The Kettlebell Clean takes the kettlebell from the floor and into the racked position, on the chest, in one fluid motion.
Often also called the Clean & Rack for this purpose.
It should be smooth and not bang the wrist, forearm or chest.
From this racked position you can then: Press, Lunge, Squat, Clean again, Dance a jig or just rest.
Without mastering the clean, you are not able to get the bell in the rack to do all these awesome moves and you will not be able to progress.
This is why this is so important. The clean is the gateway to all these other moves.
There are a number of ways to clean kettlebells; kettlebell hang clean or dead clean (we also call this a standing or static clean), kettlebell swing clean, bottoms up clean, double kettlebell clean and other multi exercise combinations too.
I’ll get into the different kettlebell cleans variations later on in this blog post.
Kettlebell clean benefits
The KB clean is great full body exercise that:
- Activates most muscles in the body
- Can be very cardiovascular if repeated correctly
- Is great for fat loss due to all the muscles conditioned
- Develops strong and explosive hips for sports
- Has a great hormonal response if performed with a heavier kettlebell
- Can be used as a segue into so many other kettlebell exercises
If you are serious about kettlebell training then KB cleans should not be ignored and must be mastered.
Kettlebell clean muscles worked
The KB Clean hits most of muscles of the body making it a huge fat burning and strength building exercise.
Just some of the muscles used when you clean kettlebells:
- Quadriceps muscles
- Hamstring muscles
- Glutes (your butt) muscles
- Core muscles
- Trapezius muscles
- Rhomboid muscles
- Deltoids muscles and more…
The clean is based off the deadlift movement pattern so just like the Swing and Snatch it works heavily into the back of the body, posterior chain, making it a great counterbalance to all the sitting many of us do each day.
How to Keep the Kettlebell from Hitting your Wrist
If like many people you suffer from bruised wrists or problems with the kettlebell hitting your forearm or wrists when you clean the kettlebell, then you are not alone.
This is a very common problem and easily fixed either with a slight adjustment to your technique or by purchasing a more suitable kettlebell.
The KB clean, just like all the other deadlift movements, comes from the hips.
It is that explosive little HIP SNAP that sends the kettlebell up and on its way to the chest.
It is not an arm exercise.
You could have arms like a T-Rex and still Clean a heavy kettlebell
5 Important steps:
- Keep the kettlebell close to the body and send it up in a straight line.
- Always take the arm around the kettlebell, NOT the kettlebell around the arm.
- Imagine clenching a large book under your armpit and then zipping up your jacket
- Don’t squeeze the bell tightly, you can open your hand to let it move more or even finish with an open hand.
- End position is forearm is straight, tight to body, no space under arm pit, engage lat muscles, open hand so as not to over squeeze.
Watch this video to help improve your technique:
Further teaching points
- Ensure the thumb is pointing backwards (thumb to the bum)
- Load the rear of the body by driving from the heels
- Keep the bell close as if facing a wall
- Snap the hips and don’t use the arm other than as a guide
- Keep the abs tight, shoulders are pulled back and docked and don’t lean backwards
- Rotate the arm around the bell and not the other way around
- The bell moves up and down in a vertical path
- Engage the Lat muscle by squeezing the armpit at the top of the move
- Don’t let the bell pull your shoulder back, core is tight, squeeze your glutes and engage your lat muscle.
- Keep it smooth and do not bang the arm
- Don’t over squeeze the handle, open the hand at the top end of the movement if you prefer
- If the kettlebell bruising your wrist then you need to buy a better kettlebell
Step 1 Starting Position – the floor
Step 2 Pull or Hike Back – through the legs
Step 3 – Hip Snap – not swing- keep bell close to body
Step 4 – Get Arm under kettlebell and rotate it around wrist
Step 5 – End position- Arm straight, no space under armpit, engage Lat muscles and squeeze, hand can be open.
3 Kettlebell Clean variations
Kettlebell Dead/Standing Clean
The kettlebell dead clean is the first single arm kettlebell clean variation that you should learn.
