Home Baseball Content Exercise of the Week: 1-arm Bottoms-up Kettlebell Waiter’s Walk

Exercise of the Week: 1-arm Bottoms-up Kettlebell Waiter’s Walk

Written on January 8, 2014 at 8:08 am, by Eric Cressey

In this installment of "Exercise of the Week," I want to introduce you to another great carrying variation you can use to accomplish a number of different objectives.  The 1-arm Bottoms-up Kettlebell Waiter's Walk is one of my personal favorites, and we use it a lot with not only our baseball guys, but also many of our non-baseball clientele.

Those of you who have followed my "Exercise of the Week" series probably notice that this is a progression on a previous drill I introduced, the 1-arm Bottoms-up KB Carry. To bring you up to speed on the "why" behind this kettlebell exercise, here are a few reasons it's a great one:

1. It gets great reflexive rotator cuff activation in light of the bottoms-up position and the subtle perturbations to stability as the individual walks.

2. It teaches an athlete to fully upwardly rotate the scapula (shoulder blade) correctly, which helps us to build stability in an overhead position and solidify the mobility we have.  This is wildly important for overhead throwing athletes, too, as they always lose upward rotation over the course of the competitive season.

3. It creates a challenge to both lateral/rotary and anterior core function.  The individual has to work to prevent excessive lower back arching, as well as side bending.  Being able to get these challenges while still working the shoulder girdle ensures that you get great functional carryover to the real world.

4. Without even knowing it, you're also getting a pretty good grip workout simply from holding the slightly thicker handle of the kettlebell.

In addition to the coaching cues I discuss in the video above, one "outcome" measure for which you'll want to look is the amount of scapular upward rotation present.  You can do that by drawing a line along the medial (inside border) of the scapula, and then checking what angle it creates with a vertical line along the spine.  Your goal is about 55-60 degrees of scapular upward rotation.


In a good overhead position, you shouldn't feel it at all in the top or front of your shoulder.  If you do, though, it's a sign that you're probably either lacking scapular upward rotation or don't have sufficient cuff strength to do this correctly.  I always tell athletes that they shouldn't "feel" this in one place; it should feel like the entire shoulder girdle is working synergistically to create good stabilization.

Also, a lot of people will ask if they need to "pack the shoulder down with the lat."  Why you would want to turn your lat on to reach overhead is a puzzle to me, as it limits shoulder flexion and scapular upward rotation, draws the humerus into internal rotation (closes down the subacromial space), and pulls the spine into an extended position (excessive arching).  What folks really should be doing is a subtly posterior tilting the scapula to free up space at the front of the shoulder, and facilitate upward rotation.  It's a flawed movement if you're just cranking the entire shoulder girdle down.  In short, we want lower traps, not lats.

If you're looking to learn more about how I incorporate many different carrying variations in my programming, I'd encourage you to check out my new resource, The High Performance Handbook

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20 Responses to “Exercise of the Week: 1-arm Bottoms-up Kettlebell Waiter’s Walk”

  1. Fred Says:

    Can you give some guidelines on common amount of weight used (KG/LB)size of KB?

  2. Brian Evans Says:

    Thanks for the exercise, Eric. How do you determine the proper weight to use? What ranges would you expect for Jr. High and HS pitchers?

  3. teri Says:

    Do you have your athletes/clients do this for time or distance? Thanks!

  4. Chris Says:

    Regarding your comment on “packing the shoulder down with the lat,” do you advise against this with all overhead movements, including the Get-up?

  5. Eric Cressey Says:

    Hi Brian,

    Most of the high school guys are in the neighborhood of 4kg-12kg, although I’ve seen guys go up as high as 16-20kg as they get stronger.



  6. Eric Cressey Says:


    It’s distance…30-40yds/side.

  7. Tim Mogg Says:

    Hey Eric,
    I just wanted to say thanks for a great website. I’ve been reading for a while now, and your exercise philosophies, knowledge and communication skills are excellent. Thanks so much for sharing.

  8. Victoria Says:

    Love this exercise! I started doing these from your HPH which is awesome. I definitely find its my grip that gives out 1st in my non dominant arm

  9. Brent Says:


    Would an exercise like this (or really any exercise where you are getting scapular upwards rotation) be contraindicated for someone that is really kyphotic? Wouldn’t it be difficult to get optimal upwards rotation, and scapula humeral rhythem if the scaps aren’t at least flush (or close to) on the rib cage? Gray Cook’s quote ‘don’t put fitness on dysfunction’ comes to mind here. Or mabye this isn’t a huge concern?


  10. Brent Says:

    Also, how do you cue someone into post. tilt? I’m in a little of an anterior tilt so Ive been playing with the idea of wrapping an adjustable cord around my upper back so it sits just on the inferior border of the scap and see if that helps. Sounds funky and will most likely look ridiculous, but I think I really need to know what it feels like.

  11. Kevin Says:

    Do you have your pitchers take ONE three month break throughout the year, or a month here, a month here, etc. Thanks

  12. Rich Says:

    Hi Eric,
    could you do the same movement with a DB?

  13. Eric Cressey Says:


    You can, but it doesn’t work quite as well on the stability side of things.

  14. Eric Cressey Says:


    We try to make it one block, rather than ramping up and shutting down all the time.

  15. Eric Cressey Says:


    RE: posterior tilt, I don’t make it that complex. I’ll just manually put the scapula in that position, and then tell them to hold it in place.

  16. Eric Cressey Says:


    RE: the kyphosis question, it could be a contraindication if someone really isn’t able to get full shoulder flexion or sufficient thoracic extension.  I’d use a bottoms-up carry at a lower arm angle with these folks.

  17. Eric Cressey Says:

    Thanks, Tim!

  18. Eric Cressey Says:


    Anywhere from 4kg to 16kg.

  19. Eric Cressey Says:

    Thanks, Victoria!

  20. Eric Cressey Says:


    Yes.  You might get a good package feeling (joint centration), but it’s not coming from lats (or shouldn’t); it should come from lower traps.

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