Kettlebell Clean and Jerk – Exercise Progressions, Video Demos, and Benefits

In this article we will discuss the kettlebell clean and jerk, a complex and challenging movement that can develop unilateral strength and core & shoulder stabilization, and enhance overall fitness and movement integrity. Throughout this article we will:

  • break down the kettlebell clean and jerk into its individual components (the clean and the jerk),
  • discuss exercise progression for teaching/learning the movements, and
  • uncover four benefits of the kettlebell clean and jerk.

Kettlebell Clean and Jerk Exercise Demo

For the sake of this article we will discuss the double kettlebell variation of the kettlebell clean and jerk, which entails a lifter to maneuver one kettlebell per hand. In the below video the kettlebell clean and jerk is demonstrated, showing proper swinging, pulling, racking, and jerking technique.

Kettlebell Clean Progressions

The below three kettlebell swing, pull, and clean progressions are the typical exercises used to teach a lifer how to manage two kettlebells in a swinging motion, moving towards the pull and clean. The movements can often be combined into a complex to increase training volume and learning of the kettlebell clean movement.

1. Double Kettlebell Swing

The double kettlebell swing is the foundational movement necessary for proper kettlebell clean technique. The ability to use the hips, back, and leg in the kettlebell swing movement is highly responsible for most (if not all) of the power development necessary for the kettlebell. Below is a video demonstration on how to perform the double kettlebell swing.

2. Double Kettlebell High Pull

The double kettlebell high pull is the second step to learning the kettlebell clean, which involves a lifter to transition between a double kettlebell swing and a high pull movement to learn how to maneuver bells into the front rack vicinity, which is then seamlessly transitioned into the kettlebell clean front rack position. Below is a video demonstration on how to perform the double kettlebell high pull.

3. Double Kettlebell Clean

The double kettlebell clean and jerk, also referred to as the kettlebell clean and jerk throughout this article, is the next progression after properly demonstrating the double kettlebell swing and double kettlebell high pull. Below is a video demonstration on how to perform the double kettlebell clean.

Kettlebell Jerk Progressions

The below three kettlebell overhead movements are the standard progresion used to help a lifter develop proper jerk technique specific to the kettlebell clean and jerk.

1. Kettlebell Strict Press

The kettlebell strict press is the foundational overhead pressing movement necessary for the jerk progression. The strict press builds strength, overhead function and performance, and can help a lifter establish proper neurological movement patterning and feedback to control the kettlebells overhead. Below is a video demonstration on the kettlebell strict press

2. Kettlebell Push Press

The kettlebell push press is the second phase of the jerk progression, which combines a powerful hip extension to the strict press. This can help a lifter develop proper dip mechanics and increase timing and speed in the hips and lower body necessary for kettlebell jerks. Below is a video demonstration on the kettlebell push press.

3. Kettlebell Jerk (Push Jerk)

In the kettlebell clean and jerk, the push jerk movement is typically used, which is not usually the case when performing a barbell clean and jerk (which is predominantly involving the power, split, or squat jerk). The push jerk entails a lifter to not jump their feet outwards (power jerk) or split (split jerk). Below is a video demonstration of the kettlebell jerk, also commonly performed via the kettlebell push jerk.

Benefits of the Kettlebell Clean and Jerk

Below are four benefits of the kettlebell clean and jerk that coaches and athletes can expect to gain when performing this exercise. Note, that the benefits of the kettlebell clean and jerk are not limited to only the four listed below.

Unilateral Coordination

Kettlebells are unilateral in nature, which means they will challenge the body to promote fluid movement, coordination, and strength. The benefits of unilateral training have been discussed in previous articles, with the kettlebell clean and jerk being no exception.

Conditioning and Work Capacity

Kettlebells are an amazing tool to increase metabolic fitness and work capacity, since the repetition cycle is continuous and can be performed for long durations of time. While barbell cycling can also be done in a cyclical fashion, kettlebells offer us a wide array of unilateral benefits, combining all the great benefits of kettlebell training with endurance work.

Upper Back, Scapular, and Core Stability

Front rack kettlebell positioning is extremely exhausting on the scapular stabilizers, upper back muscles, and core; as it requires spinal extension strength, anti-rotational abilities, and unilateral coordination of such movements. The kettlebell clean and jerk can develop greater stability and coordination due to the nonlinear lines of force and unilateral nature of kettlebell training.

Overhead Stability and Performance

Overhead  movements of any kind can help build strength, structural integrity, and performance necessary for overhead sporting movements and lift. Kettlebells, unlike barbells, offer unilateral benefits (see above) to coaches and athletes. By performing kettlebell clean and jerk, you can increase shoulder stability and overall overhead performance and injury resilience.

More Kettlebell Training Articles

Take a look at some of our most popular kettlebell training articles below!

Featured Image: @kettlebellkings via @carterbtraining on Instagram

Mike Dewar

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.

In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.

Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.

Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.

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