Kettlebell Clean Mastery Part 2

Kettlebell Swing Clean

The kettlebell clean is a fundamental kettlebell exercise. It is also one of the hardest exercises to perform correctly. In part 1 of this series we learned how to clean up our kettlebell dead clean. In this 2nd part we will cover the kettlebell swing clean 

Kettlebell Clean Reminders

As covered in the 1st part of this series on the kettlebell clean we want to continue doing the following: 

Keep your free hand off of your thigh

As demonstrated in the video you want to match your free hand movement to the kettlebell. So as the kettlebell swings backwards your free hand can swing backwards at your side. As the kettlebell swings forward match that by swinging your free hand forward.

Get rid of the slack

Just like the kettlebell dead clean you want to get rid of any slack in your wrist, elbow, shoulder, etc. before you clean. The difference is that in the swing clean the kettlebell will be about 1 foot in front of you.

Tilt the kettlebell towards you about 45° and then lock your elbow, pull your shoulder down, tighten your armpit, then finally lean back till you feel resistance against the kettlebell. Everything is now tight and taught, all slack removed.

You are now ready for the backswing or “hike pass” part of the clean. This tip will apply on any exercise requiring a backswing to start. So swings, snatches, cleans, etc.

Kettlebell clean start

Avoid the Ugly Curl

The kettlebell clean is not a curl. At no point should your palm turn forward. Nor should the kettlebell go out away from your body. A good way to fix the ugly curl is to put an object right in front of you and have just enough space so that you can do the clean without hitting that object.

You should have to pay attention so you keep the kettlebell close to your body. A safe way to do this is to hang a towel in front of you. That way if you hit the towel nothing will break and the kettlebell won’t bounce off and come hit you.

Have a friend hold the towel like a bullfighter and slowly get closer to you. Or hang the towel in some manner and see how close you can get to the towel without hitting it.

Clean to your waist

If the kettlebell ends up getting stuck on the way up, forcing you to curl the bell the rest of the way then you used too little hip power.

However if the bell is going too high and smashing down then you used too much power.

Just like with the dead kettlebell clean if you imagine cleaning the kettlebell to your waist or lower ribs and then scooping under it with your arm (not hips) then you will use just the right amount of power so the kettlebell lands gently on your arm.

Of course the finish

As in the dead clean the swing clean should finish with your knees locked, spine tall, forearm vertical, and wrist straight.

Rack of the Kettlebell Clean

Kettlebell Swing Clean New Stuff

“J” up and “C” down

You already know you need to keep the kettlebell close on the way up. You used a towel held close earlier to help with this.

Another way to think of this is the letter “J”. Yeah that’s right! The kettlebell comes from between your legs (from the backswing or hike pass) and then comes forward and abruptly comes straight up. Just like a letter “J”.

But what about the way down? On the way down you want to push the kettlebell out away from you a little bit so you have enough momentum to create your backswing. From the side this looks more like a letter “C”. So “J” up and “C” down.

Project the kettlebell straight up on the way up and out and then back on the way down.

Avoid the flip!

A common beginner mistake is to flip the kettlebell over and it smashes down onto the forearm.


To avoid this problem keep the bottom of the kettlebell facing the floor the entire time. If the bottom of the bell is facing the floor it can’t flip over and crash down. Instead it will wrap around your forearm and land gently on your bicep / forearm.


Huh? Well actually Snap-Pull! The timing of the kettlebell swing clean often frustrates beginners and intermediates alike. There are three distinct parts of a kettlebell swing clean:

  1. The Hip Snap – where you squeeze your glutes and create power to lift the bell
  2. The Elbow Pull – where you redirect that power up your body (creating the “J” shape)
  3. The Scoop – where the kettlebell wraps gently around your forearm, because you kept the bottom of the kettlebell facing the ground

There is a specific timing of these 3 distinct phases that you must master.

Many beginners will do step 2, the Elbow Pull, before the Hip Snap. This robs you of your power making the kettlebell heavy.

Others will wait too long after the Hip Snap before they do the Elbow Pull. This sends the kettlebell out away from your body so the bell must come back (just like the “C” down except it is a “C” up!) and this smashes hard against you.

You might have fixed this with the towel drill, but if not, Snapple or Snap-Pull to the rescue!

Say Snapple or Snap-Pull and you will get the timing. It is not Snap……. Pull. The Elbow Pull comes immediately after the Hip Snap. So… Snap-Pull, then scoop.


If you are banging your forearms up with the kettlebell clean then follow the pointers in this article and video and the kettlebell will start to land so softly on your forearm you will have to double check to make sure it is there.

Till next time, go practice being amazing!