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Why Kettlebell Cleans Are Essential to Real World Power

Okay, let’s address the elephant in the room. Why is the “sandbag guy” talking about kettlebells? What “right” do I have to talk about kettlebells?! Well, as I’ve written many times, much of my excitement to explore old time strength training and eventually create DVRT was inspired by my early work with kettlebells. I went to my first kettlebell certification back in 2003 and have taught kettlebells ever since having worked with all the top names in the industry since!

kettlebell cleans

Cool, but that doesn’t explain why I am going to be discussing kettlebell cleans and how does this have anything we are doing with DVRT? One of my major goals with our L.I.F.T. certification was to show people how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together. That meant showing the relationship of different tools and exercises in how they create a more powerful progressive system. 

Okay, okay, but WHY kettlebell cleans? I think kettlebell cleans are a great progression from our clean to fists with the Ultimate Sandbag. Most people miss that a big part of our Ultimate Sandbag clean to fists is teaching movement accuracy. That is combining strength, technique, and the blend of stability/mobility to nail a drill you can’t just muscle through. People often just think of clean to fists as “another clean”, but in reality there is MUCH more happening. 

Once we build that good clean to fists, where do we go? Sure we can go heavier, yes, we can change some of our stances. However, another favorite of mine is to introduce the need to resist more forces trying to throw our body out of position while we produce great power and that is where I think kettlebell cleans play a major role. 

While most everyone focuses on kettlebell swings, I’ve always had an affinity for kettlebell cleans. My good friend and strength expert, Troy Anderson, has long called kettlebell cleans the “linchpin” of the kettlebell world. What he is referring to is something that opens up such a bigger world. A good kettlebell clean is necessary to do many squats, pressing, lunging, and power training, like snatches, with kettlebells. In fact, I think kettlebell cleans are a great way to even teach aspect of the kettlebell swing people struggle with, specifically the back swing. 

Kettlebell cleans also introduce us to one of the most simple and profound benefits of kettlebells which is that you have independent moving weights. While the Ultimate Sandbag brings in levels of instability with its unique dimension, the weight internally moves, and other aspects, kettlebells give us another in the fact the weights are never moving the same way. 

The use of kettlebell cleans teaches us power, stability, how to decelerate, and how to go into different levels of power. Why does that matter? I always say, the beginner ONLY knows how to go 0 or 100 mph. Where as a really well trained individual knows how to go 45, 60, 85 and so on. Being able to go different speeds is a quality that gets totally overlooked in functional training discussions. 

With all these great benefits, why aren’t kettlebell cleans more of a part of what people do? I believe it largely goes to two reasons. The most obvious is that people lack proper technique and end cup having the infamous banging on the wrist. Of course that sucks and isn’t something we want to have happen, but the fix is often MUCH easier than most people even realize. 

The second reason is that I believe people look at the smaller weights of kettlebells and just don’t believe they can develop the power that barbells of much greater loads can achieve. That of course is misleading as the instability for one, makes kettlebells a great challenge in producing power. Second, the grip of the kettlebell places the hands further from the center of mass where thee barbell is right at the center of mass. This makes the same weight feel MUCH heavier of a kettlebell. Third, we get to train huge deceleration strength and as legendary strength coach, Robert Dos Remedios just spoke about on our blog (HERE) is a key to performance and injury resilience. 


So, our goal today is to show you how accessible kettlebell cleans are, some great progressions, and how we can fit them into the overall scheme of our progressions to create better success.

Find out way more about these strategies and more in our L.I.F.T. Hip Hinge module HERE