5 Mistakes You’re Making with the Kettlebell Clean - Strong As Hec

5 Mistakes You’re Making with the Kettlebell Clean

Welcome back to the Ol' blog my man. In this post we're breaking down the 5 mistakes you're making with the kettlebell clean as part of our common kettlebell mistakes series.

Episode #1 we broke down the kettlebell swing and had some great feedback so I'm excited to dive into this one.


Because the kettlebell clean is the "red-headed step-child" of the kettlebell exercises. If you want to be strong in the press, push press, jerk, squat, etc.

These exercises will only be as good as the clean which comes before them.

Let's dive in.

5 Mistakes You're Making with the Kettlebell Clean

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hec g.


Common Kettlebell Mistake #1: Leading with the Hand

A very common mistakes because people are mislead that, the clean is a "swing" which ends in the rack.


The result is a an untamed "arch" -- the distance between your hips and the kettlebell. Not only does this result in banging your wrists and beating yourself up with the bell.

It also smokes your grip and does't set you up for a strong press and any other exercise which succeeds the clean.

5 Mistakes You're Making with the Kettlebell Clean

Leading with the hand.

To set yourself up for a strong press, push press, jerk, etc...

The goal is to lead with your elbow as you drive your hips forward. Creating the shortest and FASTEST path to the rack.

Remember, the fastest path from "A to B" is in a straight line.

This is the ONLY way to save your forearms, and reduce bruising. So you can remain consistent with your training and hit your goals.

5 Mistakes You're Making with the Kettlebell Clean

Leading with the elbow


Common Kettlebell Mistake #2: Over Gripping + Slow Hands

If you're getting calluses in the center of your palm and shredding up your hands then...

... it's likely you're over-gripping the bell. In fact, you're probably grippin' it like a dumbbell.

And to add insult to injury you’re banging, bruising your wrists & forearms as a result of "slow hands."

The intention is to shoot your hands into the handle as fast as you can.

5 Mistakes You're Making with the Kettlebell Clean

Over-gripping the kettlebell like a dumbbell

And the only way to do this is to relax your grip, hook the kettlebell with your fingers and, have "quick hands."

Why quick hands?

This allows you to manipulate the handle because the handle is what controls the kettlebell.

I call the handle the, "rudder" of the kettlebell. Kinda like a rudder on a ship. That small rudder directs how the ship maneuvers. We want the same thing with the kettlebell -- to save our hands and forearms.

5 Mistakes You're Making with the Kettlebell Clean

Instead, "hook" the kettlebell with your fingers.


Common Kettlebell Mistake #3: Not Becoming ONE with the Bell

The clean + press is arguably the most common combination of kettlebell movements. And if you wanna strong kettlebell press.

You MUST have a strong kettlebell clean.

And the next common kettlebell mistake is not becoming one with the kettlebell.

Creating "leakage" and not "linkage..." making it almost impossible to link up the muscles required to execute the succeeding kettlebell lift.

5 Mistakes You're Making with the Kettlebell Clean

Not becoming one with the bell, disconnecting from the ribs.

The goal is to become one with the bell so you can align your center of mass with the center of mass with the kettlebell.

Imagine you're trying to squeeze water from a sponge between your bicep, forearm, and ribcage.

This "sponge action" creates "linkage" by engaging your lats to support the pres.

Not only will this make you stronger.

It sets you up to build more muscle carving out that "fighters physique."

5 Mistakes You're Making with the Kettlebell Clean

Becoming one with the bell.


Common Kettlebell Mistake #4: Falling into a "Broken Arm" Position

Imagine back when you used to arm wrestle with your friends back in the day -- I used to think I was Lincoln Hawk when I was 9. The first person to "break" the other guys wrist would likely win the match. How?

By gaining structural leverage over your opponent's hand -- and by consequence, the wrist and shoulder. In arm wrestling...

... when you dominate the HAND, the odds of you winning are tremendous. Same goes with the kettlebell. Imagine you're arm wrestling the kettlebell. If the bell gets you a "broken arm" position, you're done.

5 Mistakes You're Making with the Kettlebell Clean

The "Broken Arm" Position

To win the battle and gain the most leverage over the bell.

You need a slight "gooseneck" to your wrist.

You wanna align the knuckle of your index finger with your wrist, and elbow.

This allows you to stay "stacked" under the bell, and pull the bell closer to your body.

Again, gaining the most leverage over the bell by aligning your center of mass under the center of mass of the kettlebell.

5 Mistakes You're Making with the Kettlebell Clean

Maintaining a neutral wrist.


Common Kettlebell Mistake #5: Dismounting from the "Broken Arm" Position

Take a look at this image.

Does this in any way, shape, or form LOOK SAFE??

Say, "NO!" The answer should be "NO!" But I've seen it over and over. If you continue down this path... kiss your elbow and shoulder goodbye.

Notice what's happening here? I've mentioned it several times.

LEADING WITH THE HAND. Nothing good -- when lifting your kettlebells -- comes from leading with your hand.

5 Mistakes You're Making with the Kettlebell Clean

Dismounting from the "broken arm" position (leading with the hand).


Lead with the elbow. Pull it back as if you're were elbowing someone behind you. This saves your elbows, shoulders, and keeps the bell close to your body.

From there, drop the bell straight down between your legs -- and above your knees.

Creating a smooth transition into your next clean or parking the bell after a set.

5 Mistakes You're Making with the Kettlebell Clean

Lead with the elbow and drop straight down.

There you have it.

5 mistakes you're making with the kettlebell clean.

So what next?

What should you do with all this information? Here's what I recommend. Put'em into action!

Use them as a "specific warmup" to prep you for the upcoming session. I also recommend, recording your training session -- or at least a couple of working sets.

This will be your best teacher providing you with external feedback if you're falling into these 5 mistakes.

hec g.

P.S. - One last thing, after giving them a try, drop me a comment and let me know which of these were the most challenging or had the greatest impact on improving your skills.

Later gator.

P.P.S. - Ok, last -- LAST thing.

If you're looking for a program around the kettlebell clean so you can put into action what you've learned from this post.

Check out, "Kettlebell Workout Snacks" below. I recommend the "Russian Bear" program on pg. 19.

  • Mark says:

    Hey Hec,

    These have been really great tips. One thing I thought I heard you mention in one of the videos (swing or clean) is the idea of accelerating your hands at the bottom of the swing – like “throwing the bell” back into the hike. Any more you can say about this? Should I be accelerating my arms back down to get the bell farther back between my legs?

    Thanks for the tips!

    • Hey Mark… thanks for the question. I think I may have answered this somewhere so excuse me if this is redundant.

      I’d focus on using your lats to hike the bell back. Kinda like you’re hiking a football. To get his down… practice hiking from the start position for 5-10 reps. This should point you in the right direction.

    • Hey Mark…

      Appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment. Yes, during the eccentric phase (I.e., the back swing) of your ballistic exercises (e.g., swing, clean, snatch)… actively “throwing” the bell(s) between your legs (like you’re hiking a football) allows you to leverage the stretch reflex. Think of a bow or rubber band.

      The more you accelerate the bell(s) back… the greater you stretch the glutes and hamstrings. This creates a more powerful concentric phase (I.e., the drive up).

      Good Ol’ fashion “Newtons 3rd law” is in effect here.

      For every action… there is an equal and opposite reaction.

      Hope this helps.

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