Boost Your Coordination and Full-Body Strength With Kettlebell Cleans

Photo: Getty Images/jacoblund
Kettlebell cleans used to scare me. However, once I gave them a shot, I quickly realized that heavy cast iron ball with a handle wasn't nearly as intimidating as it looked—and that a proper clean never fails to give me a full-body workout.

Performing proper kettlebell cleans looks simple enough. You bring it from the floor to the racked position on your chest in a smooth, continuous movement. But like most kettlebell exercises, it's not just about swinging—you have to master a few tiny details that go into perfecting the movement in order to get it right.

"The kettlebell clean primarily targets the legs and core, while also involving the arm and back muscles. It’s a complex full-body movement with the emphasis on the legs," says Samantha Jade, creator of BODY by SJ at Project by Equinox and senior instructor at SoulCycle. "The movement is generated from the hips and the main power comes from the quads and the hamstrings, with many other muscles assisting."

The kettlebell clean is a very technical, complex exercise, and if you're not careful, you could hurt your wrists. Take your time learning each of the steps required for proper form.

How to do kettlebell cleans properly

  1. Start with the kettlebell on the ground and between your legs.
  2. With your hips flexed—and neck, back, and spine straight—hold the kettlebell by the horn with your palm facing your body.
  3. Keeping your elbow against your side the entire time (like you're holding a purse under your arm), drive your hips forward and squeeze your glutes, bringing the kettlebell straight up your body. The kettlebell should stay close to you the entire time.
  4. As the kettlebell comes up, sneak it around your wrist (like you're zipping up your jacket) so it's resting on the back on your wrist in the rack position. Your wrist should be straight the entire time.
  5. Push the kettlebell back out and return to the starting position.

Note: It's always a good idea to start slowly with lighter weights until you get the motions down.

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