What exactly is the assisted kettlebell dead clean drill, what is it used for, and what weight should I use? Why is this drill the number one drill to focus on when starting out with kettlebells? The answers to these questions are below. Make sure to check out the full slow video of the kettlebell dead clean as you should be able to perform this exercise by yourself if you follow the steps set out below.
I’ll say it again, if you fully understand and focus on this drill for a while, you will avoid a lot of kettlebell annoyances and injuries! 2 to 5 hours spend on this drill and you will understand how to avoid bruising, ripped hands, sore back, and be able to do higher volume.
We designed this drill to teach several things about cleaning a kettlebell that is normally misunderstood and/or not executed correctly. This drill is an important part of our online kettlebell courses and certifications.
The whole movement can also be used to bring a kettlebell into the racking position and is great to be used by people just starting out with the kettlebell, however, it should be made clear that:
- It is a drill to understand certain parts of the clean
- The drill is not actually a proper clean (it lacks power and involves curling)
- It is a modified version to ingrain certain things
- One should progress to a proper clean
The definition of a drill is:
- To fix something in the mind or habit pattern by repetitive instruction
- To impart or communicate by repetition
- To train or exercise in military drill
In other words: it is a movement performed slowly with the kettlebell and broken down into steps to instill a certain pattern and transitions that are normally hard to understand when performed at faster speeds.
A kettlebell clean performed correctly:
- Is 100% powered by the legs
- Moves the kettlebell from a position below the hips into the racking position
- Brings the kettlebell into a ballistic flight
When performing the drill, the movement is slow and broken down step-by-step:
- Grab the weight
- Use a hook grip
- Lift the weight
- Come into a fully upright position
- The arm is straight
This part instills the grip, the pattern of powering the movement with the legs, and how long the arm(s) should remain straight. Once performed with an explosive and fast movement, the arm should remain straight almost for as long as it was during the drill, although it will depend on how much force is generated and how heavy the weight is.
A squat pattern is used for this variation of the clean as the weight starts dead and travels up in one straight line from the bottom position. The clean that has the weight swinging is commonly performed with a hip hinge. A squat involves 3 joints and the hip hinge involves 2 joints (for this variation).
The next phase of the drill:
- Slightly curl the arm until the other arm can assist
- Assist with the other arm by holding onto the base of the kettlebell
- The assistance mimics the ballistic flight where the grip on the handle can open up
- Assist and move the bell around the hand
- Insert the open hand into the top corner (between the handle and horn)
- The webbing between the thumb and index finger is the part pushing up
- This actions’ the desired 45-degree handle position within the palm
- End up in a proper racking position with a loose grip
This part of the drill is about the part that happens during a clean when the weight enters its ballistic flight. This is the part where most people have issues, i.e. opening up the hand and inserting it into the window. It is also to mimic how the bell should travel around the hand rather than flip over and land on the forearm, again, this is a major issue with most beginners, hence, this is why this drill is so important.
The return phase of the drill is just as, if not more, important as the up phase. It’s the part where most people just stop focusing and consider it the end of the drill, it’s not. This is the part where we instill the movements and actions that will prevent back pains, elbow issues, and more.
The down phase is:
- Assist while letting it go where it naturally wants to go
- Bring the elbow back so the hand can regrip into the hook grip
- Assist until the arm is straight
- Return the weight to the ground with the legs
- Use a squat movement
This phase is translated in the actual clean as letting the weight drop naturally, pulling out, regripping, and arm extension while decelerating with the legs.
Everything that’s done so far is slow and performed step-by-step, but when doing the actual clean, all this would be performed explosively and at fast speeds. The assistance used in the drill allows one to experience the path the kettlebell travels, how long to keep the arm extended, how the hand opens up and inserts, how the bell moves around the hand, and how those actions are performed in reverse going down.
Once you move to the proper clean, never curl again. Your biceps should not get a workout in this exercise.
What is the Ballistic Flight?
The ballistic flight is the moment that the kettlebell is powered so that it keeps going once you let go. Think about forcefully pulling something toward the ceiling, letting go, and it will keep moving toward the ceiling, that is the ballistic flight. This is the part that allows the grip transition to happen, i.e. let go of the handle and change the grip from hook into a loose grip.
If you are muscling your weight up then you did not generate enough force with the legs!
What Weight to Use?
When performing the drill, one should use a weight that is light to medium, easy to handle slowly, and not causing any issues during the curling part of the drill.
When performing the actual clean with an explosive and fast movement, one should use a medium to heavy weight. Not so heavy that the form and technique go out the window but heavy enough to provide resistance and require the legs to do its work. A light kettlebell weight is not a good option here as it will result in the legs not getting any resistance and the arm(s) will curl the weight. Curling is part of the drill but should never be present in an actual kettlebell clean.
Yes, the arm curls (elbow flexion) but there is a difference between using the curl to move the weight and curling to catch the weight, the latter is what needs to happen.
Common mistakes when drilling:
- Not squatting
- Using a weight that’s too heavy for the drill
- Moving too fast
- Not paying attention to the down phase
- Not using the assistance of the other hand to move the weight
Common mistakes when cleaning:
- Not generating enough force with the legs
- Curling with the arm(s)
- Not letting go of the weight and opening up
- Not inserting the hand
- Not racking properly
- Dropping the weight and decelerating with the arms
- Dropping and following the weight
All these mistakes can lead to issues like:
- Excessive calluses
- Blisters and ripped hands
- Bruised forearms
- Tendon problems
- Lower back problems
- And so on
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