Last time, we talked about what I thought were the 5 best exercises for kettlebells. Mind you, my main criteria in picking those 5 were simplicity, learning curve, and efficiency. I focused on how each exercise improved strength and burn fat despite their relatively simple mechanics. As I crowned it, hands down the kettlebell swing takes the cake as the best and most efficient kettlebell exercise you can do. The kettlebell swing is perfect when it comes to being an efficient fat burning exercise. But what if you’re looking more into compound movements? What if you prefer something both ballistic and grinding? Enter the kettlebell clean and jerk, the most beautiful kettlebell exercise.
Multiple Muscles Worked
Inside the Clean & Jerk lives a Swing, a Press, and a bit of a Squat. Give me just 10 minutes, and one Kettlebell and I will give you, power, stamina, resilience and mental toughness all in one tidy package.
If the kettlebell swing is the most efficient and the kettlebell snatch as the most explosive, then the kettlebell clean and jerk is the most beautiful kettlebell exercise. The fact that it utilizes all three exercises in one short movement virtually allows your body to use all muscle groups. This is an excellent way to lose weight specially if you’re finding a quick alternative to your normal routines or weight loss supplements.
The ability of an exercise to use every muscle group in just one fluid movement is a diamond in the rough. Not only do you have the opportunity to grow all those muscles but you also get a balanced exercise on each of them. You’ll also be able to train your body’s muscle coordination as the exercise requires total focus on each phase. You can immediately pinpoint a weakness or an imbalance in your body if you can’t fully perform this exercise.
The Clean incorporates the calves, hamstrings, glutes,lower back and biceps.
The Jerk requires power from the hips along with calves,quadriceps, chest, shoulders, upper back and triceps.
One of the best things about it is how it’s not so fast and not so slow at the same time. You won’t have to worry about wearing yourself out in the first 5 minutes. You may also opt to simply have one arm rest and the let the other arm work it. Not only do you minimize resting time this way but you also get to maximize the potential of this fluid movement.
The key to this exercise is energy conservation and that is something people involved in GS or Girevoy Sports are exceptionally good at. Simply put, the science behind the efficiency of this exercise is the sheer volume under time. It has a balance between how the swing burns fat and the way the squat and the press builds muscle.
The reason I like the one-arm version better than the two-arm is that you can rest one arm while the other works…if you can call that rest. Even though one arm is just along for the ride…the legs and lungs are still smoking away… The one armed Clean & Jerk allows us to prolong the agony!
Get A Good Coach
I want to throw out a warning sign, however, as this move isn’t as simple as it looks like. Experts can make this look easy but there are details you need to learn before you go out and try a jerk or two. The learning curve is actually quite steep compared to most compound movements as the exercises has a lot of phases to cover. Valery Fedorenko demonstrates what GS lifters call the Long Cycle in the video below:
This article by Thierry Sanchez covers it up nicely specially if you plan on using two bells. Check out his video:
Now most people don’t really associate kettlebells with bulking or muscle building and they are almost right. Barbell lifting is still the king of muscle building but let’s not diss the kettlebell just yet. The wonderful thing about the kettlebell is how versatile it is and yes it can also give you some form of bulk. This is one of the primary benefits of the clean and jerk. Not only does it pave way for volume when it comes to presses but it also decreases the fatigue associated with ballistic workouts.
One of my favourite ways to do this is with kettlebell clean and jerks. Longer sets of these add size quickly to your upper body and I’ve used the approach below to turn some BJJ competitors into absolute mat monsters.
The kettlebell clean and jerk is a fantastic exercise if you wish to go beyond the basics. It can train virtually all muscle groups in the body and give you a decent bulk specially if you perform this with the right weight or pair of weights. You only have to take caution as this is quite an advanced exercise despite its rather simple execution. Personally, I would use this exercise when I don’t feel like swinging or snatching or if I’m after a short workout which won’t burn my lungs out.
*Featured image courtesy of World Kettlebell Club. They have a sale right now offering up to 25% off on their items with free shipping inside the USA.
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