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Mastering the Kettlebell Clean

February 24, 2010 06:53 AM

Everybody is anxious to press the kettlebells overhead and not enough time is spent on mastering the clean. The better your clean, the better your press. Now that you have learned the basics of the clean here are some ways to really tighten up that clean putting you in a stronger position to blast your kettlebell overhead in that press.

The more I work with kettlebells, the more I relate them to the lessons of my martial arts. No technique is too trivial to practice, and there is no mastery without practice, practice, practice & practice. The clean is not just a bridge to another exercise, it is a complete lesson all of its own, and should be addressed as such. So let's begin by understanding what the lessons of a well executed clean are.

Control your strength
Control your power
Control your movements
Control the weight

Execution of the clean involves 3 main elements

The beginning
This is where I see the most problems as initiation is often in the arms and the back and not in the legs
  • At the bottom of the clean, knees are bent your glutes and hams are loaded as you prepare initiate the movement - driving with the hips as the kettlebell comes off the floor, swings in to your body and is powered/launched upward.
The middle
  • Your body is strong but supple and loose you relax and guide the kettlebell through the transition, let your thumb track the center of your body.
  • No flipping or banging of the forearms.
The catch
It is said that your press is only as good as your clean. In order to press, you need a solid base to press from, so your clean must end in that solid base
  • At the top of the clean where you are tight, balanced and ready, creating a strong solid base to support the kettlebell in the rack position
This workout is intended to strengthen these elements.

Begin be establishing your best clean, either in weight, or reps. For the workout, select a weight that you can work with comfortably, e.g. if your normally work with a 24kg, then start with a 20kg or even a 16kg. You should be able to focus on the movement of each exercise, and not the weight. After you have master the mechanics of the exercises, you may increase the weight.

Exercise Descriptions

Dead lift hip thrusts:
Start with the kettlebell held in one hand, hanging in front your body and knees slightly bent. Now snap the hips forward as you would at the top of your swing or as if you were trying to jump. Execution 5x3 squatting a little lower each time.

Explosive lunge:
This exercise is much like a tactical lunge, except the emphasis is on exploding up quickly as you can, and the kettlebell does not change hands.

Holding the kettlebell in your right hand, the handle parallel to your shoulders, step back with your right foot until your knee brushes the deck.
Explode up as fast as you can by driving your left heel into the ground and snapping that right leg to standing position. If you are having trouble driving up from a full lunging position you may begin in a half lunging position and work on getting deeper with each set.

Beginners should practice this without the kettlebell then add the kettlebell or a light weight as your technique improves.
Execute this drill 5x3

Low pull:
With the kettlebell hanging in one hand, begin as you would a single arm swing, as the kettlebell comes forward, pull your arm up and back keeping the elbow close to your side, immediately let the kettlebell fall back between your legs and repeat until movement is smooth and controlled. 5x5

Full tension plank:
Laying face down on the floor with your arms bent along your side, push up and support you body with you elbows and toes, keeping your back flat and level. Contract your entire body as tight as you can and maintain that contraction for 10 secs. (If a partner is available, have them push on your hips and legs during your contraction) x3

Cross cleans:
Standing with the kettlebell in front of the left foot, cock the right heel out as you turn and grasp the kettlebell with your right hand. Clean the kettlebell as you snap the right heel down, creating torque through your core and making the contraction you practiced in the plank. 5x3

Lunging cleans: (I recommend a medium or light weight kettlebell to start) Beginning in a lunge position, with the kettlebell on the same side as the down knee. Drive off the opposite leg, lunging upward while cleaning the kettlebell finishing in with legs straight, feet shoulder width apart and weight evenly distributed. This movement must be explosive with the hips powering through at the top to bring your feet in to position. You should not feel the weight of the kettlebell in your shoulders through this movement. 3x3

Bottom up cleans:
With a 10 second pause at the top 3x3

Dead lift hip snaps 5x5
Explosive lunge up 5x3
Low pulls 5x5
Full tensions planks(10 sec) x3
Cross cleans 5x3
Lunging cleans 3x3
Bottom ups 3x3

In some cases, individuals have been able to clean a heavier kb after only 1 set. Maximum gains are made if this workout is done 2-3 times per week for 3 weeks.

Now reunite all the elements as you execute a set of single arm cleans. 5x5

Feel the difference! Practice, Practice, Practice & Practice

Paul Daniels- Team Leader, Russian Kettlebell Challenge

An eight year veteran of the U. S. Marine Corps, Paul Daniels began studying the martial arts in his early teens. He currently holds a 2nd Degree Black Belt in the KIADO-RYU martial arts system as well as a certified Aerobics Instructor and Personal Trainer & RKC (Russian Kettlebell Instructor).

Building on his experience as Captain of both the gymnastics and soccer team in high school, Paul A. Daniels continued his education in physical fitness and self-defense, training in the Marine Corps. While competing on the Martial Arts Circuit, he was a top ranked National tournament Competitor. Since becoming a Russian Kettlebell Instructor, in 2005 his commitment to himself and his clients Paul's dedication to excellence was rewarded with his selection to Russian Kettlebell Team Leader position by Pavel Tsatsouline. Paul Daniels is a constant example of the benefits of hard work and commitment. He is considered one of the top Cardio-kick boxing Instructors, Personal Trainers and Russian Kettlebell Instructor in Orange County. His teaching formats are innovative, intense and always fun.

Workout Log
exercise Weight reps sets
Dead lift hip snaps      
Explosive lunge up      
Low pulls      
Full tension planks      
Cross cleans      
Lunging cleans      
Bottom ups      

Workout Log
exercise Weight reps sets
Dead lift hip snaps      
Explosive lunge up      
Low pulls      
Full tension planks      
Cross cleans      
Lunging cleans      
Bottom ups      

Workout Log
exercise Weight reps sets
Dead lift hip snaps      
Explosive lunge up      
Low pulls      
Full tension planks      
Cross cleans      
Lunging cleans      
Bottom ups