You are headed to the top of the Nestie Fitness Pyramid if you plan to put together a kettlebell clean and jerk fitness plan. The stylish clean and jerk offers the real deal as far as strength work goes. It’s a two-part full-body lift that requires hip and leg power, trunk flexibility and shoulder-trunk stability. After your first clean and jerk workout, you might ache a bit -- but in a good way that means you’re headed to new heights of strength and balance.
Plan to work out with your kettlebell three to four times a week, advises Lorna Kleidman, three-time world fitness champion, who provides kettlebell training in New York City. “It’s best to use one bell when first practicing these moves,” she notes, “but both men and women” -- you can pass the word to your significant other -- “can use two weights when they feel ready to do so.”
You “clean” the kettlebell by smoothly lifting it in one hand from the floor to the “home” position, resting against your forearm and shoulder near your collarbone. You “jerk” the kettlebell by assuming a partial squat and then driving your hips and legs upward to help your arm extend and briefly lock your wrist and elbow with the kettlebell above your head. This explosive movement differentiates the clean and jerk from the clean and press, where you simply push your kettlebell toward the ceiling. Your movements need to be smooth and rhythmic on the way up, and similarly fluid as your reverse your motion to return the kettlebell to the floor between your ankles.
Run through a test set first, Kleidman advises, by hoisting a 12-kilogram or 26-pound kettlebell. If Mr. Nestie comes along, have him work with a 16-kilogram or 35-pound kettlebell. Perform 90 seconds of repeated clean and jerks on each side, which should come out to 15 reps per side. “Once you know your baseline results, create an outline that is realistic but challenging, just enough so the last couple of reps are tough,” Kleidman advises. Hoist a lighter kettlebell, such as 10, 15 or 20 pounds, if you struggle with a 26-pound version.
After you complete the test set, perform your next set with a heavier weight for one minute on each side at nine to 10 reps each minute. Next, pick a lighter weight and perform two minutes on each side at 10 reps per minute. Finish with your test weight, performing 17 to 18 reps in one minute and 45 seconds. You can also include interval sets into your workouts, performing the clean and jerk for one minute with each arm, resting for one minute and completing three sets total for each arm.
Rotate your weekly sets by incorporating three different weights, Kleidman recommends. “Select lighter bells for longer, faster lifting and heavier bells for shorter, slower sets,” she says. Add an extra 15 to 30 seconds to your sets each week. Warm up with running in place or jumping jacks before training, and add other activities such as swimming, rowing and running for overall fitness.
An award-winning writer and editor, Rogue Parrish has worked at the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun and at newspapers from England to Alaska. This world adventurer and travel book author, who graduates summa cum laude in journalism from the University of Maryland, specializes in travel and food -- as well as sports and fitness. She's also a property manager and writes on DIY projects.