This makes sense if you consider how a bum knee effects your gait cycle. Changing the movement pattern at the knee, creates compensation in the ankle and hip on the same side. It also creates movement changes across the chain— up into the spine, into the shoulder, the neck, and even across to the other hip, knee, and ankle. This is why when you have a “bad knee” you start noticing other little aches and pains that may me “unexplainable.” It started because your brain is working around the pain signal coming from “a bad knee.”
This is why the clean and press can improve your run! A slow and steady weighted exercise for your shoulder is not just making changes in your shoulder strength— it is working core stabilizers and making changes to shoulder mapping. That mapping has neurological carry-over to how your shoulder “talks to” your hip in the gait cycle. Clarity in one area, creates clarity in other areas. And because our brains are wired for survival, loaded inputs get mapped more quickly.
Let’s take a look at how to clean and press and then some basic ways to implement it in practice. A safe clean and a strong smooth press go hand-in-hand. If you have a bad clean, just toss it away and re-clean. The clean is the platform for your press. DO NOT rush it. A key point to remember in the clean and press is this: keep your shoulders low. It is really tempting to clean with your shoulder shrugged up toward your ear, jamming the whole area. This 100% defeats all the benefits of both the clean and press.
You can think of the clean as a way to get the bell from the ground, to the rack position. The rack is the platform on your upper body for holding any kind of weight. Cleaning a kettlebell can come with frustration. It took me a solid year of working it to finally get it just right in the landing. Banging your wrist at all, by over-powering your hip drive, or letting the bell get too far from your body, is a missed clean. The bell should “wrap around” your forearm. This happens by keeping the bell in close and tight. Do not swing the bell away from your body, like you would for a kettlebell swing. The set-up, lower body, and hip drive are just the same as in a swing.
It is tempting to think of cleaning to your shoulder. But, think instead of cleaning low, to your waist, not up to the shoulder. When you clean low, with the target landing at belly-button level, your torso takes the hit and absorbs the load. There is a lot more body to “take the hit” at the waist, than there is at the shoulder. Be sure to brace for the landing of the bell just as you would if someone punched you in the guts!
At the top of your press, lockout the bell overhead, stand tall, check your form like you did at the top of the get-up (see the get-up article for details on that!), then reverse the drill until your bell is low in the rack. You can dump the bell and re-clean it, or just get set and solid in your body for another press, without a re-clean. Cleans are a drill in their own rite and have all sorts of fun variations. Just be sure you have the mechanics of the basic clean down before throwing anything new and fancy into your practice
There are no hard and fast rules, other than practice perfect form and stay mindful of the rest of your body while you are pressing. Pressing is a full-body exercise! You will feel all the places the press works when you are holding the bell at the 90, especially your core and low back. So be sure to squeeze your glutes and core to help protect your low back!
Pressing is one of my all-time favorite kettlebell drills. When I am in a pinch for time, or just need to get lifting into my schedule, I will default to the press. It hits the whole body and really makes me feel accomplished without getting smoked. You can also chain the press into all sorts of other exercises. You are only limited by your imagination.
Here is a little something to get you started and progressing into clean and presses:
-5 waist-level swings on each side
Rest your bell, Shake out the tension
-1 clean, rest the bell on the floor
Repeat 1 clean on the other side
-Repeat for a total of 5 cleans to each side, resting the bell on the floor between each rep
Rest and shake it out
-1 clean, 3 pause presses for 3 seconds on one side
Safely rest the bell on the floor like you would for your swing set-up, and repeat for 1 clean and 3 pause presses on the other side
Rest and shake it off
-3 clean and press right, (re-clean after each press,) swing to switch hands,
3 clean and press left, )re-clean between each press)
Rest for two minutes
-Repeat the series for a total of 4 to 5 rounds.