The kettlebell alternating hang clean is a functional exercise that adds an interesting element in that you have to be a little coordinated to do it.
Additionally, it involves the core muscles, is a good calorie-burner, and is based on a weightlifting technique.
In this guide, we’ve included the muscles involved, how to do it, tips, benefits, variations, and more.
In This Exercise:
- Target Muscle Group: Upper body muscles
- Type: Hypertrophy and function
- Mechanics: Isolation
- Equipment: Two kettlebells
- Difficulty: Intermediate and advanced
The kettlebell hang clean works several muscle groups. We included brief descriptions of each one below.
The biceps brachii or biceps is a two-headed muscle on the front of the upper arm that supinates or rotates the forearm so that the palms are facing up. It also has a minor role as an elbow flexor and at the shoulder joint (flexion).
The brachialis muscle is located underneath the biceps on the outer side of the upper arm. As a result, when well developed, this muscle helps to create more width to the upper arm.
The main function of the brachialis is elbow flexion.
All curls variations work the brachialis to some degree but using a more neutral grip seems to activate it best.
The brachioradialis is a forearm muscle that supinates and pronates the forearm but it’s also an elbow flexor that has a mechanical advantage over the biceps when the forearm is pronated/palms facing down.
The deltoid anterior is one of the three muscles that make up the deltoid or shoulder muscles. It’s located on the front of the upper arm and with help from the other deltoid muscles, abducts the arm past 15 degrees.
It also works with the pectoralis major to flex the shoulder, helps to prevent inferior displacement of the glenohumeral joint during arm adduction (arm moves toward the midline of the body), and medially rotates the upper arm with help from other muscles.
Pectoralis Major Clavicular Head
The clavicular head of the pectoralis or major chest muscle is located on the upper portion of the chest near the clavicle area. It causes flexion of the extended arm.
This is the target muscle group of the decline push-up and although it cannot be isolated, elevating the feet allows us to place more of an emphasis on this muscle.
The core muscles consist of the rectus abdominis or abdominals, obliques, erector spinae, and transverse abdominis.
These muscles are responsible for trunk movement, spine stability, and compression of the abdomen.
The heavier the kettlebells, the more engaged the core muscles will be.
How To The Kettlebell Alternating Hang Clean
This exercise isn’t the simplest to get down, however, it’s certainly not the most difficult. There’s certainly a right and not so correct way to do it and that’s why we’ve included step-by-step instructions and a video demonstration.
Choose two kettlebells that will challenge you for this exercise but that are not too heavy.
Practice gripping the kettlebells so that the handle is at a 45-degree angle in your palms. Also, remember to have a somewhat loose grip so that the kettlebells can move around your wrists.
But you still want to keep your wrists straight or flexed, and not bent backward.
Here’s a video demonstration.
Start by holding one kettlebell between your legs and bring the other kettlebell up to your shoulder by rotating it around your wrist. Make sure to keep your back flat.
Note: When holding the kettlebells between your legs, your wrists should be rotated inward so your thumbs are pointing behind you and your pinkies in front.
This will ensure you’re rotating the kettlebells around your wrists and not flipping them over onto your forearms.
Bring the top kettlebell down while simultaneously lifting the other one to your shoulder. As you bring the kettlebell down and in between your legs, rotate your wrist inward as explained above.
Note: Keep the kettlebells close to the center of your body as you pull them up. After you pull the kettlebell up to your shoulder and rotate it around your wrist, make sure to push your elbow forward to keep it stable and in place.
Continue this movement pattern by alternating as shown and develop a rhythm until your set is done.
Rest for 45 seconds or so and do another set.
Check out the video demonstration below…
Kettlebell Alternating Hang Clean Tips
- Avoid flipping the kettlebell over your wrists. Rather, rotate it to prevent smashing into your arm and potentially causing injury.
- Maintain a somewhat loose grip to enable the kettlebell to spin around your wrists. You could use a hook grip if it makes it easier.
- Using very heavy weights for this exercise is not recommended, especially for beginner and intermediate trainees. You could really bang up your wrists and injure your shoulders.
- While pulling the kettlebells up, a helpful tip is to sort of pretend that you’re zipping up a jacket. This will ensure you don’t flip the kettlebell over your wrists.
Let’s talk about the benefits of this exercise.
You won’t get massive muscles as a result of doing this exercise. However, if you use challenging weights, it can certainly give your upper body muscles a good workout and break down muscle tissue.
Trains functional movement
The clean is a weightlifting-based lift. Weightlifting utilizes a different technique as opposed to basic weight training and even powerlifting.
