The Kettlebell Clean is often overlooked as an essential exercise because it lacks the “sexiness” of the Swing and Snatch, the power of the Squat and Press and it does not stimulate the intrigue of the Turkish Get-up. However, couple your Swings with Cleans or perform a chain with a Swing, a Clean and a Snatch and you’ll have some great routines. Also, if you want to perform your Presses and Squats, how will you get your Kettlebells into the Racked position? You got it, The Kettlebell Clean.
In all of it’s simplicity, the Clean is more often performed incorrectly. This results in bruised wrists, strained biceps, elbows or forearms as well a faulty rack incapable of providing a stable starting point for your Press or Squat. Also, casting of the Kettlebell on the decent will place undue stress on the low back and possibly result in a face-plant!
Simply put, a Clean is nothing more than a Swing with your elbows pinned to your sides. There is no jerking up into the position, nor is there an“curling” of the bell into the rack (try to use that method to rack the Beast and let me know how many pieces you shred your bicep into). I have also found that teaching people how to Clean two kettlebells at once is easier. The students don’t have to be concerned with over rotating one hip and they are also psyched about using two Kettlebells at the same time. Once they have the idea that the Clean is identical to the swing at the start point, exhale and hip movement, the Clean becomes easier to perform. Pay particular attention to the breathing aspect. The breath of the Clean occurs at the exact point as your exhale while performing the Swing – at the top of the hip motion when your knee caps are drawn into you quads and your legs are locked. The sharp exhale does not occur when the Kettlebells are in the Rack, it happens slightly before. This simple tip will significantly reduce the the amount of “smashing” that occurs on your wrists. At this point, the top of the Swing portion of the clean, you stop pulling and allow the Kettlebells to “float” into position. The float will occur only when your breath is timed correctly and you allow the bells to achieve the Rack position without using your arms to pull.
If you find that you are “curling” the bell during your Cleans, use a heavier bell. This will cure many issues because you will not be able to “curl” a heavier bell into position. Once your technique improves, you should be able to execute proper form of your Cleans with any sized bell. For one to attain mastery of the Clean, the technique should look identical, regardless of the size of the Kettlebell.
There are also several extremely beneficial variations of the Clean. Alternating Cleans provide an incredible core workout, Bottoms-up Clean and Hold are one of the best grip development exercises available. Have Cleans as part of any Chain or Complex for a transitory or additional movement to enhance the circuit.
The Kettlebell Clean is not only essential for transitions from one movement to another, but it is an incredible exercise for going from ballistic to static to ballistic again. The athletic application from the Clean is is beneficial for development of power for strikes, throws, synergy of upper and lower body movements, not to mention the incredible way it develops superior core strength.
Good luck with your Training!
Strength & Honor
I don’t know how many of you know much of history, but in September of 2011, I suffered a spinal cord injury and sustained permanent damage. In December of 2011, four levels of my neck were operated on. I underwent framenectamy, lamanectamy as well as other procedures to alleviate my spinal stenosis and remove the osteophyte that created my spinal edema (scar on my spinal cord). Needless to say, I couldn’t even hold a piece of paper in my hand until after the operation. Immediately after the surgery, I could not even bottoms up press a 10KG! (Now I can do the 28KG).
My son Spencer is 17 and one of the top ranked high school aged throwers in the country. He’s an RKC and is quite strong. I wanted to put a little more size on him, so I started incorporating some barbell training into his routine. We started doing dead lifts. I used to be able to rip 505 lbs of of the ground, but no more. Once I got over 305, my right hand (the side most adversely effected by the injury) would simply give out. I was getting very frustrated. During one training session, he suggested that I try to single leg barbell deadlifts. What a great suggestion! I’d been doing the Dual Bell Kettlebell Deadlifts for years, but it never dawned on me to do them with a barbell. At this point, I’m doing 185 max for my sets of 6 and my hand has no issue holding bar.
The point of the story is to simply talk about my deadlift numbers, but to listen to others and look outside o the box – especially when it comes to your own training. I’ve never had an issue coming up with solutions for others, but solving my own issue took listening to my kid!
A few weeks ago, my son and I were on a family fishing trip in Miami. It was Saturday afternoon and we needed to train, so we went down to the hotel gym and saw it loaded with treadmills, small dumbbells and a cable machine. We looked at each other & decided to head back to the room to do a bodyweight workout.
The first group of exercises included Bridges, Handstand Push-ups and Squats. We performed 5 sets of various repetitions. The next group included Split Squats, Dips and Abdominals. We also mixed in several variations of push-ups.
It was a great workout and it was completed in the room. The movements are based on exercises from Paul Wade’s Convict Conditioning book. Another little piece of equipment to bring with you is a jump rope. There are many times I intersperse bodyweight exercises with rounds of jumping rope.
When you are traveling, there is no reason not to train!
Strength & Honor,
The Pistol (Single Leg Squat): The most difficult and beneficial leg exercise – period. The training enroute a butt to heel Pistol develops balance, trunk stability and incredible leg strength. There are weight lifters that can full squat 500 to 600 pounds, yet they collapse and fall over when attempting the Pistol.
