Before you can grasp the full benefits of this exercise, you should first understand the correct way to perform it. When done correctly, the clean and press is a five-step exercise. Each stage trains specific muscle groups and comes with its own degree of complexity.
Here is how the kettlebell clean and press is performed:
- 1Swing the kettlebell between your legs as if attempting to hit yourself on your lower back.
- 2Keep the upper arm close to your side. With a pulling motion, bring back the kettlebell at chest height.
- 3With an uppercut motion, perform a rack position. Bring the kettlebell between your biceps and forearm.
- 4From this position, press or push the kettlebell up. Perform a full arm extension and follow the movement of the bell with your eyes.
- 5Maintain for a second and then drop the kettlebell in a swing which takes you back to the first stage of the exercise. Keep the arm stiff and your muscles contracted but don’t jerk your arm.
Tips to Improve Posture and Execution
Knowing the movements is not enough if you want to maximize your gains from this exercise. Here are some tips on how to make sure you perform each stage correctly.
- Sit up straight with a kettlebell in one hand. Keep your feet apart at shoulder’s length. Don’t arch your back during any stage of the exercise
- Don’t swing the kettlebell harder than it needs to go. Let gravity do the work for you
- Contract your muscles when lowering the kettlebell into the swing in stage five. You don’t want the bell to end up in a fast swing
- A controlled swing is necessary in order to activate and train the right muscles. This also helps protect your lower back and shoulders against injuries
- Keeping your core muscles contracted and your back and legs straight prevents cheating. This means that the exercise will activate all the targeted muscles in every stage without using additional muscle groups to compensate
- Use a kettlebell that you can press overhead at least 10 times outside of this particular exercise. That will allow you to perform a clean press. It will also be enough weight to challenge your back muscles and core muscles during the upward and downward swings.
Benefits of the Kettlebell Clean & Press
Now that you know all there is to know about performing the exercise properly, here are some of the obvious and less obvious benefits of incorporating the clean and press into your routine.
You may have heard the term ‘unilateral strength development.’ This is used in reference to the improved coordination you get from performing a complex exercise like the clean and press.
Because you’re focused on controlling a series of movements, the dynamic exercise allows you to train your timing, concentration, and fluidity of body mechanics.Once you’ve mastered the exercise, you should have better control over your movements, whether it’s performing regular day to day activities or practicing an individual or team sport.
This kettlebell exercise works more than one muscle group:
- Upper back – traps, lats, shoulders
- Upper chest
- Hip flexors
As you can see, the clean and press targets multiple muscle groups. But there are dumbbell exercises that also target more than one muscle group. What makes the kettlebell clean and press a superior exercise? The uneven weight distribution or the asymmetrical loading gives the kettlebells their external center of gravity (which is outside of each kettlebell).
This build design feature adds various layers of difficulty to each stage of the exercise. Because of this, a single repetition is responsible for almost your entire lower and upper body.The benefit of a full-body workout should be fairly obvious. You’re able to improve your strength across the board. Each muscle group targeted in this exercise is used for doing various tasks.
Develops a Strong Base for Bodybuilding
You don’t see many well-developed abs or legs these days in bodybuilding. However, developing a strong core and lower body are still fundamental concepts of weightlifting and bodybuilding.
But the sport isn’t something anyone can just jump into. An exercise like the kettlebell clean and press can prepare you for a lifetime of working with heavy weights.
The exercise works your core muscles in every stage. It also develops your quads and your stability, which will be essential when you start doing squats.The fact that the exercise also promotes a proper back posture should also help you develop a solid stance, not just for performing complex exercises but also for posing on the stage.
Better Muscle Coverage that Converts to Pure Strength
The off-center mass of a kettlebell is the main reason why this type of training is done for conditioning or strength gain and not muscle gain. The kettlebell does a great job of activating even the smallest stabilizer muscles.
Kettlebell swings are dangerous if done incorrectly. There’s a serious risk of injury present in almost every swing variation. This means that working with very heavy kettlebells is not recommended.And yet, even a 50-lb. kettlebell can improve your arm and core strength more than a 100-lb. dumbbell.
A Final Word
The benefits of the clean and press should be clear by now. At its core, it enables full-body strength development. However, as with any kettlebell exercise, you shouldn’t take this lightly or abuse the exercise.The clean and press can be challenging to both beginners and experienced, strong gym rats. Choosing the correct weight or the number of repetitions is important. As much as there are benefits to performing the exercise, there is also a real risk of injury.