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Essential Kettlebell Exercises: Hardstyle Clean



The hardstyle clean is a favorite kettlebell exercise. It is a movement that brings the kettlebell dynamically from the swing into the rack position. From this rack position you can do a number of different movement combinations like: squat, lunge, overhead press, do multiple cleans and even rest for a few breaths. 


 Kettlebell Clean: Proper Set Up and Patterning

To complete a nice hardstyle clean you should have good practice with a swing and a rack position. There is a bit of a learning curve to the clean. We are used to performing the 1-arm swing where the upper arm moves away from the body and the arm and kettlebell are parallel to the floor. For the clean we need to keep the upper arm close to the body as if the elbow was screwed into our side. That way we keep the bell close and our clean will be smooth as butter.
To perform a proper clean, it’s important to have a good rack position and 1-arm swing:

  • Set up for a 1-arm swing where the bell is in front of you in a triangle in reference to your feet.
  • Hike the kettlebell into a backswing where the bell is close to your body and above the knees.
  • As you begin the upward portion of the swing: squeeze your glutes to generate power, keep your upper arm connected to your torso and slightly retract your shoulder to guide the kettlebell towards the racked position.
  • Make sure to receive the kettlebell in the racked position by sliding your hand through the handle and have your legs and hips locked out in a stable position.
  • When bringing the bell back down to perform another clean: keep the upper arm connection to the torso and have the kettlebell remain close to your body during the backswing. Because the swing arc is small, assist the kettlebell into the backswing using a little force so you have the elastic energy to perform multiple repetitions.
  • When performing the backswing; wait for the kettlebell to almost hit you before you hinge. The kettlebell should be above the knees and the biceps should connect to your sides just before you hinge. Hinging too early will result in a lack of strength and may cause a sore lower back or an injury over time.

Some other details of the kettlebell swing include:

  • Have a good grip on the handle during the swing so the bell does not flop at the top or during the end of the backswing. This excessive movement will make it difficult to keep your body stable.
  • A slight elbow bend in the arms is allowed during the swing, however do not actively bend your elbows and pull the bell in towards you to assist the bell up to the top of the swing.
  • Traditional hardstyle breathing is one breathing cycle per swing where you inhale through the nose or mouth during the backswing and then a tight exhale (don’t let all your air out) during the upward motion of the swing.

Though the clean does utilize the 1-arm swing and rack position, the movement might be challenging at first and most likely will not be smooth until you have put your practice in.

The Basics of the Hardstyle Clean

  • Strengthens: Hamstrings, glutes, core
  • Applications: Start with bell slightly in front of shoulders in hinge position. Spine neutral, shoulders just above hip level, set lat & shoulder. Feet about hip width apart or slightly wider.
  • Set Up: Same mechanics as a swing, except once the legs have completed their extension you will direct the kettlebell into the rack position. Redirection comes from lats / upper back. Timing of hand insertion is crucial; think about opening your hand as the bell comes through the legs (there is alway a slight delay of thinking and executing. Wrist should be completely straight in rack position. Rotate the wrist to initiate drop, let arm hit the hip, then follow the bell down. "Give the bell a head start". Arc around the body should be tight to keep the bell in control and prevent bell from slamming onto forearm. Can rotate thumb or keep thumb forward.
  • Key Points:Opening hand too late (wrist is bent in rack; bells slams onto forearm), arc too big, hinging early on the drop, rounding in backswing, pulling bell back up too early (bell flips up)
  • Common Errors: Desk jockeys need glute and hamstring power! This helps you with everything you do: walking, running, jumping, etc. Plus it makes your back strong so prevents injury.

Content provided by Kettlebell Kings, Zogics' premier kettlebell provider.

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