Could your Kettlebell Clean use some cleaning up? The clean is the best way to get the bell up into the rack position for presses and front squats, and the clean is an awesome exercise on its own. It’s a ballistic exercise just like the swing, except that you have the opportunity to pause and enjoy a strong vertical plank in your lockout with the bell safely landed in rack position.
When people first start learning cleans, or start using heavier bells, the process can be a bit frustrating unless you spend some time mastering the technical details of the lift. Fortunately with a little patience and trouble shooting, you can eliminate the wrist pain and crash landing that all too often comes with cleans, so that you can enjoy the strength, power and fun of this exercise. Here are five tips to help you clean up your cleans:
1. Rack Position – Knowing exactly how the bell should land in the rack is a great place to start when practicing cleans. Your forearm should be vertical with your wrist directly on top of your elbow and your arm tight to your body. Your thumb should be pointing toward the collarbone, and your wrist should be totally straight. Before practicing lots of cleans, you may want to spend a lot of time getting comfortable with the rack position – use two hands to get the bell up, and then practice holding your lockout, or walking around in a loaded carry.
2. Tame the Arc – Coming out of and into the backswing, you want to guide the bell the shortest distance possible. This is known as “taming the arc”. Unlike the single arm swing where the elbow is straight the whole time, your elbow will need to bend to guide the bell up to the rack – almost like zipping up a hoodie. You want to keep your upper arm very close to your body the whole time, with your armpit tight. A drill to practice this is once you’ve cleaned a bell to the rack position, place a magazine or thin book in your armpit on the loaded side. Practice your cleans and try not to lose the book. You can also practice in front of a wall, but we don’t recommend starting here until you are pretty skilled with this… for obvious reasons 🙂 Check out this video!
3. Backswing – Try not to let the bell drop straight down in the backswing, as this robs you of the power needed for your next rep. Instead keep the bell high above your knees just like a single arm swing so you can properly load your hips for the next clean. Watch a quick video here!
4. Relax your Grip – If you hold on too tightly to the bell, it will assuredly crash into your wrist or forearm. To prevent this, allow your grip to relax so the bell can glide through your hand as you guide it to the rack. Remember to direct the bell around the outside of your arm, not straight up. Here’s a video!
5. Plank Fast – As soon as you come out of the backswing, you want to become a vertical plank as quickly as you can, and stay tight. This way you can better absorb the landing and “become one” with the bell. Being slightly loose or not being joint stacked will not only cause a less than ideal landing, but also set you up for a less than ideal next rep – whether another clean, or a press, or a squat. Check out this video!
Strength, love and happy cleaning!