One-Arm Kettlebell Clean Exercise

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One-Arm Kettlebell Clean Exercise Guide

The one-arm kettlebell clean is a great preparation for another important and fundamental kettlebell exercise – the kettlebell clean and press.

The purpose of the one-arm kettlebell clean is to quickly lift up the kettlebell up in front of your shoulders, resting it on top of your forearm, in order to perform front squats or the kettlebell press. Unlike barbell cleans, the kettlebell clean is not an exercise in its own right, but is essential to learn in order to perform the other lifts.

What is a weight lifting clean? What is the racking position?

A weight lifting clean is an explosive lower-body powered movement that lifts a weight from a lower position to a higher position which is called racking position. The racking position can be chest or shoulder height depending on what equipment and grip you are using. The clean can be performed with a piece of exercise equipment from the ground i.e. dead, from a hanging position, or during a ballistic movement like the swing.

One-Arm Kettlebell Clean Exercise Instructions

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to perform the one-arm kettlebell clean.

one-arm kettlebell clean exercise instructions

  1. Hold the kettlebell in a single-arm swing position. The thumb should be facing the body (facing down/back, not facing up). Allow your other arm to rest at your side in a neutral position.
  2. You will use a mini swing (the traditional swing form applies—remember to hinge!).
  3. Start the mini swing, but break the motion of the full swing and rotate the kettlebell around the forearm as you bring it up to racked position at your chest. In other words, once the kettlebell passes belly button height, gently pull it back and slide your fist around and under the bell so it nestles softly on the back of your wrist. This is known as the rack position.
  4. At the top, the upper arm should be tight to the rib cage.
  5. The kettlebell should be resting firmly and easily between the upper arm, forearm, and shoulder against the body (not out in any way).
  6. The racked position of the bell should feel comfortable and natural; you should not be straining wrists or elbows, and the kettlebell should feel like it is resting on your forearm.
  7. With a slight lift at the elbow, the kettlebell will drop between the legs as the hips move back in a hinge and you continue to the next rep of your clean.
  8. Make sure to squeeze your glutes at the top of the clean, just like you would in your kettlebell swing.

Additional tips (performance pointers)

  • Your arm should not be fully extended like when you are doing the one-arm kettlebell swing. Instead, keep your arm slightly bent at the elbow to keep the weight close to your body. In other words, drive up with your hips sending the kettlebell up instead of forward (like in a swing).
  • When the kettlebell reaches your chest height, you must then quickly tuck your arm under­neath the kettlebell in order to lock it into position.
  • Bend your elbow completely; ending with the back of your thumb facing your upper chest and your elbow should be down on or toward the hip bone. The kettlebell should be resting comfortably between the “V” made by your upper and lower arm (this is what we call the “rack” position).
  • When performing the clean the kettlebell should not slam into your forearm. Rather it should roll around your arm at the top of the movement. Continue to practice until you have a smooth clean.

Why is it called a clean?

Will call this movement a “clean”, because it requires a clean movement, free from irregularities, smoothly and skillfully performed. If you lift your barbell or kettlebell, and the movement is interrupted, or the equipment bangs on your body parts, it wasn’t very clean.

Muscles engaged

  • Primary muscles: hamstrings, quadriceps, lower back, glutes;
  • Secondary muscles: abdominals, biceps, calves, upper back

The one-arm kettlebell clean video demonstration

This video is designed to show you exactly how to perform the one-arm kettlebell clean using perfect technique (proper form) so that you can get the most out of this great total body kettlebell exercise.

Exercise variations

  • Two-arm kettlebell clean (double kettlebell clean)

Closing thoughts

The clean is another fundamental exercise in the kettlebell program that serves as a transiotion to other motions. It’s a great and necessary preparation for another important and fundamental kettlebell exercise – the kettlebell clean and press.

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