Kettlebell Clean and Press – Benefits, Muscles Worked, Technique and Workouts

The Kettlebell Clean and Press is an important exercise that will yield great increases in your strength, mental toughness and ability to generate power.

The Kettlebell Clean and Press is an important exercise that will yield great increases in your strength, mental toughness and ability to generate power.

Kettlebell Clean and Press Benefits

The Kettlebell Clean and Press is a powerful exercise that combines upper and lower body strength and power. It will build stronger shoulders and improve your core, enhance your grip and forearms.

This is an excellent kettlebell strength exercises available that can result in phenomenal results when done correctly.

Kettlebell Clean and Press Muscles Worked

The good news is that the exercise is more or less a full-body workout, or about as close as you can get! It’s great for conditioning, building muscle mass, and also benefits cardiovascular health (especially when used as part of a circuit). It works a large range of muscles, and they include:

  • Triceps
  • Biceps
  • Trapezius 
  • Latissimus Dorsi
  • Upper Chest (Clavicular Head)
  • Deltoids
  • Rhomboid
  • Abdominals
  • Hip Flexors
  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings
  • Quadriceps

Technique for Kettlebell Clean and Press

The Kettlebell Clean and Press can be done with two kettlebells or with a single kettlebell. The version below describes the former.

Place two kettlebells between your feet jut past your toes.

Stick your butt back as if you are trying to sit in a chair behind

Look forward at all times.

Breathe in at the same time that you clean the bells.

Hold your breath and tighten up every muscle in the body

Look up slightly and press the bells overhead.

Breathe out in the lock out position and breathe in as you lower the bells back to the rack position.

Contract your lats and lower the bells actively rather than letting them flop down


  • Inhale sharply as you clean the bell
  • Exhale as it reaches the rack position
  • Inhale sharply prior to the lift
  • Keep everything tight and braced
  • Exhale as you press the kettlebell overhead (for the entire movement)
  • Inhale as you bring the bell down in a controlled movement
  • Have it finish in the rack position, covering the rib cage

Kettlebell Clean and Press Program

The following is a highly effective Kettlebell Clean and Press program.

Gig Klein Challenge

“What should your goal be with the Clean and Press? Simple, take the Sig Klein challenge and work on achieving twelve reps with two 75lb dumbbells.

If you are a fan of kettlebell training like me, work on pressing two 70lb kettlebells fourteen times. Ladies, work on pressing two 26lb kettlebells fourteen times.

kettlebell workouts

While achieving the goal will not get you a ticket to compete in the world’s strongest man contest, I doubt that is one of your goals.

What you will accomplish is a nice combination of strength, endurance, and mental toughness. No doubt you will achieve some nice physique composition improvements as well. If you want to lose fat, clean up your diet.

Get all carbohydrates from low glycemic fruits and veggies. Cut out all starches and sugars. Have a balance of protein, healthy fat and low glycemic carbs at each meal and you are ready to go. If you goal is to add some mass, ramp up the calories.

Just focus on healthy food as well to ensure you add muscle not blubber.”

Need some tips to achieve this goal? Check these out:

“Avoid using the pre-swing to get the bells off of the floor.

Clean the bells from a dead stop on each rep. Why? To make it harder and to ensure that momentum is not being used to press the bells.

When you swing the bells between your feet on each rep you make the clean easier and you may find it hard to avoid bouncing the bells off of your upper body.

Moreover, to ensure that the Clean and Press is a comprehensive full body exercise we want to make the lower body work harder.

Cleaning the bells from a dead stop will certainly make the lower body work harder. In addition to cleaning the bells from a dead stop, pause in the rack position for a second before each press. This will ensure you are not push pressing the bells overhead.

Being forced to clean the bells from a dead stop on each rep you will not only teach you how to develop tremendous explosive power, it will develop mental toughness as well. You will know what I am talking about when you give it a shot.

Also, pressing the bells after a pause is going to amount to some nice dividends in upper body strength and power.”

Read More: 5 Kettlebell Workouts to Build Strength and Muscle

Kettlebell Clean and Press Workout

This one is from Rdella Training

“The simple, brutal training session is this:

“10 sets of 5 reps with double kettlebells (General Recommendations: 24 kg for strong males, 16 kg for those newer to kettlebells.

8, 12, or 16 kg for females depending on strength and experience), rest as needed between sets, keeping rest time at approximately 60-90 seconds.

I may finish with an exercise like pull-ups, 3 or 4 sets of 10 reps.”

Add functional bodybuilding exercises into your training

Kettlebell Clean and Press Sets and Reps

Mike Mahler explains this very well.

Greasing The Groove (GTG)

“I am a big fan of Pavel Tsatsouline’s GTG program.

In fact, I used the GTG protocol when I trained for a Kettlebell Clean and Press contest I hosted earlier this year. It worked like a charm and I knocked out an all time best of 19 reps with two 70lb kettlebells.

Many of my online clients use the GTG system to dramatically improve their numbers on exercise such as pull-ups and pushups.”

