The kettlebell clean is one of the most important exercises in the kettlebell routine. Doing the kettlebell clean can grant you some really good benefits. This exercise can improve hip stability, arm strength, as well as grip strength. It’s one of the most well-rounded exercises in your workout arsenal.
But why then, do most people avoid this exercise if it’s such a good exercise to do?
Much like every other exercise out there, when kettlebell cleans are executed poorly, there’s a high risk that you could end up hurting yourself. While every good gym has staff certified in first aid, it’s best if you take the time to perfect your form and avoid injuries in the first place. In an effort to go faster and lift heavier, we often forget the importance of simple things like stance and breathing.
The most common complaint about the kettlebell clean isn’t the weight or the explosive execution needed to perform it, but rather because the kettlebell tends to collide with your forearm at the peak of execution.
The truth is that this is often more than enough to discourage a person from ever doing cleans again, which is unfortunate because they end up missing out on a really good exercise. So, what are the adjustments that you need to make in order to reap the benefits of the kettlebell clean?
The kettlebell clean starts with your typical deadlift stance — legs shoulder-width apart, straight back, solid core, bent forward at the hips, chest out. The proper stance is important as it ensures that you not only have control of the kettlebell but also that you can prevent accidents from happening by avoiding these kettlebell sins.
There are many aspects of any exercise you do. Among these aspects, the grip is the first thing that a lot of people could get wrong. A bad grip doesn’t only mean that you limit your range of motion and thus hinder your ability to perform the exercise properly. A bad grip can also cause an injury when you’re dealing with heavier weights. The last thing you want is to accidentally let go of the kettlebell mid-motion.
The proper grip you need for a clean kettlebell clean is that you should grip the right-hand corner of the handle and the kettlebell should be oriented in a manner where your thumb is pointed towards you. The importance of this orientation will be explained later on in the article.
Because kettlebell workouts are explosive, the motion should be executed perfectly because there’s a quick moment when it’s going to be difficult to control the kettlebell. So, this means that you need to be able to do things right from the very beginning.
A common misconception with the kettlebell clean is that it is a forward and circular motion. That is completely wrong and that is also what causes the kettlebell to slam into your forearm at the peak of the exercise.
See, when you swing the kettlebell away from your body, you are creating an outward momentum and this momentum causes the kettlebell to travel up and over your arm and into your forearm.
To achieve proper execution, you need to imagine that you’re zipping up a jacket so that the kettlebell travels from your stomach, up to your sternum. Remember to keep your elbow tucked against your torso so that you have more control of the kettlebell. Once the kettlebell rises past the sternum, begin rotation. The rotation is going to help prevent the kettlebell from slamming against your forearm.
The explosive aspect of the exercise relies heavily on the hips. You essentially snap your hips forward in order to generate the power required to bring the kettlebell up.
The rotation of your wrist is essential in keeping the kettlebell from going up and over your wrist — this is what causes the kettlebell to slam against your forearm. By rotating your wrist, you also end up rotating the kettlebell around your forearm, thereby turning the up and over momentum into one that goes around your arm instead.
As we mentioned earlier, begin your rotation once the kettlebell moves past your sternum. So, from the point where your thumb is pointing towards you in the deadlift stance, your wrist needs to rotate outward so that you’re essentially giving a thumbs up when you’re finished with the motion. Once again, remember to keep your elbow tucked against your torso to ensure that you have more control over the kettlebell’s motion. At the end of the kettlebell clean, you have the racked position.
Breathing is an aspect that is often overlooked because it’s easy to forget it when we focus on perfect execution. That’s not bad in any way, especially when you’re just learning the exercise for the first time. However, the breathing aspect of kettlebell cleans is essential during the repetition of the exercise. It ensures that you have a sufficient supply of oxygen to power the muscles used during your workouts.
This aspect is rather simple. Exhale as you perform the explosive hip motion of the exercise. Inhale as you drop the kettlebell forward for the next rep. Rinse and repeat.
The beauty of the kettlebell clean is that it can set you up for a wide variety of other kettlebell workouts once you get into the racked position. From here you can do squats, presses, and a whole lot more. Get creative with your workouts.