Breaking Down the Clean

The kettlebell clean is an underrated and underutilized lift.

Most people just see it as a way to get the kettlebell into the rack position for presses and jerks.

And, although that's exactly what the clean is, it has so much more value beyond that.

The clean, like the swing, is a ballistic exercise that develops strength and power in the glutes and hamstrings.

It also works the muscles of the upper back and shoulders, develops coordination between your lower and upper body and is a killer conditioning exercise. 

A good clean sets the foundation for a strong press and it also allows you to expand your training options, like circuits, complexes and chains.

There are several nuances to a clean, but it's essentially a 1 arm swing that ends up in the rack position. 

So if you haven't mastered the 1 arm swing yet, start there, and the clean will be much easier to learn.

The Clean

  • 1
    Set up like you would for a 1 arm swing.‚Äč
  • 2
    Take a big sniff of air in and hike the kettlebell high into your groin.
  • 3
    Drive your heels into the ground and snap up into a standing plank, like a 1 arm swing.
  • 4
    Keep your upper arm attached to your body and pull the kettlebell into you so that it comes straight up your body into the rack position.
  • 5
    Tame the arc - keep the bell close to your body as you pull it into the rack position. You should not bang your forearm.
  • 6
    In the rack - stand up tall, lock your legs out, squeeze your glutes, brace your abs and pull your shoulder blades back and down. Your wrist should be straight, not cocked.
  • 7
    Keep your arm loose as you drop the bell back down into the backswing. Make sure the bell goes high in your groin, staying above the knees.

It's important to note that the clean takes tons of reps before it becomes smooth.

In the beginning, you will bang your forearm.

You'll feel uncoordinated, disconnected and frustrated for a while, but keep practicing anyway.

And if all else fails, keep working on your 1 arm swing and use the cheat clean as a drill to help you get a feel for the clean.

The Cheat Clean

The clean is an important transition movement but it's also a great lift on it's own.

It won't be easy to learn and you'll suck at it at first.

You'll bang your forearms, tear some callouses and get frustrated.

But stick with it, you need to have a good clean in order to progress your training to the higher level kettlebell movements.

Master the 1 arm swing and practice your cleans.

In Strength and Health,