Understanding the GTG Program

“Here is how it works, take 50% of your one set rep max and do several practice sets through out the day.

For example, if you can Clean and Press two 70s for ten reps, do several sets of five through out the day. Leave at least thirty minutes in between each set.

You want to be as fresh as possible for each set. If any of the sets of five come close to being difficult you are doing way too many sets or you are not leaving enough time in between each set.

kettlebell exercise

Each set should feel relatively easy. The point is to get better at the skill of the exercise. The more you practice the better you get. The better you get the more reps you can do. Sounds crazy?

Look at how you learn any other skill such as playing the piano. Would you play the piano for three hours every Monday and then take the rest of the week off? Of course not.

Daily practice of playing the piano is how you get better.

Productive strength training is no different. Get great at the skill of executing the exercise and you will be amazed at what happens.

Practice without burning out also makes your central nervous system (CNS) more efficient.

The CNS has a great deal to do with productive strength training. Make the CNS more efficient and you will get stronger. This is one of the reasons why it is possible to get stronger without making the muscles bigger.

Here is a sample GTG plan to take a 10 rep max up to 20 reps. Scale the numbers up or down depending on your current strength levels:”

  • Week 1: 50% of one set max done five times per day
  • Week 2: 60% of one set max done five times per day
  • Week 3: 70% of one set max done four times per day
  • Week 4: 80% of one set max done three times per day
  • Week 5: 60% of one set max done five times per day
  • Week 6: 70% of one set max done five times per day
  • Week 7: 80% of one set max done four times per day
  • Week 8: 70% of one set max done five times per day
  • Week 9: 80% of one set max done four times per day
  • Week 10: 70% of one set max done five times per day
  • Week 11: 80% of one set max done four times per day
  • Week 12: 90% of one set max done three times per day
  • Week 13: 50% of one set max done five times per day
  • Week 14: take a few days off and do a one set max test

Kettlebell Clean and Press Ladders

This excellent Kettlebell Clean and Press Ladder is from Marc on a thread on the StrongFirst website.

“I made up a programme for the souble clean and press.

Its main goal is strength i.e. to make a heavy weight feel light and move up one bell size.

The two main principles used are ladders and auto-regulation.

Train 3x/week with 1-2 days off in between each session.

Here’s what it looks like: Use a pair of KBs that you can C&P 5-6x (5-6 max but “owned” reps for one set)


(1-2-3) x 4


(1-2-3) x 3


(1-2-3) x 5

Rest should be as long as needed to achieve all the required reps for the day. Record how long it takes you to get in the prescribed reps every session.

As you get stronger shave off time and once you feel confident add a rung of 4 to the first ladder for every day.


(1-2-3-4) x 1; (1-2-3) x 2


(1-2-3-4) x 1; (1-2-3) x 3


(1-2-3-4) x 1; (-2-3) x 4

Work on progressively getting in the reps in fewer time and when you feel ready for it add a rung of 4 to the second ladder.

Continue owning the reps until you can do ladders of 4 on each day.

Go at your own pace but progressively (not aggressively) shave off time/add a rung of 4.


(1-2-3-4) x 3


(1-2-3-4) x 4


(1-2-3-4) x 5

You will have gone from 72 weekly reps to 120 weekly reps (an 66.66 % increase)!

To really quantify your results calculate your press/minute.


Heavy Wk 1:

30 reps in 47 minutes –> 30/47 = 0.64 presses per minute

Heavy Wk 3:

30 reps in 41 minutes –> 30/41 = 0.73 presses per minute

Once you cannot shave off time anymore/absolutely own the weight test your new RM or your new PR with a heavier weight.

You might add some exercises but the priority is the press, so keep that in mind.

My personal choice would be to add front squats @same weight for 3×5 or so and some pullups (3 sets or so).

Maybe some high rep pushups and/or bw squats to finish off.

I consider giving it a try to get back on track and regain strength.”

Kettlebell Clean and Press vs Clean and Jerk

The Kettlebell Clean and Jerk is far more taxing on your cardio, especially if you do a long cycle. There is a lot more involvement of the legs. Furthermore, you can put up more weight, which would carry over more to your press than vice versa.

The jerk will have more carryover to your press than the press will have carryover to your jerk, but strength is specific.

Extra Kettlebell Training Tips

Check out this excellent and applicable advice from Steve Raets, Elite Certified Instructor at StrongFirst:

“Getting the weight overhead by any means you safely can and getting used to having it overhead is an excellent first step.

E.g., you can perform a getup with a weight that’s too heavy to press, or a jerk or pushpress to get it overhead and then take it for a short walk or just hold it for time.

Eventually, start to lower the weight back to the rack position under as much control as possible and strive to increase that control by going as slowly as possible.  And when you can do that several times in a row – a slow, controlled lowering to the rack position after a jerk or pushpress, it’s almost certain that, after taking sufficient rest, you’ll be able to press that weight overhead for a single.”

Destroy Upper Body Weaknesses with these Kettlebell Chest Workouts

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