Kettlebell Clean & Press Exercise

by Nick Ng

About Nick Ng

Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.


According to physical therapist Gray Cook, founder of Functional Movement Systems, kettlebell training was developed in the early 1700s in Russia, and its training system expanded throughout Europe and the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Athletes use kettlebells to improve strength, movement and aesthetics. One of these exercises is the clean and press, which uses the entire body to develop strength, power and symmetry.


Kettlebells resemble cannonballs with a luggage handle attached to them. According to Brett Jones, a certified kettlebell instructor at Duquesne Club Health and Fitness Center in Pittsburgh, it is difficult to train individual muscle groups with kettlebells because they displace center of gravity and weight. Unlike dumbbells and barbells, which have even weight distribution, kettlebell training requires you to use your entire body to exercise and allows you to use momentum to generate strength.


The kettlebell clean and press is a basic but difficult exercise for beginners. It teaches the leg drive, which is pushing your legs against the ground to generate strength. The leg drive is used in almost all sports, including gymnastics, martial arts, sprinting, basketball, golf and football. When you do the clean and press, you lift the kettlebell by bending your hips and legs to push against the ground. This movement transfers energy from your lower body to your upper body, enabling you to lift a heavy weight without taxing your shoulders and arms. Therefore, it strengthens your entire body, improves your posture and burns a lot of calories. The clean and press sets the foundation for more advanced kettlebell exercises that also require the leg drive.


This exercise is often done with one kettlebell, but you can use two once you have mastered using one. To perform the exercise, hold a kettlebell between the legs with knuckles facing forward and legs shoulder-width apart. Bend hips and knees while pushing against the ground to lift the kettlebell up with your body. Then swing the kettlebell up, flipping it over your hand. The kettlebell rests on the top of your forearm with your elbows tucked in close to your chest. Perform another leg drive and press the arm above your head. You push the kettlebell up with your body, not with your shoulder or arm. Slowly lower the weight and return to the start position. Standing tall, you should keep the spine neutral throughout this exercise.


If you are new to kettlebell training, do not do this exercise unless you have proper training and supervision first. Most people do this incorrectly and hurt themselves by using poor posture and form, not using the leg drive, and lifting with their shoulders. Work with a fitness professional who has experience and knowledge with kettlebell training and human movement.

Expert Insight

Start with basic kettlebell drills to warm up your body, such as kettlebell swings and deadlifts. Both exercises train the leg drive fundamentals and strengthen your core muscles. You will be better prepared to do the clean and press with better performance and reduced risk for injury. You may also add other exercises to get some variety into your workout, such as body-weight squats, pushups, pullups and lunges.

References (2)

  • Athletic Body in Balance; Gray Cook
  • An Introduction to Kettlebell Training; Brett Jones

This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or