Few movements in “kettlebell land” frustrate people like kettlebell cleans. Not everyone enjoys the bruising and soreness we often deal with while learning cleans. And, cleans can get stressful if we’re anticipating multiple slams to the arm.
In my years as an RKC Instructor, I’ve found kettlebell cleans to be one of the most challenging moves to truly own.
The common issues most people have with cleans fall well within the learning curve. Bruising, soreness, and forearm slamming stop as technique improves. Cleans should not hurt. However, you will need to invest some quality time to smooth out your clean. Patience and practice will go a long way!
Here are seven tips for achieving bang-free cleans:
1. HINGE. People often begin to squat their cleans when they focus on getting the kettlebell up. From watching your backswing, I shouldn’t be able to tell if you’re going to do a swing, clean, or snatch. Keep the hinge consistent.
2. GRIP. Loosen up folks! Your grip should be fairly relaxed. Think of your fingers as a hook and your thumb as a safety latch. The kettlebell handle must be able to move within your hand.
3. ROTATE. As soon as your kettlebell is at the end of the backswing, begin to externally rotate your arm toward the rack position. Think “THUMB TO BUM” in the backswing—then, what my buddy Geoff Hemmingway calls “OLD TIMEY MAYOR” in the rack position. The kettlebell will actually make contact with the forearm during the float. This allows the kettlebell and arm to meet the torso at the same time. This tip will eliminate the big bang that can happen when the kettlebell lands last.
4. VOLUME CONTROL. With practice you will learn to exert the right amount of force from the hamstrings, glutes, and hips to ease the kettlebell into the rack position. If the kettlebell is coming in too fast, and you can’t slow it down to prevent banging, then lower the volume. On the flip side, if you are using your biceps to curl the kettlebell into the rack, then you’ll need to turn the volume up. The kettlebell must float during the clean!
5. LOW AND CLOSE. The path of the kettlebell should be low and close to you during the clean. If the kettlebell goes too high, it will arc down and slam into you. If the kettlebell goes too far away from you, it will whip into you. Keep your elbow close to your ribs. While some say to pin the elbow to your ribs, I’m not a huge fan of that cue, because when the focus shifts to the elbow, the arm will often get tense. Excess tension in the arm often leads to banging, curling, and eventual elbow discomfort.
6. NEUTRAL WRIST. Keep your wrist neutral for a smooth bang-free clean. Own that rack position!
7. REVERSE. Don’t over-think the eccentric part of the clean. Keep the kettlebell close, keep the grip relaxed, and rotate “thumb to bum” as the kettlebell goes into your hinge. Keep your shoulder in the socket as you spill the kettlebell into the backswing.
These seven tips will have a big impact toward removing the impacts on your arm! But, don’t try them all at once, or your brain will smoke. I suggest trying one drill at a time. You’ll have bang-free cleans in no time!
Let me know how these work for you.
Thanks for your time!
Steve “Coach Fury” Holiner’s superhero headquarters is Mark Fisher Fitness in NYC. Fury’s a Master RKC, a DVRT Master Chief, and an Original Strength Instructor. He is available for classes, semi-privates, instructor training and programming at MFF. Check out coachfury.com, facebook.com/coachfury Instagram @iamcoachfury and Twitter @coachfury for more info.