Slow and steady isn’t the only way to train safely.
Although controlled repetitions are a great way to build muscle tension and have a great workout, exercising explosively adds other benefits that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Explosive training can help you build more muscle and strengthen all of your muscle groups by targeting your fast twitch fibers. And training with speed builds power, which is something that becomes more important as you get older. Not to mention, more power helps with popular exercises like deadlifts, squats, and bench presses.
However, most people aren’t sure how to move explosively without putting safety at risk. The answer is exercise selection.
Many traditional full-body power movements, such as barbell cleans, carry a higher chance of injury. It can take time and practice to develop upper body mobility, or hours of in-person training with a personal trainer to learn the finer points of highly technical lifts. But that doesn’t mean you should ditch “power” moves in your workouts.
You can simply do bodyweight exercises more explosively, including jumping jacks (with bodyweight squats or lunges), bodyweight rows, or pushups. Or, you can select variations of power moves that are slightly less complicated to learn and therefore safer to perform. Insert the clean kettlebell cup.
Why Kettlebell Goblet Clean is so effective
Kettlebells can be confusing to some people because of the handle, but they also provide a lot of variety that can make it easier to learn or modify exercises.
Unlike a barbell clean (or even a kettlebell clean), a kettlebell goblet clean helps you train an explosive leg drive with minimal upper body movement. With most clean exercises, you should “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 the barbell front squat, only instead of starting with the bar in position, you need to catch it during the lift.
Kettlebell cup cleaning doesn’t require finishing on the rack, which is what makes it difficult for some and can lead to injury. Anytime you hear the term “cup” it means that you will be holding the KB with both hands in front of your chest.
Here’s what makes this move so effective: Bringing the kettlebell off the floor and into the goblet position only requires relaxing your grip. That’s all. You won’t need to beat 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 on day one. And you’ll learn how to safely place a heavy bell in the starting position for goblet squats without pinching your lower back. win win
The entire movement is great for developing lower body explosiveness that will strengthen the hamstrings and glutes. As you improve, you can try to “catch” a single kettlebell or progress to a two-kettlebell clean. Or you can just keep adding weight and never have to worry about the “catch” aspect. Variety is part of what makes exercise so effective.
How to do it
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. The kettlebell should be centered between your legs.
- Unlock your knees and push your hips back until you can grasp the handle of the kettlebell. The starting position will be very similar to a deadlift.
- Driving through your legs and buttocks, quickly get up. Keep your arms close to the body. The kettlebell will travel upward as if it were in an elevator.
- If you provide the pop with your legs, the bell should now be “floating” and feel weightless. When you reach your chest, relax your grip and rotate your elbows around the kettlebell. Your hands will lightly slide down the handle.
- Relax your grip again to return to the starting position by reversing the steps.
Most of the time we want to train power at the beginning of the training (after a warm-up). That’s when you’re fresh, less fatigued (which can lead to fatigue), and your technique is likely to be sharper. That’s why 50 reps of box jumps (a power exercise) probably isn’t a good idea at the end of your workout (not to mention 50 reps of any power exercise probably isn’t a good idea).
Working on explosive movements at the beginning of a workout can also prepare your muscles as you go along to work with heavier weights (to focus on building strength) or moderately heavy weights with more repetitions to build muscle.
As you progress and master the movement, you can also integrate explosive movements into a complex or circuit, usually keeping the reps a bit lower.
try this exercise
After a warm-up, do 5 reps of the kettlebell clean, 5 kettlebell squats, and then 5 kettlebell swings without lowering the bell.
Rest 1 minute.
Complete 5-10 rounds for a quick lower body blast anywhere.
- 5 Minute Finishers: How To Speed Up Progress
- Tension lifting technique (make each exercise more effective)
- A better way to perform circuit training
BJ has a Bachelor’s degree in Human Health and Performance and multiple certifications, including Precision Nutrition Level 1 and BioForce Certified Conditioning Coach. During his 14 year coaching career, he has been fortunate to train a wide range of clients. From online clients looking to get in shape to CEO Nate Checketts (Rhone) and CEO Marcelo Claure (Softbank) and professional skateboarder Sean Malto. Before beginning his coaching career, he was a research assistant in a sports science laboratory.