Kettlebell Clean and Jerk vs Clean and Press: Which Is Best for You?

In an earlier article we discussed the differences, benefits, and training considerations between the clean and press vs the clean and jerk. In this article we will take things one step further, comparing the kettlebell clean and press vs kettlebell clean and jerk, specifically:

  • Exercise Description
  • Different Technical Styles of Cleans and Jerk/Presses
  • Differences and Training Considerations
  • Programming Tips (Sets, Reps, and Loading)

Kettlebell Clean and Press

Below is a video by a lifter demonstrating the kettlebell clean and press. Note, the lifter does not rebend their knees or hips after the drive phase of the press, therefore increasing the demand on upper body strength to finish the lift at a higher point. Two common pressing options are the kettlebell strict press and the kettlebell push press.

In this video, the lifter is performing the kettlebell clean and press (strict press) during a challenging complex.

In this video, this lifter is performing a very raw looking kettlebell clean and press (push press). Note, the technique in the clean and press is not 100%, however the lifter is able to use the lower body to drive the press upwards overhead.

Kettlebell Clean and Jerk

Below is a video by a lifter demonstrating the kettlebell clean and jerk. Note, that in the jerk movement the lifter is able to rebend the knees and hips after the drive phase to receive the kettlebell a overhead at a lower fixation point, potentially increasing the efficiency and maximal loading abilities.

In this video, the athlete is performing kettlebell clean and jerks in what is called the “Long-Cycle”, part of the kettlebell sport lifts.

In this video, the lifter is performing hardstyle kettlebell clean and jerks. Note that in both examples, the lifters quickly rebend their ankles, knees, and hips under the load in the receiving position.

Differences and Training Considerations

Below are some training considerations that coaches and athletes should be aware of when determining the unique benefits and differences between the kettlebell clean and press vs the kettlebell clean and jerk.

1. Movement Efficiency

The kettlebell clean and jerk (both hard style and Girevoy sport) is a very effective way of cycling loads from the clean to the overhead position. Due to the lifter being able to use momentum, the hip drive, and receiving the loads at a lower fixation point, the jerk is often preferred over the press in terms of movement efficiency and fatigue moderation. 

2. Strength vs Power

When determining which movement to use, one must determine if they are training for strength, muscular hypertrophy, or power. The kettlebell clean and press is a movement that challenges the strength or a lifter due to the mechanics of the lift, specifically because the lifter cannot rebend to catch the weight at a lower point overhead. If the strict press is used, the demands are higher in terms of strength. Jerks are very powerful, and if power training is the goal, jerks can be a very effective way to increase hip drive and power production.

3. Complexity

Complexity can work both for and against you as a coach and or athlete. When looking to find a total body movement that is easier to learn for newbies, the clean and press movement may be a better option. Similar to previous articles discussing why pressing (strict presses and push presses) is less complex of a movement than jerk, the clean and jerk can be used to progress lifters to use more athleticism and express true power and strength (as the clean and jerk is a more complex and challenging movement to coach, train, and perfect).

Programming Tips

Programming kettlebell clean and presses/jerks can cover a wide spectrum of rep ranges and work sets. On one end, Girevoy sport athletes perform 10 minutes straight of the kettlebell clean and jerk, called Long-Cycle. Other athletes may choose to perform lower repetitions with heavier loads, such as 3-5 reps per set. That said, generally speaking repetitions, loading, and total works sets can be as flexible as one’s imagination as long as the correspond with training goals. Note, due to the momentum component of kettlebell training, I often recommend that lifters perform no less than 2-3 repetitions per set to maximize all phases of the movement.

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