The two K-bells clean is evil. Prof. Arkady Vorobyev conducted an experiment and learned that even an experienced weightlifter's heart rate went through the roof following a set of ten cleans with two 32kg kettlebells—and did not come back down even after ten minutes of rest. Do not tackle it until the one arm version has been mastered down pat.
Straddle two bells sitting side by side. You will have to use a slightly wider stance than for the one arm clean. Get down to the bells in the same position you would use in the sumo deadlift. Inhale, tighten up, and pull explosively, first with your legs, then from the elbows. Dip slightly—that makes it a so-called power clean—and get under the weights with a simultaneous flick of your wrists.
You will end up with your elbows in front of you, closer together than in a barbell clean, and the kettlebells resting on tops of your forearms. Be certain to tighten your abs when you accept the shock of the weights. It applies to all ballistic KB drills.
Next drop the weights down between your legs while going down into a semi-squat. Let the bells swing between your paws, than clean them again. If repeated enough times, two-bell cleans will make you a man!
My favorite type of clean should be outlawed as a violation of the Fifth Amendment. Use a light bell and catch it bottom up by gripping the handle violently. A vise-like hand will be your reward.
If you are interested in building gorilla traps and shoulders, try seated hang cleans:
Sit on the edge of a narrow bench, knees together, a light kettlebell in each hand, hanging to the sides of your body. Raise your ribcage and explosively drive your elbows toward the ceiling. Snap your arms under, and catch the weights in the same manner as you did when practicing cleans.
Since you do not have the luxury of dispersing the shock of the impact by squatting under, push the kettlebells away the moment they touch your shoulders. Drop them with the 'climb the fence' maneuver, where your elbows go up before the bells come down. Catch the bells at the point where your arms are almost straight, and continue without a pause either on the top or on the bottom of the movement. Keep your abs tight throughout the exercise and make sure not to lean back. As with the other high rep explosive drills, let your breathing take care of itself.
The one-arm snatch is the Tsar of kettlebell lifts, fluid and vicious. It will quickly humble even studly powerlifters. The forces generated by this drill are awesome. "How can it be if the weight is so light?" you might ask. -Through great acceleration and deceleration. F=ma, force equals mass multiplied by acceleration. Would you rather roll a 500 pound barbell over your toes or drop a 72 pounder from seven feet? I rest my case.
You can think of the snatch as a clean to the point above your head. Do not even think about taking it on until you have mastered one arm swings and cleans!
Stand over a kettlebell, your feet about shoulder width apart, your weight on your heels. Inhale, arch your back, push your butt back, and bend your knees. Reach for the bell with one hand, the arm straight, while keeping the other arm away from your body (initially you may help yourself by pushing with the free hand against your thighbut it is considered 'no class' by most gireviks).
Swing the bell back and whip it straight overhead in one clean movement. Note that the pulling arm will bend and your body will shift to the side opposite to the weight. But you do not need to worry about trying to do it that way; just pull straight up and your body will find an efficient path in a short while.
Do not lift with your arm, but rather with your hips. Project the force straight up, rather than back—as in a jump. You may end up airborne or at least on your toes. It is OK as long as you roll back on your heels by the time the bell comes down.
Dip under the K-bell as it is flipping over the wrist. Absorb the shock the same way you did for cleans.
Fix the weight overhead, in the press behind the neck position for a second, then let it free fall between your legs as you are dropping into a half squat. Keep the girya near your body when it comes down. As an option, lower the bell to your shoulder before dropping it between the legs.
Ease into the one arm power snatch because even a hardcore deadlifter's hamstrings and palms are guaranteed to take a beating. Especially if your kettlebells are rusty like the ones I trained with at the 'courage corner'. It was a long time after my discharge before my palms finally lost their rust speckled calluses.
Unlike the deadlift, the kettlebell snatch does not impose prohibitively strict requirements on spinal alignment and hamstring flexibility. If you are deadlifting with a humped over back you are generally asking for trouble; KB snatches let you get away with a slightly flexed spine. It is probably due to the fact that your connective tissues absorb shock more effectively when loaded rapidly. Your ligaments have wavy structures. A ballistic shock—as long as it is of a reasonable magnitude—is absorbed by these 'waves', which straighten out like springs.
But if you keep the load on the ligament for more than a fraction of a second, the slack gets pulled out of the ligaments and makes them predisposed to tearing. Which is why you have no business jerking your weights when performing grinding type drills like deadlifts. Your ligaments may absorb the initial impulsive loading by losing their 'waves' but by the time you get the bar to your knees you will be ready for the emergency room.