Get stronger while watching TV?!?!?!? Is this one of those nonsensical claims that require you to send in $14.99 every month for 6 months and you’ll receive some funky, plastic and foam device that will fall apart before you finish paying for it. No, this is much more simple – yet it does require effort.
Here’s an example – I posted it on my FaceBook page the other night and got some interesting responses as well as a bunch of people starting to do the same thing.
While on vacation, we were watching the Godfather on AMC. I was feeling a little antsy, so I decided to do some push-ups during the commercials. The commercial breaks were pretty long, so I did between 25 and 50 reps on each break. By the end of the movie, I had hit 500! And I felt great. I wasn’t even very sore the next day!
You don’t have to bang out 500 push-ups a night, but instead of sitting there watching TV and eating snacks – drop to the floor and do some push-ups, or abs or squats or whatever else you might want to try. Have some fun with it! You’ll amaze yourself, add some strength, burn some calories and not feel like a slug watching TV!
Train Hard & Train Often!
Dirty Dozen Move # 5: The Kettlebell Press
There are not too many many things cooler than pressing heavy weight over your head. The Kettlebell press is one of the best methods available to enable you to achieve these great feats of strength.
You may say that I can press dumbbells and barbells and get the same effect. Yes, you can press dumbbells and barbells – and there is nothing wrong with it. However for the “Best Bang for your Buck”, maximum shoulder load with reduced shoulder stress and a greater recruitment of stabilizers, the Kettlebell Press can’t be beat.
The Kettlebell Press differs from the dumbbell press and the barbell press in several ways. Dumbbells and barbells have a unilateral weight distribution, so there is a less of a need for the body make adjustments. Due to the shape of the Kettlebell, with it’s offset Center of Gravity (COG), the position of the weight constantly changes during the movement of the press. This requires more involvement of the core, stabilizers and lats to complete the movement. The pressing motion starts in a racked position with a tensioning of the body ends with the full lockout and the arm pressing the Kettlebell in line with or slighting behind the ear. This motion upward is accomplished with a “J” pattern of travel. The degree of the “J” may vary from practitioner to practitioner.
When pressing, you not only want to focus on pressing the bell skyward, but think about pressing your body away from the bell as well. This will also aid you in rooting with the floor and employing total body tension. We also need to pay particular attention to the width of your stance. Experiment with the wider then more narrow stance. You will discover that you are able to create more tension with a less than shoulder width stance.
As with many Kettlebell exercises, root with the floor, bring your coccyx to your naval, contract your glutes and abs, pack your shoulders and engage your lats. Focus on an exhale with the eccentric movement of the press and an inhale with the concentric portion, all accomplished while maintaining tension and compression.
When pressing heavier Kettlebells, you may employ a slight hip hitch to the opposite side of your pressing hand. This will help you recruit more of your lats. However, be certain no to go so far as to turn the press into a side press. In addition to the Military or Kettlebell Press and the Heavy Press there are many other presses with Kettlebells. Push Press, Jerk Press, Bottoms-up Press, Waiters Press, Side Press and the Bent Press, to name a few. There are also dual bell versions of most of the aforementioned.
Good luck with discovering or enhancing your Kettlebell Pressing Skills! If you have any any questions or comments on this introduction to the Kettlebell Press or any of the other Dirty Dozen Exercises, do not hesitate to contact me.
Train Hard and Train Often – Coach Phil
The Dirty Dozen Exercises: Move #4, The Hanging Abdominals
There is nothing sought after more than a set of “washboard abs”. A set of ripped, hard looking, abdominal region inspires awe and envy in everyone that sets eyes upon them. A “Cut Gut” is a sure telltale sign the the bearer is in incredible physical condition and that they “don’t have an ounce of fat” on them. How do we achieve these legendary abdominals of steel and sinew? How do we develop 6-pack abs that can withstand having cinderblocks piled on it and being hit with a sledgehammer? Can we develop our midsection so that we can absorb a full power knee drive from a Muay Thai Fighter or an uppercut from a Prize Boxer?
First of all, having a “ripped” abdominal section is not necessarily indicative of abdominal strength. It not simply the appearance, but how did they get those abs? By simply starving themselves or as the result of serious, pointed abdominal training? There are some fitness experts that recommend a thousand abdominal repetitions per day or some type of fitness apparatus that they are undoubtedly paid to endorse. These machines may or may not work and I don’t know how many of us have the time to perform a thousand or more crunches a day. So how do we achieve these legendary abdominals that can withstand having a 2 x 4 broken over them, but fit the workout into our overloaded lives?
If you are engaged in a consistent Kettlebell and Bodyweight training regiment, your abdominals and core are already receiving a great deal of work. However, if you want to take it to the next level and maximize the “best bang for the buck” for your abdominals, then Hanging Abdominal training is a must. You will discover that I do detest long, drawn out training sessions. Who has the time? How long can ANY of us effectively train while maintaining intensity and proper form? Plus – if you are an athlete, you want to leave time to practice your sports skills, not spend the bulk of your day with your strength and conditioning. If you are not a competitive athlete, you probably have work, family or social matters that require your attention. Use your time wisely.
