The best kettlebell exercises tend to involve some kind of explosive swing movement and the kettlebell clean is no different. It’s a powerhouse of a move that engages muscle groups across the body and is one of the best leg exercises you can add to your workouts.
It has to be done correctly, however, because as with all explosive exercises good technique is key to getting the best results and avoiding injury. Once you’re familiar with the move, you can combine the clean with exercises like the kettlebell swing and Turkish get-up for one-kit workouts that challenge the entire body.
Benefits Of The Kettlebell Clean
The kettlebell clean engages most of the muscles in your lower body but primarily works the hamstrings, glutes and back, as well as your core. It’s often used in tandem with the kettlebell press to create the kettlebell clean and press – one of the best full-body exercises you can do – but even without adding any other moves, the clean is a fantastic exercise that fits well into HIIT workouts because it will also raise your heart rate and challenge your cardiovascular fitness.
How To Do The Kettlebell Clean
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with the kettlebell on the floor slightly in front of you and between your feet. Bend slightly at the knees as you hinge at the hips to reach down and grab the kettlebell in one hand, with your thumb pointing backwards.
Swing the weight back between your legs to create momentum, then drive your hips forwards and straighten your back to initiate the upwards movement of the kettlebell. Once the kettlebell passes bellybutton height, gently pull it back and slide your fist around and under the bell so it nestles softly on the back of your wrist at shoulder height. This is known as the rack position. Push the kettlebell out to let it swing down between your legs, and repeat. Do all your reps on one side, then switch.
Kettlebell Clean Form Tip
“People new to this tend to over-power the clean, which causes the bell to flip over and bang up the wrist,” says kettlebell king Mike Mahler. “Focus instead on opening your hand and getting it around the bell to avoid the flip and get the weight to the rack position efficiently and pain-free. The trajectory should be in a straight line so don’t swing out to the left or right or project in front like the one-arm swing. Instead, swing the bell upwards and then pull the bell up and back towards you. Let the lower body do most of the work to get the bell in place.”
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Sam Rider is an experienced freelance journalist, specialising in health, fitness and wellness. For over a decade he's reported on Olympic Games, CrossFit Games and World Cups, and quizzed luminaries of elite sport, nutrition and strength and conditioning. Sam is also a REPS level 3 qualified personal trainer, online coach and founder of Your Daily Fix. Sam is also Coach’s designated reviewer of massage guns and fitness mirrors.