What is a Kettlebell Clean and Press?

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  • Written By: Shelby Miller
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 11 February 2020
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A kettlebell clean and press is a weight lifting exercise that utilizes a kettlebell, which is a cast-iron weighted ball ranging from softball-sized to bowling-ball-sized with an attached handle. This full-body move involves squatting down and grabbing the handle of the kettlebell with one hand, quickly standing and snapping the kettlebell to the shoulder — the clean &mdas; and then pressing the bell overhead. The kettlebell clean and press works the legs, hips, back, shoulders, and arms, making it a popular move among competitive weight lifters and casual exercisers alike, although it is not recommended for beginners.

Widely available through fitness retailers in the US and elsewhere, the kettlebell was originally conceived in Russia, where it is known as a girya. It is thought to have been used for strength, power, endurance, and agility training by Russian police and military as well as athletes and bodybuilders. Its origins are reported to date back centuries. The kettlebell has historically been made from cast iron, but it is now sold with a vinyl or rubber coating as well as in uncoated form.


As kettlebell workouts have grown in popularity among personal trainers, group fitness instructors, and coaches, they have attracted a following among people looking to lose weight and tone up as well as those looking to develop their muscles and athletic skills. The kettlebell clean and press is used by both populations for its emphasis on dynamic full-body training, which is thought to be useful in expanding athletic abilities such as speed as well as in burning a larger number of calories than traditional strength-training exercises. Muscles worked by the clean and press include those in the backs of the legs, such as the calves and hamstrings, the glutes, the erector spinae muscles of the low back, the trapezius, latissimus dorsi, and rhomboids of the upper and mid-back, the deltoids in the shoulders, the biceps, and the triceps. In addition, the deep abdominal muscles such as the transverse abdominus and the internal obliques are used to stabilize the spine during this movement.

Proper technique for the kettlebell clean and press involves standing with feet just wider than hip width apart and kettlebell on the floor between the toes. Shifting the weight back through the pelvis and into the heels, the exerciser should squat down with back straight and chest up and grab the kettlebell in one hand. In one quick movement, he should stand up, pushing through the backs of the legs, while simultaneously using the muscles of the upper back to pull or snap the kettlebell up to the shoulder. He should then press the kettlebell overhead until the arm is straight, pull the kettlebell back to the shoulder, and then squat back down, returning it to the floor. For a more detailed demonstration of proper technique as well as recommendations on weight, sets, and reps, anyone unfamiliar with this exercise should consult a fitness professional.


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