There are several methods of practicing the hanging abdominals. or a beginner, I will recommend that you use (or purchase) the Dip, Pull-up & Ab Machine. The are available new for about $300, used for $100 or less. It will be the most useful apparatus that you ever purchase. No moving parts whatsoever. In addition to the video demonstrating the higher level abs, check out this one on YouTube It will show the machine. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNNSJXfbCac. For beginners, simply raise your knees up to chest (or as high as you are able) while keeping your lumbar region (low back) pressed firmly against the back board of the machine. When you able to accomplish 20 repetitions with bent knees, then move to straight legged version and bring your legs up so that your heels are level with your waist. For the next level of this exercise, you bring your feet up to or above head level. Please remember to maintain a flat back against the back pad. Packing your shoulders and assuming a tall chest position are a must.
Once you are able to to perform the suspended abdominals, you are ready for the Hanging Abdominal training. There are three basic movements that I recommend. The Hanging Knee Lift, Jackknife and the Side to Side Jackknife. The easiest are the Hanging Knee Lift. Grasp a pull-up bar with your elbows straight and your shoulders packed. Do not allow for body sway. Contract your abs and raise your knees up to chest level. Work up to at least 20 repetitions prior to advancing toward the Jackknife Abs. For the straight Jackknife abs, assume the same position as during the Knee Lifts. Straighten your legs, steady your body and contract your abs as you raise your legs so that your feet are above the bar. Repeat. For the Side to Side Jackknife, simply raise your feet to one corner of the pull-up bar and then the other. This contralateral movement is incredible. As far as repetitions are concerned, start with 3 to 5 and then work your way up to 10 per set. Do not permit yourself to swing. You will not maximize the effect of the movement and you may expose yourself to injury. Packed shoulders, locked elbows and a steady body.
As always, train hard, train often and TRAIN SMART!
The Kettlebell Front Squat is a key movement directly applicable to virtually every sport and to ALL sports requiring explosive power and strength positions. The squat is also essential to everyday life. Picking up our child, carrying suitcases, getting up out a chair – to name a few. Many people believe that they can’t squat. However after one short lesson they realize that they can. In most cases, if you can sit on a toilet you are able to squat. We utilize an active negative method of pulling the hips into the squat position. Barring any severe deficiencies or physical limitations, this method has remarkable results – usually the first time it is applied!
Why is the Kettlebell Front Squat such an essential movement? The strength gains from the Kettlebell Front Squat experienced in the legs, hips and especially the core are greater and with a significantly lighter load than required with the back squat. When considering Sports Performance and General Fitness, there is a breakpoint where the training required and the muscle size created actually hinders your performance. For example, if squatting 400 lbs. helps you reach a 10.4 second mark in the 100 meter dash, squatting 450 lbs may not necessarily bring your sprint down to 10.2; you may actually become slower! Yes, your squat will increase, but your hamstrings and hips will become tighter thus slowing your movement. The aforementioned numbers are arbitrary. There are far too many variables in individuals and sports to effectively assign exact numbers. In order to provide accurate assessments, experimentation needs to be conducted on a case by case basis. However, I will add one caveat; if your goal to have an extremely heavy back squat and you are a powerlfter, you need to perform heavy sets of traditional, back squats. Even though the Kettlebell Front Squat (KFS) will help boost your back squat numbers, you still need to perform the actual movement that you are competing in.
The Kettlebell is placed in front of you, whether bottoms up, racked or bottoms down. Compression and core activation is required to stabilize your truck and and your spine. Compression, tension and an active negative are all employed as you inhale and pull yourself deep into your squat. The spine is kept long and strong with no “tail tuck” as you get to the bottom. A quick, short and forceful exhale shoots you upward to the fully locked position. The strength of your upper torso is also required/developed to hold the Kettlebell(s) in place as you perform your KFS. Proper power breathing and expansion of your intercostals and serratus, not to mention the development of your pectorals, forearms, biceps and triceps. The muscles that comprise latissimus dorsi are recruited to keep your back straight and strong to handle the load in front.
As far as actual weight is concerned, you have to use considerably less weight with a KFS than for a back squat with better results and less chance of injury. On the back squat, the object is to break parallel with the greatest amount of weight possible on your back and then stand back up into the upright position. One’s back is compromised from having to bend forward to get lower and the hips are also overloaded due to the wide stance. This position does not aide you in developing the strength and proper neural pattern for strength development. On the other hand, the proper execution of the KFS lends itself to activating the Central Nervous System to develop incredible strength the legs as well as in the core/stabilizers. By keeping the spine long and strong, you develop a “Tower of Power” enabling you to move resistive loads and push with your whole body.
I could go on and on about the Kettlebell Front Squat, but I’m sure that you only have a limited time to read! You need to get in there and start practicing your KFS! Substantial gains in your leg strength, increased your cardiovascular capacity and explosive power development, while creating a healthy spine and a pair knees, are all benefits of the Kettlebell Front Squat.
Get Strong and Stay Strong!
Coach Phil Ross, Master RKC
For more information of Strength, Conditioning or Kettlebells visit www.kettlebellking.com or call 201-612-1429.