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How I Teach The Kettlebell Clean

kettlebell rack positionWhen I was getting started training with Russian kettlebells, I could not believe how unnatural the kettlebell clean was for me. No matter what I did, it just felt clumsy and crazy. Now, a few years later, I teach people how to do it. I watch them struggle the same way I did. That is, until now. I’ve found something that works for most of my clients and gets rid of all the cues. The goal is not to put your feet in a certain position, or to hold your hands a certain way, although we each have ways that will feel best for us.

The goal is simply to put the bell in the rack position, either preparatory to  pressing or jerking it, or just performing the clean as an exercise in its own right.

First, take a look at this video of IKFF president Steve Cotter, teaching the clean.

Lots of details, right? Those are the very same details that made the movement feel awkward for me. Not saying he’s right or wrong, only that videos like this did not make it easier for me.

When I teach my kettlebell classes and it’s time to learn the clean, here is how I start.

  • I demonstrate the kb clean
  • I say “Now do your best to make it look like I just did, as long as you can do it  without pain”

I was stunned to see most of them nailing it after a couple of tries. Not thinking “Okay, where are my feet and hands and head and how is the kettlebell positioned?” but just trying to mimic me. Without all the cues, mimicry seems to become easier.

Just a thought if you’ve found yourself in the same situation as a trainer or a girivek. I don’t believe in perfect form. We’re all too different.

And if you’re interested in talking training, I’m always up for it. I use Gym Movement for myself and my clients and I’ll never stop.


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  • Bert February 10, 2012, 5:07 am

    Great instruction…difficult to get it right at first so your video really helped me. Thanks!