Kettlebell Clean & Press – Muscles Worked, Exercise Demo, and Benefits

In this article we will discuss the kettlebell clean and press, a total body movement that can be programmed to increase functional fitness, unilateral strength and power, and increase movement integrity in the squat, pull, and press.

Muscles Worked

The kettlebell clean and press is a dynamic total body exercise that involves many of the muscle groups within the body. The below muscle groups are trained at some point throughout the kettlebell clean and press.

  • Hamstrings and Glutes (clean movement)
  • Quadriceps (squatting movement)
  • Anterior Chain (hip flexors, abdominals, and quadriceps)
  • Upper Back, Traps, and Lats (front rack positioning in the clean, and overhead press stabilization)
  • Shoulders, Upper Chest, and Triceps (pressing movement and overhead stability)

Exercise Demo

In the below video the kettlebell clean and press is demonstrated. Note, that the “pressing” motion is most likely done using the strict press or push press. In the event a lifter bends the knees to catch the load overhead, this would technically be a kettlebell clean and jerk.

5 Benefits of the Kettlebell Clean and Press

In the below section we discuss five (5) benefits of the kettlebell clean and press. Note, some of these benefits are universal to the entire movement, whereas others are specific to a certain phase of this dynamic, total-body kettlebell exercise.

Total Body Conditioning

The kettlebell clean and press is a dynamic total body exercise that includes many of the major movements and muscle groups of the body (pulling, squatting, and pressing). Due to the large range of motion and movement complexity, this can be a great exercise to use within total body metabolic conditioning workouts or even substitute into some workouts for more advanced barbell clean and presses.

Unilateral Strength, Coordination, and Performance

Similar to the dumbbell clean and press , the kettlebell clean and press can be used to increase unilateral movement, stability, and strength, which is often overlooked when working with the barbell. By performing the kettlebell clean and press, you also introduce a more dynamic exercise, one that requires fluidity, timing, and body mechanics.

Overhead Strength and Stability

The kettlebell clean and press can improve overhead stability and strength due to the asymmetrical loading of the kettlebells and the need for scapular stabilization in the press. Similar to other overhead pressing movements, the kettlebell clean and press can increase upper back strength, shoulder development, and increase core and scapular stabilization necessary for proper overhead mechanics.

Power Production (Hips)

Similar to the kettlebell swing and the barbell power clean the kettlebell clean (single kettlebell or double) teaches and promotes powerful hip extension to forcefully drive the kettlebell an upward arching motion. This is can done either from a deadstop, or more frequency from a cyclical pattern which helps to reinforce hip flexion and extension, glute and hamstring engagement, and neural grooving to the specific movement mechanics. The kettlebell clean and press can often be done with heavier loads, and increasing power outputs (as long as the lifter remains forceful in the execution of the clean).

Positional Strength for Squatting

Kettlebell squatting, either with one or two kettlebells is highly demanding on the upper back strength, scapular stability, and anterior chain (abs, hip flexors, quads). This movement is a great way to develop proper technique and positional strength in a front-loaded squat position. With the kettlebell clean and press, you are able to not only build in vertical torso positioning and squat patterning (in the catch of the kettlebell clean), but also in the press, where the lifter must establish positional strength to remain in control during the strict or push press overhead.

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