The Kettlebell One Arm Clean

Posted: April 23, 2020 in Strength and Conditioning for Performance
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This exercise is a step up from the swing. It can be an exercise by itself and it is also a very good drill to practice a part of the classic Long Cycle (AKA Clean and Jerk)

Most people learn quickly by watching. So here is a short video of the exercise. You may get by after simply watching the video. Or you may need to read a bit more about the details. But what you can never do is to get better at the movement without practicing it repeatedly- over and over…again and again.

You can also hear the exhalation. When you feel confident in the exercise you can copy how I breath. Or simply exhale rhythmically. It follows that you inhale automatically if you exhale hard. What you should not do is hold your breath.

If you think you need more tips on how to do the exercise, read on. It may be boring since it has some technical terms but some people understand and improve skills better of they have a deeper understanding on how the things are done.

The movement is not slow, so you may need to re-read the description below a few more times to relate to the movement.

Breakdown of the movement

Backswing:

From the initial starting position, apply enough force to swing the kettlebell (or kb) backwards. This is part is called the “Backswing”. It will then come to a stop and at that time, the forearm of the holding hand is pushing against the hip. Backswing ends when you push the forearm forward with the hip to propel the kb forward.

Acceleration:

With your application of force to push with your hip, the kb will change direction and will swing forward. This part may be called the “Acceleration phase”. The kb swings forward at a fast motion. Some textbooks describe ballistic training which involves movements like throwing.

The speed described by the books starts at around 1.7 m/s. I measured the speed of the kb in Snatch (which has the acceleration phase) with a linear position transducer and the sensor says the highest velocity in the whole movement cycle is around 2m/s to almost 3m/s. Sometimes even higher. Speed is reduced slightly when heavier kb is used.

I mentioned this to show the potential of kb exercises especially those with a swing component, to enhance explosive power.

Acceleration Pull:

As the kb moves forward, it follows a curved path as it rises since it is held by the hand. Approximately -45 to -30 degrees before the arm assumes a horizontal position (0 degrees), pull with just enough force. The pull starts from the ground with the foot of your kb side giving a quick push, then your torso twists s little, the scapula of the holding arm starts to pull back.

Catch:

The shoulders move up and back, and then the elbow bends. The hand relaxes to allow the handles to rotate and the hand to reinserts deeper into the handle. The ball of the bell then rests on a triangular “rack” formed by the volar part of the forearm, the biceps, and the pectoralis major (chest). This is also known as “Rack” position since the kb is racked or resting.

The movement from the starting position to the racked position is called “Clean”. Most likely this name is taken from the “Clean” in weightlifting since they are quite similar.

Drop:

From the racked position, slightly twist the torso and push forward with the shoulder to drop the kb. The hand and forearm will guide the trajectory of the kb.

As the kb is dropping, the hand is slightly relaxed to position from being deeply inserted into a cyclindrical grip with the fingers wrapped around the handle. Most lifters practice having the middle finger be aligned with the middle of the handle. This prevents extra wriggle at the backswing since the weight will be balanced.

As the kb drops and follows a curved path backwards, the backswing of the next cycle has started.

The big secret:

Keep repeating as many reps as required! While focusing on only 1 aspect among the phases described. Keep practicing until you feel more competent at that area. Then practice some more to make it more reflex like. Then focus on another aspect and repeat the process. Then practice your improved version. Repeat and try to polish your technique. As you keep practicing, your fitness also improves which helps a lot in proper execution.

You can move up in kettlebell weight as your technique improves. Generally, it is prudent to practice with “lighter” loads if you are not so familiar with the movement. As you practice, you naturally get better. Strength is also improved and it is but natural to challenge yourself to the next level by lifting higher loads.

These are not the only factors but when you follow them, they help a lot.

And if you want to move to another level, seek professional services of qualified and experienced coaches. It does make a world of difference as long as you know what you want and want it bad enough.

Comment below if you have questions or reactions.

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