Weekly News: Coach Caleb’s Corner – Cleaning Up Kettlebell Cleans

June 20th 2015

Weekly News: Coach Caleb’s Corner – Cleaning Up Kettlebell Cleans


At Breakthrough this month, we’ve got a whole lot of kettlebell Clean practice going on. This is a beautiful thing. The KB Clean is so often  underrated as a beautiful strength move in and of itself, because we are so frequently just using it as a means of getting the bell safely to the rack position for Military Presses, Front Squats, Jerks and Loaded Carries. Those other lifts are all fantastic, but they don’t happen without cleans. It’s easy to forget that the Clean is actually the un-sung hero of any new personal record in the Military Press! Without a good Clean, you won’t get a good Press. Our StrongFirst Chief Instructor, Pavel Tsatsouline, has a great saying; “If you want to Press a lot (of weight), you’ve got to Press a lot (of reps).” It is implied in this statement that you’ve also got to do a lot of Cleans. Without a safe and smooth Clean technique, training sessions involving lots of Clean practice can be outright abusive though! So how do we get those buttery slick Cleans that land perfectly in the rack without slamming into our wrists or shoulders? How do we avoid curling the kettlebell to the rack and wearing out our arms? Well… with practice of course. As such, here’s a regressive drill to practice that can help to smooth out the Clean.Consider for a moment, the Palm Clean. This is a variation of the standard KB Clean, where you actually let go of the KB handle on the way up, to catch the belly of the bell with your palm in the rack. When executed perfectly, this technique almost looks like a magic trick! The landing in the rack is so soft and the catch and release moment happen so fast, that we can barely see how it all happens. Of course, when this technique is not so perfect, it gets pretty risky. There’s a lump of iron flying toward the face, and if the palm doesn’t catch it just so, then it falls hard toward the feet! A good Palm Clean demonstrates the value of keeping one’s elbow “clipped” against the ribs to tame the arc of the upswing, and also exemplifies the appropriate recruitment of hip drive to land the kettlebell softly in the rack without being able to curl it home with the arm. What if there was a less risky way to practice these nuances in the technique? Here is a drill that will do just that:

  1. Test your Clean to see how it feels and get some feedback from your coach or training partner

  2. Cheat Clean a practice-sized KB to the rack position

  3. Have your training partner wedge an old copy of MILO (Ironmind’s publication for serious strength athletes) or a towel between your elbow and ribs on the loaded side (obviously!)

  4. Drop the KB into your backswing and re-clean it WITHOUT losing your grip on the magazine or towel

  5. Repeat until technique improves or you need a rest

  6. Re-test your Clean and make sure it feels smoother

Receive the admiration of your training partner, and switch roles (it is more blessed to give than to receive) The above drill can really help to enforce the correct “zipping” up of the midsection, lower body drive and minimal arm work in the Clean. The result is a smoother, more efficient Clean technique!

You can expect to practice this and other top secret drills in our Complete Strength classes this month.

Looking forward to training with you all!


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