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Learn the kettlebell clean | The Definitive 6 step Guide

The kettlebell clean is a popular explosive movement that works several different muscles – including your shoulders, traps, biceps, forearms, and core. 

The clean has many benefits, but a big takeaway is improving your kettlebell press once you nail the kettlebell clean technique. However, this exercise may expose your grip technique and muscling your kettlebell may result in the kettlebell hitting your wrists and causing pain in your forearms. Proper technique to minimise forearm pain is essential.

The kettlebell clean is a building block move for beginners and experts alike, as this exercise is the basis for most kettlebell movements, such as the press, squat, windmill, and bent press. 

So, if you want to master other kettlebell movements, a perfected clean technique comes first.

How to do a kettlebell clean

  1. Stand a foot length back from your kettlebell. Your bell should be in the instep of the side you are performing the movement
  2. Hinge your hips and bend forward
  3. Grasp your bell with one hand
  4. Set your shoulders and shift the weight back to your heels
  5. After loading your posterior chain in the hinge position, swing the bell between your legs (pretend you’re an NFL player hiking the kettlebell)
  6. Driving from the glutes, stand tall quickly. Don’t forget the hip pop at the top of the movement
  7. As you get to the standing position, pull the elbow of your kettlebell arm back while keeping the bell close to your body (like you’re trying to elbow someone behind you)
  8. Quickly punch through the top of the movement to allow your bell to come into the rack position smoothly
  9. Reverse the steps and return the bell to the floor to complete the movement

Watch all these tips in motion (plus a few bonuses) in our kettlebell clean video below.

6 tips for mastering your kettlebell clean technique

1. Dead cleans

A common problem you might face when performing the clean is your kettlebell slapping your forearm or wrist. This can happen if your kettlebell is too light and you’re muscling the kettlebell.

To fix this, focus on dead cleans. First, start over the top of the bell (as you would with a deadlift). Next, pick the bell up and set your shoulder. Then, come up close to the body with the pull, and punch into a set position.

You will feel the bell slide comfortably into the correct rack position if you do this right.

2. Use a wall

If you find you can’t seem to get into the correct position, you can use a wall or a rack to give you some external feedback.

Stand in front of the wall with enough distance so that you can still hinge forward. Pick up the bell, set your shoulder, and pull up and punch into position. The wall will help you emphasise the pull to keep the bell close to your body, which will allow you to punch through into the clean position.

3. Start from the top

How you let the kettlebell fall is just as important as how you pull it up. Top-down cleans can help you practise this fall movement to achieve a smooth kettlebell clean.

Let the bell fall. Your hips should absorb the weight at the last minute and place the bell on the floor. It would be best if you let the bell fall long enough so that the upper arm comes in contact with your body. Once you’re confident, re-clean the bell.

4. Increase the weight

You might be surprised to learn that increasing the weight of your kettlebell can help you tidy up your technique and make it more efficient. The additional weight will help you tame the arc of the movement and keep the bell close to your body.

5. Pop, pull, and punch

Practise the different stages of the movement sequentially. First, practise the pop with single-arm swings to emphasise your hip-pop. Then, practise the elbow drawback for the pull. Finally, focus on the punch through to the top.

A simple drill is:

  1. One swing
  2. One pull
  3. One clean

Repeat for both sides as many times as you need.

6. Practise

The adage is “practice makes perfect” and applies to the kettlebell clean. Practise reps when you’re fresh and try varying sizes of kettlebells. Incorporate this exercise while focusing on your other skills, as this will allow you to slowly improve your technique without letting your other training goals suffer.

Kettlebell Clean Exercises & Variations

While we’ve focused on the one-arm kettlebell clean, you can vary it up by advancing to the:

But remember, your press and squat are only as good as your clean. So, take your time and commit to mastery of the kettlebell clean, and your kettlebell skills will thank you for it.

Want to master other kettlebell workouts? We’ve got a great range of kettlebell articles and tutorial videos to help you polish your technique:

Hungry for more? Check out our training options here.

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