Deconstructing Kettlebells: Clean it Up, Press it Out

Over the past few installments of Deconstructing Kettlebells, we have explored the many holds and positions of kettlebell training, the deadlift, the swing, the squat, and the get up. Today we will dive into the clean and the overhead press.  



This exercise is primarily used to safely bring the kettlebell to the rack position as well as used as a gateway to other kettlebell patterns.  This can also be an exercise in itself once the form is grooved and the arc is tamed. The clean - along with the swing and snatch are common kettlebell ballistic movements.


1.      Place the bell on the ground and step in front of it.

2.      Reach back and grab the bell, while keeping your back and head straight.

3.      Hike the bell between the legs, ideally above the knees.

4.      Snap your hips forward, keep your elbow in, while guiding the kettlebell to your shoulder. Use your LEGS AND HIPS to clean the bell. Do no CHEAT CURL the bell to rack position!

5.      Make sure your wrist is in neutral position (straight).

6.     At the top the kettlebell should rest in the natural "V" made between your upper arm and forearm. Women: Make sure to rack the bell on the outside of the breast.  The bell should be held tightly against the shoulder. Men: Hand position is on the chest.  The bell is tightly pressed against the chest and shoulder.

7.      Roll the kettlebell and throw it back between your legs to perform desired reps.

VariationsDouble Cleans, Hand 2 Hand Cleans, Double Alternating Cleans, Bottoms-up Cleans

Some common issues with the clean are the following:

-elbow leaves side and the swing is long

-the kettlebell bangs against the wrist and arm

-wrist position is in excessive extension

- torso rotation

There are many correctives that can be applied by a qualified professional. One of my favorite ways to teach the clean is to go backwards from the rack position and work backwards from the drop.



The overhead press is a total body movement. The key to the overhead press (OHP) is in keeping whole body tension. When using the correct breathing and tension, you will find your lower body and core stabilizing to get the kettlebell safely over your head.


1.  Clean the bell to your shoulder. Starting position is in the rack.

2.  Keep your quads and glutes tight and press the bell up over your head to a locked out position. Your opposite arm should be out to the side to help with weight distribution and also be tight

3.  During the press up, think of using you lats to help guide you under the bell. HINT - the lats are the key to getting some big weights overhead ;-)

4.  At the top, the bell should be inline with the ears or slightly behind, elbow extended, shoulder packed.

5.   Slowly bring the kettlebell down to your shoulder. Repeat for desired reps.


Double Overhead Press, See-Saw Press, Clean and Press, Thrusters

Because of the asymmetries I tend to see in clients I prefer using kettlebells and dumbbells for overhead pressing movements. The offset weight of the kettlebell helps open up tight shoulders. And once the client is able to get the lats to incorporate into their press work - a whole new world opens up!

Next week, we will dissect the kettlebell snatch and also take a look at safety requirements when working with kettlebells. Go to our home page and sign up for our weekly newsletter - it's free and comes out every Wednesday!

Until next time....Be Fit. Be Fueled. Be Full of Life.