Kettlebell Clean Mastery Part 1

Part 1 the Kettlebell Dead Clean off the floor

Kettlebell Dead Clean

The kettlebell clean has 3 primary several versions:

  • the Dead Clean – off of the floor
  • the Swing Clean – started from a hike pass like a kettlebell swing
  • the Hang Clean – where the kettlebell is suspended motionless from a dead hang around knee-height

But the one that beginners should start off with is the dead clean version. It is easier to learn than the swing clean and more practical than the hang clean.

Additionally the kettlebell dead clean which can be done with one kettlebell or a kettlebell in each hand is one of my favorite methods for developing power in athletes.

However there are a lot of things that can wrong on any kettlebell clean variety.

Assuming you have already learned the basic kettlebell clean the above video and the following text will help you to clean up some of the most common errors of the kettlebell dead clean.

In part 2 of this series I will do the same thing for the kettlebell swing clean.

Starting the Kettlebell Dead Clean

Common errors for the starting position of the kettlebell dead clean are:

  • Having the bell too far in front of you. This pulls you forward off balance.
  • Putting your free hand on your thigh, both on the way up and down. This keeps your legs and core muscles from getting the work they deserve and is a really bad habit.
  • Having too much looseness and slack in your shoulder and elbow. This creates a hitch after your initial pull off of the floor once those joints do lock out.

Here are some simple ways to correct these issues:

  1. Try putting the kettlebell between your ankles or slightly behind. This will get your center of mass above the kettlebell to provide better balance and leverage.
  2. Keep your free hand out to the side… ride the bull!
  3. Take the slack out of your shoulder and elbow by first locking your elbow, next pull your shoulder back and down away from your ear (is your elbow still locked?), next tighten up your armpit, finally lean back and up slightly till everything feels taught. Now you are ready to clean.

Midway with the Kettlebell Dead Clean

Simply one of the most common mistakes you want to look out for is the ugly curl. The ugly curl happens when midway through the kettlebell clean the kettlebell goes out away from your body and the palm turns up. This ends up looking just like a bicep curl.

To fix this clean the kettlebell straight up as close to your body as you can without hitting yourself. Drive first from the legs, next use a lighter pull from the arm. The motion is like giving someone an elbow to the ribs. Finally scoop your arm back under the kettlebell to catch it in the rack position.

The ugly curl will usually happen with people either try to go too slow and control the kettlebell or they don’t use enough force when they initially drive off the ground.

Look the kettlebell clean is a fast movement, you are virtually throwing the kettlebell up in the air and then catching it. Just… not as… dangerous as that just sounded.

The kettlebell cannot move slowly. You use leg drive to initiate momentum and then use the arm pull (elbowing motion) to keep the kettlebell close to your body. Finally that scoop I mentioned earlier (which I always visualize an ice cream scooper going into ice cream) is there to catch the bell… and gently too!

Now contrast that with too hard of a pull off of the ground. If you overcompensate and yank too hard the bell goes flying sky high and will come crashing down on your forearm.

Too Hard, Too Soft, or Just Right…

To fix these issues of too little power or too much power simply imagine that you are cleaning the kettlebell to your waist or lowest ribs. Then scoop under it. Perfect! The landing should be so soft you have to check and make sure the kettlebell is even there!

Rack of the Kettlebell Clean

Finishing the Kettlebell Clean

At the finish the kettlebell is in the rack position against the bicep as seen in the image above. The wrist is straight, the knees are locked. You should be as tall as you can.

When you first get started you will no doubt have a bent wrist, bent knees, slouched spine, and the kettlebell might not be sitting against your bicep but rather turning out in front of you (palm is turning towards your face rather than towards your midline.)

This is where you start working on reps of fixing things. Your mission has been assigned.

As always I recommend working on fixing one thing at a time. If you do several sets of several reps then I would pick a different thing to work on in each set. Over time you will correct all of these items and will be ready for more advanced drills such as the kettlebell swing clean.


You would be hard pressed to lift kettlebells and not need to use the clean in or one of its variations. Taking the time to master the tips in this article and video will also help you with other exercises that share the same technique pointers.

Till next time, go practice being amazing!