Forget the Arnold press — build your upper body with 2 kettlebells and 1 resistance band

Woman standing against grey wall holding a kettlebell overhead with right arm and left hand on hip
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Revamp your single-arm overhead press and build upper body strength using this kettlebell press drill. And oh boy, does it test you.

Shared as a YouTube short, the exercise, also called “the band of distraction press’ by Kettlebell Kings Austin (not ominous at all), will put your shoulders, chest, traps and triceps through even more resistance and challenge your core stability. 

Practicing the drill could develop better pressing power simply by wrapping a resistance band around a kettlebell on the floor and a kettlebell you’ll lift. And hey presto, you’ve got yourself a souped-up pressing variation. 

If you haven’t yet invested in your gym equipment, we recommend the best kettlebells and resistance bands for your home workouts, and then you'll have everything you need to learn how to do the overhead press drill and why we love it. 

What is the kettlebell press strength band drill?  

The drill, posted by Kettlebell Kings, will increase the resistance your muscles must work against to achieve the lift using one resistance band. We recommend choosing a lightweight band first to ensure good form, then slowly increase the resistance as you get stronger. 

You’ll work one side of the body at a time, which can help you focus on isolating your left and right sides without a stronger or more dominant muscle group taking over, which is a common problem with using barbells for the overhead press.

Barbells are brilliant for maximal loading but not so much for ironing out the inevitable weaknesses and instabilities we unknowingly build in our bodies over time. 

To do the drill, wrap a resistance band around a heavy kettlebell and place it on the floor next to your right foot. Next, wrap the other end of the band around the kettlebell you plan to lift and perform the kettlebell overhead press on your right side, as you usually would — learn how to do an overhead press if you’re uncertain about the finer cueing details. Complete your reps, then switch to your left side. 

The kettlebell on the ground should always be on the same side as the arm you’re pressing with, which creates a straight, slightly diagonal line from bell to bell. 

Several things can go wrong with this exercise, which could put undue pressure on the shoulder joint and the rotator cuff muscles — a group of four muscles that support and stabilize the shoulders during movement. 

Keep a close eye on your form, using a spotter or mirror if you need to. Your arm should remain close to your body without allowing the bell to travel away from you — check the weight and your wrist stack over your shoulder with your palm facing away from you (using an overhand grip) and the bell resting at your forearm. 

As you press, ensure you fully punch your arm overhead and avoid half reps. Your elbow shouldn’t ever maneuver through the middle of the band. Instead, it’ll sit toward the outside of your upper arm. 

There are no prescribed sets or reps for this drill, so program according to your ability and how you plan to use it. We recommend 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps per arm as a starting point, going heavier if used as a standalone drill or as part of your upper body strength program.

If you plan to use it as a mobility or warm-up drill, you don’t want to fatigue the muscles too early, so go lighter to warm the muscles and practice for fewer sets or reps. 

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Sam Hopes
Senior Staff Writer - Fitness

Sam Hopes is a level III fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and senior fitness writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. She is also about to undertake her Yoga For Athletes training course. Having trained to work with mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and fitness, and their impact on performance. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods.  When she's not writing up her experiences with the latest fitness tech and workouts, you’ll find her writing about nutrition, sleep, recovery, and wellness.