Exercise We Love: The Kettlebell Goblet Clean

Most of the time, we recommend practicing safe sets. Slow the exercise down and control the reps. Leave your ego at the door if you want to train pain-free for years.

But, let’s be honest. It feels good to be aggressive in the weight room from time to time, and moving weight fast can be therapy.

This type of training is good for your health too. It can help you build more muscle by targeting your fast-twitch fibers. And training with speed builds power, something that becomes more important as we age.

The problem is that traditional full-body power moves like barbell cleans carry an increased chance of injury. Most people don’t have the requisite mobility in the upper body or hours of in-person coaching with a personal trainer to learn the finer points of this technique-centric lift.

However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include “power” movements in your workout.

Power training just requires that you move (your bodyweight or a weight) explosively. And you don’t need a barbell to do that.

Unlike barbell cleans (or even the kettlebell clean), a kettlebell goblet clean helps you train explosive leg drive with minimal upper body movement.

With most clean exercises, you have to catch the bell or bar in what’s called the rack position (resting on your arm and upper chest). This is the same position as barbell front squats – only you need to catch there during the lift.

The kettlebell goblet clean doesn’t require finishing in the rack. Whenever you hear the term “goblet,” it means you’ll hold the KB with both hands in front of your chest.

Here’s what makes this move so good – taking the kettlebell from the floor to the goblet position only requires relaxing your grip. That’s it. You won’t need to bang up your wrists and forearms for weeks while you learn it.

This makes it an ideal move for beginners. You’ll be on your way to mastering the lift your first day. And you’ll learn how to safely get a heavy bell into the starting position for goblet squats without tweaking your lower back. Win-win.

Here’s How To Do It

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width. The kettlebell should be centered between your legs.
  2. Unlock your knees and push your hips back until you can grip the kettlebell handle.
  3. Driving through your legs and butt, stand up quickly. Keep your arms close to the body. The kettlebell will travel straight up like it’s on an elevator.
  4. If you provide the pop with your legs, the bell should be “floating” now and feel weightless. As it reaches your chest, relax your grip and rotate your elbows around the kettlebell. Your hands will slide slightly down the handle.
  5. Relax your grip again to return to the start position by reversing the steps.

Most of the time we want to train power at the beginning of the workout. We’re fresh and technique is likely to be sharper. That’s why 50 reps of box jumps (a power exercise) likely isn’t a good idea at the end of your workout.

And that’s often where I’ll put kettlebell goblet cleans in client’s workouts. But, once they’ve mastered the lift, this move shines as part of a complex or circuit.

Try this workout

Do 5 reps of kettlebell goblet cleans, 5 goblet squats, and then 5 kettlebell swings without setting the bell down.

Rest 1 minute.

Complete 5-10 rounds for a quick, do-anywhere lower body blast.

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