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How to Do the Kettlebell Clean

The two-handed clean — also known as a goblet clean — is a powerful movement that involves lifting a kettlebell from the floor to chest height in one swift motion.

It’s an effective way to build strength and power in the hips, develop core stability, reinforce well-stacked spinal alignment, improve coordination and body awareness, and burn fat.

Despite its many benefits, the clean often gets short shrift in fitness programming. Its complexity can be intimidating — done incorrectly, the move can cause numerous injuries, including pain in the lower back, elbows, wrists, and forearms.

Moreover, it’s an easy exercise to overthink, which throws off timing and coordination, in turn leading to bad form and aches. This can trigger a vicious cycle of stress and discomfort, prompting many people to avoid the clean and its variations.

You can prevent all these troubles, however, when you clean up your clean. Follow these directions and cues to stay safe and have fun with this multifaceted move.

 

1. Stand with your feet at shoulder width with the kettlebell parked on the floor between them.

2. Hinge at your hips, allowing your knees to bend so you can reach down to grasp the kettlebell handle with both hands. Engage your core to prepare for the movement.

  • Tip: Keep a proud chest by bracing your abs and maintaining a neutral spine.

3. In one quick motion, forcefully extend your hips, straighten your legs, and squeeze your glutes as you begin drawing the kettlebell toward your chin.

  • Tip: Instead of pulling with your hands, use your hips to power the kettlebell up.
  • Tip: Keep your hands close to your body throughout the lift, as though you were zipping up a jacket.
  • Tip: Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement.

4. Keep the kettlebell close to your body as you guide it up, adjusting your hand position to catch it at chest height. Reverse the movement to return to the start position.

  • Tip: Tuck your elbows to your ribs, as though you were holding a folder under each armpit.

Variations

One-Handed Clean

 

Perform the clean with one hand, drawing it from between your feet directly up into a front-racked position at chest height, with the kettlebell resting against your forearm.

One-Handed Swing Clean

 

Initiate the clean by snapping — or hiking — it high and tight between your legs, then using the force of your hips to “weightlessly” draw the bell up to a racked position, with the kettlebell resting against your forearm.

Side-to-Side Clean

 

  1. Begin with the kettlebell in a front-racked position at chest height, resting against your forearm.
  2. Initiate a lateral swing away from the side holding the kettlebell, allowing your body to rotate slightly as you “toss” the kettlebell away.
  3. The kettlebell will reach its apex at about shoulder height.
  4. As momentum pulls it back toward your starting point, use your hips to power the kettlebell back into a racked position.
Photography by: Kelly Loverud; Styling: Pam Brand: Model: Bryan Everett

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