The Ambiguity of Exercise Naming

Get Specific With Your Cleans

In this post, I like to bring up the ambiguity of exercise naming in general, not just that of the clean.

At the beginning of my Kettlebell journey, I trained with several different trainers, and often I’d find myself thinking

“this guy doesn’t know what he’s doing, that’s not a kettlebell clean”

But I’d soon find out that what they demonstrated was indeed a type of clean, the fact is that there are many different types of Kettlebell Cleans, they just weren’t specific with the TYPE of clean they were demonstrating. They would call every type of clean a “Clean”, no matter whether it was a Hang Clean, Dead Clean, Swing Clean, they failed to include the type/variation of clean it actually was.

If you’re just starting out and are training with several trainers you might find yourself in the same position and thinking to yourself

“but Trainer A taught me the Kettlebell clean this way, and I trust trainer A more than Trainer B, Trainer B must not know what he’s doing”

but it’s not that they didn’t know what they were doing, it’s the fact they were not being specific with the exercise naming.

Another great example is the confusion from the CrossFit community when it comes to pull-ups, there are different variations of them, and they’re not referred to by their proper name (type), i.e. kipping pull-ups, strict/deadhang pull-ups, chin-ups, butterfly pull-ups etc. this leads to negative feedback and people given it a bad name. However, if everyone started referring to exercises more specific, there would be a lot less complaining and confusion all round.


For example: if someone who invested a lot of time into being able to do 50 strict pull-ups would see a CrossFitter post on Facebook

“I just did 200 pull-ups”

he’d be like

“F you, those aren’t pull-ups!”

of course he would, you can’t blame him, because even though the CrossFitter did a great job, he did not perform the same pull-up, nor did he engage the same muscles. In fact, the CrossFitter would probably have engaged more muscles, just not the same muscle group as much. Now, had the CrossFitter posted

“I just did 200 kipping pull-ups”

the complainant would probably not be complaining! One less stressed out gym go’er.


And then there are some trainers out there who simply don’t know the different kettlebell cleans available, and believe what they know is THE kettlebell clean. The fact is, there are many, to name a few:

  • assisted clean
  • swing clean (single arm)
  • swing clean (double arm)
  • dead swing clean (single arm)
  • dead swing clean (double arm)
  • dead clean (single arm)
  • hang clean (single arm)


Following are some videos I made about the Kettlebell Clean, please feel free to post your comments below, including any constructive feedback. I hope they help someone, if they do, I appreciate to hear about it.

Kettlebell Clean Variations


Following is an example of a reference made to the clean as “Kettlebell Basics – One Arm Kettlebell Clean” in the title and “Hang clean” in the video. The clean is actually a Dead Clean, the bell is dead on the ground and not hanging. No disrespect intended to the author who has great form and donates his time to help people by posting videos, all I’m saying is that trainers would be better of getting to know the different types of cleans and refer to them accordingly.


An example of incorrect naming by a company most have high regard for

They refer to the Hang Clean as the Dead Clean, I left a comment to let them know. What I would do (yes I make mistakes too) is leave a note in the description or annotation in the video to let the users know that this is not a Dead Clean, as the Bell is hanging and never DEAD on the ground. The “Double Clean” in that same video I would have referred to as the “Double Kettlebell Swing Clean”.


Do I always refer to exercises by their full name? No, I too am guilty of not using the proper names, but I do my utter best not to do this when I teach a beginner, make a video, write an article or anything that has to do with the general public or new people.


Questions (your feedback below in the comments):

  • What are some other exercises you frequently see this problem with?
  • What is your perspective on the above?
  • How do you think we can improve this area for everyone?
  • What do you do different when you teach a Clean?
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