You can add misery to your snatches with the same method you used for cleans: snatch the dead weight without a pre-swing. Tighten your body, and rip the weight off the floor and straight over your head in one movement. Or from a hang. Drop the bell and stop it on a dime slightly below your knees, pause until the momentum dissipates, tighten up and snatch again. Snatching a dead ringweight kneeling in the sand is a proper treat, especially for your deltoids. Ditto for the clean.
And snatching two K-bells at once is truly poetry in motion! Do not mess with it for a long time and remember to use the lightest kettlebells to start with. Some comrades prefer swinging them between the knees, others outside the legs. Either way expect no joy. Do not bang the bells together.
Unless you have received proper instruction from a weightlifting coach, do not do full squat kettlebell snatches or cleans. You might however try split-style snatches, cleans, or jerks. Instead of dipping in a half squat to catch the bells, vigorously split your feet apart and land in a lunge. The width and depth of the lunge depends on your agility and flexibility. Be prepared to take a fall and watch those ankles.
You may snatch or do any other KB drill with your eyes shut which will increase the exercise difficulty and improve your strength for obscure motor learning reasons that I explain in Power to the People!: Russian Strength Training Secrets for Every American. The standard protocol is to go blind every other set.
Under the leg pass
This drill—a favorite of the Russian military—unexpectedly works the midsection. Lift a kettlebell, and start passing it from hand to hand between and around your legs in circles and eights. Note that the weight stays mostly on your heels; you should look like you are playing tug of war. Breathe shallow but sharp, in sync with the weight transfer.
Jerk, Clean Jerk
You may jerk one or two KBs. Naturally, learn the one arm version first.
Once you have cleaned the bell(s), dip your knees slightly and throw them upward.
If you have successfully locked out your elbows, without rebending your knees once more, you have completed a 'push jerk'. If the weight is heavy for you or you start getting tired, you will have to resort to a 'power jerk'.
Push yourself away explosively from the weights, getting down into a half squat when the kettlebells are halfway to the top. This seems tricky, but once you have done enough reps you will figure it out the hard way.
Don't press out the weights (although a jerk with a press-out makes for another decent exercise). Fix the lockout for a second, then let the bells come back down to your shoulders, dipping your knees and tightening up on the impact.
In any type of jerk, it helps to 'lean forward' against the weight as it is passing your head. The elbows will lock out more efficiently and the K-bells will be fixed in the advantageous press behind the neck position.
The one-arm jerk works the same way. Old time Russian strong man and wrestler George Hackenschmidt advised on the one-arm jerk: "The elbow should rest firmly against the hip, thus transferring the whole weight... to the legs, principally to the one leg. Quickly bend the knees, and, at the same time, 'throw' the weight upwards, while with the same quick movement you stretch the arm. You will find that the legs will give the principal impetus of strength. The movements have to be made very quickly. This particular exercise requires a certain technique. It greatly furthers the preservation of a perfect nimbleness and equilibrium, and develops at the same time the muscles of the leg, forearm, and triceps."
For double brutality, do your cleans and jerks back to back, non-stop. Bring a puke bag. "If you think a heavy squat program is work just try high reps "puff and pant" clean and jerks," commented Ironman editor Peary Rader half a century ago. "The clean and jerk involves nearly every muscle in the body— more so than any other exercise we know of."
Paul Chek is a consultant to many pro sports teams and a man of great insight on exercise technique. I recently discovered an article of his, describing an awesome drill which makes a perfect fit for your Russian Kettlebell Training. The man says—and you had better believe him! —that it's an excellent way "to improve his or her vertical jump, Olympic lift, ability to throw people out of the bar, or to increase the mass of their upper traps."
Deadlift two kettlebells outside your thighs in the groove you would use for a vertical jump. Dip your knees as if you are about to jump up. Snap your hips through and straighten out your knees explosively as if you are jumping. At the same time violently shrug your shoulders up. You may end up airborne, or at least your heels will leave the floor. Softly land on the balls of your feet, then squat and roll back on your heels before the next take-off. At a rapid clip, naturally.
For your neck's sake, Chek warns you against poking your head forward like an ostrich. And yes, expect your traps to feel like they have been beaten up with baseball bats the day after.
Was this article helpful?
Bodybuilding requires commitment. It is a totally different lifestyle that entails letting go of old habits and adopting new ones. You cannot go into bodybuilding and be half- hearted about it. It is a test of strength, self-discipline and willpower. Start only when you are sure you can commit time, effort and energy. Learn tips like this one and 99 more.