Paleo Fitness Exercise: The Clean

The clean, a powerful hip-dominant movement, develops your ability to produce, reduce, and redirect force — a necessary athletic skill, even for non-athletes. The clean can also be a tremendous cardiovascular conditioner and power builder by itself. What’s more is that heavy cleans, especially heavy double-kettlebell cleans, show you how to take a hit!

Cleans performed with a kettlebell or dumbbell differ slightly from cleans performed with barbells, sandbags, or other such devices that you can’t easily swing between your legs. Kettlebell or dumbbell cleans are slightly more forgiving than barbell cleans (especially for those with restricted shoulder mobility), and the learning curve is less intimidating.

The purpose of the clean is to bring the weight explosively up into the rack position, where you place the weight in front of the chest so you can easily press, squat, jerk, and so on. In the rack, or the finished position of the clean, your forearms should be vertical and pressed against your rib cage. Here are the steps to the clean:

1

Assume a shoulder-width stance approximately one foot behind the weight you’re using, point your toes slightly outward, reach out, and grab the weight with one arm.

Start the clean with a forceful hike back of the weight. Up until this point, the movement should be identical to the one-arm swing.

2

When the weight reaches the top of the backswing, snap your hips forward (just like you would a swing).

As your hips drive forward, keep your elbow in close to your body and draw the weight up your center line.

Do your best to keep the weight as close to your body as possible. The more the weight casts outward, the less efficient the movement becomes. If it helps, imagine you’re trying to zip up a big coat.

3

Catch the weight in the rack position, with your forearm(s) against your rib cage.

If you’re using a kettlebell, allow it to gently roll onto the forearm before landing in the rack. A common mistake with the clean is to use the arms to curl the weight up. The hips must power the movement. Think about it like this: The hips are the engine, and the arm is the steering wheel.

Sometimes the best fix for poor clean technique is to pick up a heavier weight, which forces you to use more hips and less arms and to seek the most efficient trajectory. Most of the time, however, the best way to fix your clean is to go back and fix your swing and one-arm swing.

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