Thanks to Pavel, StrongFirst, and our excellent SFG Kettlebell & SFL Barbell programs, as well as many old-school strongman enthusiasts, kettlebell and barbell Military Press is back in the spotlight, as it should be: full body lift and test of strength.
How about dumbbell? Do you press it just like a kettlebell? Yes and no. Dumbbell press looks like on the surface just like a kettlebell press, but there are few crucial differences:
- Grip and wrist position is different
- Rack is different
- Pressing groove is different
- Body mechanics (because of the pressing groove) during the press is different
- Getting through the sticking point is different
- Center of mass is elsewhere than in kettlebell – and I am not talking only about the tool, but body plus the bell
- Dumbbell tends to misbehave much more – a lot of neural force is spent on stabilizing it (kettlebell sits nice and tight on your forearm)
“Same but different”.
(As for kettlebell, please check out my article Press Stronger NOW with the Kettlebell Pull Press).
The Hardstyle Dumbbell lifting program I am developing is based on the technique, tips & tricks of some of the strongest dumbbell lifters – from Eugene Sandow, Thomas Inch, W.A. Pullum, Siegmund Klein to Paul Anderson and Doug Hepburn.
To my (and possibly your) surprise, there are many tips and tricks to press safer and heavier. Unlike the kettlebell which guides you, you have to guide and control the groove of the dumbbell way more than with any other tool. A small detail can make or break your lift.
My work on proper dumbbell press and other dumbbell lifts is simple: going through old-time strongman manuals, booklets, and old magazines, trial-error-success experiments and practice (I have a loadable dumbbell next to the fridge), taking notes – and more experiments and more practice.
Just recently I have found this nice short piece about one of the forgotten strongmen, “Archie” Allaire (who unfortunately died young due to the accident), his method of dumbbell Military Press (old-school super strict Military Press), and other interesting info.
Please check it out below.
About Arthur “Archie” Allaire
“Archie” came to Philadelphia in August 1926 from his home in Sturgeon Falls, Ontario, Canada. He was possessed of an unusual degree of strength, as the result of constant training and hard work.
Besides his practice of lifting, “Archie” had also spent some time at wrestling and skating, had mastered slack wire walking and was quite an accomplished hand balancer and tumbler. He presented an unusually husky appearance when stripped. Some of our strong men who are highly gifted with nerve and an exaggerated ego, would truly be world beaters if they possessed the physique and only part of the pure strength of Arthur Allaire….This young athlete lived a clean, exemplary Iife at all times and followed strictly the physical culture rules of life.
The One Arm Military Press was his best bet among all of his athletic accomplishments, and saying it the other way around, “Archie” was, without the slightest doubt, the best the world has ever known at or near his bodyweight on this particular feat of strength. At one hundred sixty-eight pounds bodyweight I have seen him on various occasions accomplish 112 pounds with the right arm; others have likewise witnessed the same thing, and it seems I have seen him do 115 but do not remember so clearly on this point. With his left, I believe about 107 pounds was the best he ever did.
Some few years back the lifting world would have raved over anyone, at his bodyweight, who could have pressed one hundred so easily with either hand; and, in fact, more noise should have been stirred up over the pure strength of this unassuming lad. Do not think that his strength was limited to this one lift. By no means was that true, as he was exceptionally good on all feats requiring the quality known as pure, unadulterated strength.
One Arm Military Press Tutorial
The shortest, most compact dumb-bell you can load up is the best for good poundages on this lift. Eleven inch discs are the largest to use for efficiency. “Archie” always preferred the plates to be no larger than eight inches.
Stand with the dumb-bell between the feet, but have the feet no farther apart than necessary. We will presume you are going to lift with the right hand; bend over, grip the bar with the thumb and index finger, flush against the plates and rest the left hand on your left knee. Now suddenly swing the bell to your shoulder, keeping the left foot stationary and as the bell comes to the shoulder, snap the right heel over against the left. You must learn to lock all the muscles of the waist, back, buttocks, thighs and calves as the bell comes into position.
The left arm may now be held either straight out from the shoulder as in Figs. A and B or at the side as in Fig. C. While holding the body rigidly erect, and without any sway, jerk or tremble, press the bell to length of arm overhead. Allaire always held the free arm out at shoulder height when performing this Iift. By closely examining the two poses of him Iifting in that position, you will see that he twisted ever so slightly at the waist in locking the muscles which hold the body perpendicular.
Although the bell with which he is posing weighs practically nothing (being made of sheet iron), the position is identical to that which he would assume if the bell weighed about ninety or a hundred more. l remarked about this at the time the pictures were taken. lt was true of all his lifts – no matter if the weight were heavy or light, he performed in one way.
A high poundage in this lift calls for great strength in the deltoid, triceps and trapezius, but particularly in the first named muscle. At the same time, one must be well knit all over if the extreme military attitude is to be maintained while pressing two-thirds of the body weight. This percentage is near the human limit and very few athletes have approximated it.
It is worth noting that all… Military Press athletes are exceptionally strong in the legs and back, and although their ability in this lift might draw your attention merely to shoulder and arm strength, once glance at the physique of either will prove they are far from being of top-heavy build. As to the best training program for one who is ambitious to excel at this lift, experience will prove to you that our conclusion concerning the above mentioned men are correct; that is, a general all around training program to entirely strengthen the body, with a but small amount of specialization on the lift.
Various styles have been employed in an attempt to improve the possibilities on the lift. Some men would load one end of the bell heavier than the other; some lifters twist the hand around so that the palm faces front; other lifters swing the bell to arms’ length overhead, lowering it to the shoulder preparatory to performing the lift. These stunts may work out in individual cases, but for majority the instructions given herein can be relied upon for the best results.
- Mark Berry, in: Strength, March 1928, p. 43-45; 56.