Related guide: Olympic Weightlifting Guide and Beginner’s Program
It does improve explosive power and is great for getting stronger at different portions of certain lifts.
The hang clean, for example, can teach you to develop upper body explosiveness without as much involvement of the legs, as opposed to a full clean. The basic clean involves deadlifting the weight from the floor. The hang clean starts from a standing position.
While it’s not the best option for burning lots of calories, it will burn more calories than many basic exercises. That’s because you are moving your entire body at a moderate pace.
Although, you could do it slower or faster. But the idea is to alternate lifting and dropping the kettlebells.
Increase muscular endurance
Muscular endurance is also important and we don’t mean cardio. If you compete in sports or simply want to be more of a beast when it comes to doing functional fitness workouts, you need to improve your muscular endurance.
You can do this by pushing yourself when performing resistance-based exercises. You don’t have to be lifting very heavy and actually, that wouldn’t be ideal.
The kettlebell alternating hang clean is a great example. It’s not a max lift exercise. However, it should still be challenging and you can really push yourself to complete lots of reps.
Variations and Alternatives
While the kettlebell alternating hang clean is a heck of an exercise for the reasons mentioned above, variations keep things interesting and train your muscles in different ways too.
But you may not have a kettlebell and that’s where alternatives are good options too.
Single-arm kettlebell clean
Before you try the more complex kettlebell alternating hang clean using two kettlebells, it’s probably a good idea to learn how to do the single kettlebell clean first.
It’s easy to do it incorrectly and this teaches bad lifting habits and can injure your forearms and shoulders.
To do it:
- Grip the kettlebell and stand upright.
- Bend your knees, hinge forward, and hang the kettlebell between your legs. Keep your back flat.
- Extend your hips and legs, shrug your shoulder, and pull the kettlebell up while keeping it close to your midline.
- Spin the kettlebell around your wrist and push your elbow forward to catch it at the shoulder.
- Drop the kettlebell back down while bending your knees and hinging at the hips, then repeat steps 3 and 4.
Here’s an excellent video that explains how to properly perform the kettlebell clean. While this example is the kettlebell clean, it’s still useful for proper hang clean form.
Single kettlebell alternating hang clean
While two kettlebells are great, one can work just fine. And actually, this variation is a good way to improve your coordination, engage your core even more, and improve your physical fitness.
You’ll simply alternate changing the kettlebell from one hand to the other during a single set.
Dumbbell hang clean
If you don’t have a kettlebell, dumbbells are the next best thing. Of course, the technique isn’t exactly the same as the kettlebell and dumbbell are different in design and function.
For example, you won’t be able to rotate your hand around a dumbbell unlike with a kettlebell. Additionally, you’ll go into a full squat which isn’t the case when performing the kettlebell alternating hang clean.
To do it:
- Grip both dumbbells tightly in the center and stand with feet about hip-width.
- Keeping your back straight and core tight, bend your knees and lower the dumbbells to the mid-thigh or knees.
- Explosively extend your hips and legs, shrug your shoulders, and pull the dumbells up. Keep your heels on the floor until both your hips and knees are extended.
- Push your elbows forward, flip the dumbbells over at your shoulders and drop down into a squat.
- Stand up to return to the starting position.
Barbell hang clean
Using a barbell will undoubtedly allow you to use more weight, which will carry over to better strength gains, and if you do Olympic weightlifting, it’s the better option.
Learn about the barbell hang clean in this guide.
How To Incorporate The Kettlebell Alternating Hang Clean Into Your Training Routine
There are so many different ways that you can include this exercise in your workouts.
Add the kettlebell alternating hang clean in your circuit training workouts. It makes for an excellent functional strength-building component and covers some of the cardio aspect as well.
HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training which is essentially alternating bouts of fast-paced activity with short rest periods.
You could set a timer and do the kettlebell alternating hang clean as quickly as possible, rest for an equal duration, and repeat.
Complexes are an awesome way to develop your overall fitness. You pretty much do several different exercises one after the other with no rest in between.
But here’s the thing, you have to use the same tool to do all exercises.
There are so many different movements that you can do using a kettlebell. But with complexes, each move should flow into the next. So, you may have to get a little creative.
But here’s an article on complexes that includes different workout examples.
Also try The One Kettlebell Workout
Kick Some Butt!
We hope this guide was a helpful resource for the kettlebell alternating hang clean exercise. It’s a beneficial movement that challenges different components of fitness and can help to condition your muscles as well.
We recommend knowing how to do the basic single kettlebell clean before progressing to this more advanced variation, to ensure you get the most from it and avoid injury.