2nd Effort Drills : The Hard Style Clean and Jerk

Loose, fluid, and controlled.


Double bottom's up
Will Williams at playwork.
The Russian Kettlebell Jerk is in town for a while. It is crashing on your couch and will sound reveille at 0500 every day. Fearless cousin of the Olympic barbell clean and jerk, the one or two kettlebell jerk will paint your game a nasty shade of Soviet red after you learn to hit up this drill in sets of 10 or more. From shoulder health to crisp hip snaps, this drill will make the transition from snap to tackle, or sprawl to brawl seem effortless. Add in a re-clean between reps [Long Cycle] and you have the ultimate example of the martial tension-relaxation principle. When the bells swing softly through the clean, and bump from racked to locked-out, we see loose, fluid, and controlled motion become whip tight, offensive, and incapacitating striking tension. Observe the chronology of the kettlebell jerk:

A) Clean and rack [Only the Long Cycle will require a re-clean, but the initial clean for jerks must be polished as well].
B) First dip.
C) The subsequent reversal or "bump".
D) The second dip, to locked out arms and flared lats, braced abdominal wall, and widened base if necessary.
E) Lock the hips and drop the bells into a racked position, reload for rapid fire.

According to Pavel Tsatsouline*, the long cycle is big with Russian fighters. Ju Jitsu clubs in central Russia have instituted kettlebell C&J requirements for belt promotion. Some players must rep out with a pair of 32kg 'bells. No other word for it than nasty. So if a fighter moves from his hips, and all in sport and ballistic weightlifting is channeled through some variation of hip flexion or extension, the spherical nature of the bell and the emphasis on the second dip would make the jerk a logical choice for the combat load of any player. Observe the benefit from each corner of the drill to your sport.


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The Clean, from the waist down a mirror of the kettlebell swing, will bring the weights into a position that mimics the basic guard. The handle of the bell is seated into your palm comfortably, while the upper arm is flush into your armpits' groove, and the load is situated in an optimal position from which the hip components of this drill take over. Sure you can move "crazy" weight with a barbell but take one look at the positions of a pair of racked kettlebells vs. a barbell with regard to what you think a fighting stance would reap more from, and then make the call. Poundage and tradition may yield to practicality and street tested tools. If you desire to implement the long cycle clean and jerk, you must affirm before those bells and the world that you know what you are doing. The re-clean will only provide the link to the martial tension/relaxation chain if you have mastered the swing and regularly practice double cleans.

First dip, though minimal in the Hard Style KB jerk, shares the stage with the second dip via the abdominal brace that is maintained between reps. A sharp inhale through the nose into a gently tensed-up abdomen creates the 'shield' karatekas talk of. From the standing/KBs racked position, the user dips slightly to gain momentum and seamlessly reverses the movement shortly after. Depth is of no concern here, again it is just a prep-step for the 2nd dip. I say again, this is a pull of your tight and upright torso and limbs/bells into a shallow dig from which you shall emerge with power. This is not a half squat.

The Bump is a pure hip thrust that takes the gluteal contraction and hip extension, along with everything else, and moves the bells from the rack to a floating point somewhere higher than the user's head, but not directly over it. Your arms must stay loose, yet in positive control of the bells, until you become the human pillar underneath the weight.

Second Dip, is where the summation of efforts locks the user out in a position where the arms are at 12 O'clock, conducting the load into the torso and legs. Points include:

Shooting in to a wide stance and driving the heels into the platform, and into an exaggerated but knee-friendly width if necessary.

Sucking the shoulder joint down into flared lats, and extending the arms under and in agreement with the bells. A push and a pull within a brief static hold. Here we find the user solid as concrete under the bilateral load, stabilizer muscles and all muscle groups at the ready from the charge to the body that defines this movement. The combination of hip drive followed by the arms' function as a conduit of both force and load can blossom into the most devastating of strikes when the applications are seen in sport. The hips and knees are flexed to signal completion of the rep, and all your angles facilitate transmission of the kettlebell load into your trunk and hips. Arms and legs act as channels. Your braced abs and loaded gluteals are sharing the weight. After you have secured the load and given a One Count, you stand tall with straight hips and knees, hammer cocked, ready to fire.

The Drop, from arms locked out overhead involves a coordinated release of your elbows in order to land the kettlebells back into their designated rack, with your arms helping to spread the load upon impact and dissipate the force. Do not lean back when receiving the bells. Heels stay planted firmly, hips and knees flexing again to soften the falling bells, and you must release a hiss of air when the bells meet your tightened up torso. Aaron Hoopes, author of many articles on breathing for martial artists, states that "The central principle of breathing is of internal cleansing, getting rid of that which is old, worn out, and stale, and exchanging it for what is new, fresh, and energized." Expel your air with a forceful TSSST!, and re-energize yourself for another rep.

You struck first by jerking two kettlebells, now you return them to the rack to reload and receive a strike in tandem. Cushioning the bells with the same breathing and mechanics you would when bracing for a shot completes the circle of life. The two kettlebell, long cycle clean and jerk is demonstrative of the "simplexity" found in martial disciplines. There is a checklist which must be met in entirety before stepping up to high rep double clean and jerks, and it honors the code of safety as a means to ultimate performance, not as its' enemy.

*Author's note: "Everything I learned about kettlebells and most of what I subscribe to with regard to strength has come through Pavel Tsatsouline and the RKC program".


Will Williams

Will Williams is a Russian Kettlebell Certified Instructor, and NSCA Certified Personal Trainer.



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