The KB dead clean takes the kettlebell from the dead or stopped position straight up and into the racked position on the chest.
When in flow the kettlebell does not need to be cleaned from the floor but it should be stopped dead before repeating the KB dead clean exercise.
Stopping the kettlebell in the hang position takes away the muscles elasticity energy and makes the exercise more challenging.
Keep the kettlebell close to the body at all times.
You can practice performing this one arm kettlebell clean by facing a wall to restrict the swinging or looping movement that often happens with beginners.
Practice workout: progress to 10-15 seconds on each side before changing hands. Goal 15 reps each side.
Kettlebell Clean and Press
The natural progression on from the KB clean exercises is the single arm kettlebell clean and press.
It is important to note that these are two separate exercises.
You must not start to press overhead until you can clean smoothly.
The muscles worked by the kb clean and press are the same as for the hang clean exercise except now you add in all the shoulder, lats and additional core muscle recruitment.
You should also be able to perform beautiful kettlebell turkish get ups before progressing to the overhead press because it will strengthen your shoulder stabilisers.
Make sure there is a natural pause between the kettlebell clean and the kettlebell overhead press.
You can also use the kettlebell overhead push press or the slightly more complicated kettlebell clean and jerk from the racked position too.
Practice workout: start with only a few reps on each side and progress to 10 reps before changing sides.
Watch a video of the KB clean and Press or Clean, Rack, Press below:
Kettlebell Bottoms Up Clean
Kettlebell Bottoms Up Holding Position
The kettlebell bottoms ups clean forces you to master good body alignment and accurate kettlebell clean technique.
The movement starts with the standard single arm hang clean but then the kettlebell is flipped upside down in the top position.
You will need to get your arm in proper alignment under the kettlebell in order to stop the kettlebell from flopping over.
At first you think that good grip strength is required but with practice you will realise that excellent technique negates the need for a strong grip.
Practice workout: keep it simple practicing 3 – 5 reps on each side. Try and hold the kettlebell upside down for as long as possible during each repetition.
Watch a video of the kettlebell bottoms up clean (with our overhead press and walk advanced move) below:
Watch a video of our Gunslinger Flow with double cleans and presses below:
Practice workout: Add this into your next Tabata workout.
4. Double Kettlebell Clean and Press
Once you become skilled at all the single handed cleans then you can add even more load and complexity by holding a kettlebell in each hand.
Here we take the double kettlebell power clean exercise and add an additional pressing movement.
All of the variations above can be performed with two kettlebells but personally I would stick to these 4 clean variations when using two kettlebells:
- Dead Clean
- Clean and Press
- Clean, Squat and Press
- Bottoms Up Clean
What kettlebell weight to use
Women should start with an 8kg or 12kg (25lbs), although I have female clients that clean 16kg and 20kg (44lbs) kettlebells, as I mentioned the strength comes from the hips not the arms.
When doing cleans in HIIT workouts, you could use a 6kg and if you are a total beginner to working out, we have suggested starting with a 4kg but you will quickly progress.
Men can start with a 12kg and will quickly progress to 16kg, 24kg and even 32kg (70lbs).
Conclusions & FAQs
The Clean is an important full body kettlebell exercise that can be used by itself or as part of a more complex sequence.
You should master the deadlift and swing before attempting the clean as they all come from the all important hip hinge.
Start with the basic kettlebell dead clean and reverse clean above before progressing on to the more complex variations of the movement.
Work up to 60 seconds of cleans on each side.
What muscles does the kettlebell clean train?
The Kettlebell Clean hits most of muscles of the body making it a huge fat burning and strength building exercise. Especially the quads, hamstrings, glutes and back.
Do kettlebells burn a lot of fat?
Most of the kettlebell exercises activate a lot of muscles simultaneously making it a huge fat burning way of working out.
How do I stop my Kettlebell from hitting my wrist?
Always take the arm around the kettlebell, NOT the kettlebell around the arm.
Imagine clenching a large book under your armpit and then zipping up your jacket.