worked during this portion of the bottoms up press.
Once the kettlebell is behind you, the top portion of the bottoms up press is very similar to a kettlebell military press. Your shoulders, triceps and traps all get worked.
Unlike the kettlebell military press, your core has to work extra hard to keep your body stable as well.
In addition, your arms have to work extra hard to get the kettlebell back over your head. Your lats, biceps and forearms all get a good workout as well.
So while bottoms up kettlebell press might look like two simple moves, it really involves many muscles and gets your heart rate up.
If you’re looking for a full body kettlebell workout that also builds endurance, the bottoms up press is a great choice.
Rep Range for the Bottoms Up Press
The exact rep range will depend on your goals. If you’re looking to build strength, go with a lower rep range of 5-8 repetitions.
If you’re looking to increase muscular endurance, do 10-20 repetitions.
Resting Between Bottoms Up Presses
Your rest time in between bottoms up press repetitions should be about half the time it takes to complete a single repetition. So if it takes you 4 seconds to do a bottoms up press, your rest time between those repetitions should be 2-4 seconds.
If you’re going for endurance, your rest time should be closer to the 4 second range but if you’re going for strength, your rest time should be in the 2 second range.
Why the bottoms up press is easier to learn than the traditional clean
Many people have a hard time learning how to do a proper kettlebell military press and that’s why I created the bottoms up press. When we flip the weight over, it’s much easier for people to get it overhead.
This is because they don’t have to worry about flipping the weight in front of them or worrying about how high to pick it up. The weight is already turned over and all they have to do is get it overhead.
It’s much easier for people to learn how to do a bottoms up press compared to a traditional military press.
However, that doesn’t mean the bottoms up press is easy. Far from it.
The bottoms up press is a very challenging exercise!
Enjoy the workout!
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Sources & references used in this article:
Bottom‐up Design of Small Molecules that Stimulate Exon 10 Skipping in Mutant MAPT Pre‐mRNA by Y Luo, MD Disney – ChemBioChem, 2014 – Wiley Online Library
An expanded view of infantile esotropia: bottoms up! by MC Brodsky – Archives of ophthalmology, 2012 – jamanetwork.com
Bottoms up: the role of gut microbiota in brain health by N Radisavljevic, M Cirstea… – Environmental …, 2019 – Wiley Online Library
Rectal budesonide for ulcerative colitis: Bottoms up! by KA Lang – Inflammatory bowel diseases, 1999 – academic.oup.com