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The Two Kettlebell Long Cycle Clean-and-Jerk

December 10, 2003 12:02 PM

This is one of the most effective exercises you can do to increase your functional work capacity and your overall physical endurance. This is a total body exercise that works your glutes, back, legs, arms and shoulders. Also you will really build up your cardiovascular system as well. It is one of the most difficult and complete exercises in kettlebell sport.

The two-kettlebell clean and jerk, otherwise known as the Long Cycle, is performed in the following manner. Clean two kettlebells from below your waist up to your chest. Then jerk them to overhead lockout. Lower them back down to your chest. Next, lower them down to arms length by swinging them between you legs and clean them back to your chest before attempting the next jerk. Repeat this cycle over and over as often as desired or until you can no longer jerk the kettlebells. Most likely you will be sucking wind after completing a high rep set, so walk around for a few minutes until your breathing returns to somewhat normal.

The Long Cycle is usually contested by itself, at a strictly Long Cycle competition.

To be successful at this style of competition you must become an expert at energy management. Therefore you must learn how to breathe and how and when to rest. The lift consists of three parts: the clean, the rack, and the jerk, also referred to as the beginning, the middle and the end.

Let's first discuss the clean. What is efficient clean technique? This is how to lower the kettlebells from the chest and perform the clean in the long cycle:
  • Think of pushing yourself away from the kettlebells and flare the elbows out slightly.
  • Allow both kettlebells to completely swing back behind the hamstrings.
  • Keep looking forward not down. Actively pull your torso down with your hip flexor muscles to facilitate the swing back. The torso folds down to approximately a 45-degree angle and the kettlebells go just behind the hamstrings.
  • When the kettlebells are completely behind your legs and the hamstrings are slightly stretched, squeeze your glutes and snap the hips forward explosively. Do not pull the kettlebells up with the biceps. The biceps should be relaxed. Simply tame the arc by keeping the elbows close to the body.
  • As the kettlebells come around the sides of the hands make sure to catch them with the handles resting on the heel of the palms.
  • As the kettlebells land on your bicep-forearm, you should absorb the shock by letting some air out and dipping your knees slightly under.
The two kettlebell clean should be practiced as a skill exercise in 1-2 sets of 8-10 reps just before your main clean and jerk workout. This is the best way to develop your overall clean technique.

There are a couple of different breathing patterns for the 2 KBs clean. Here's one of them::
  • Inhale before the initial clean and hold as you bring the bells up
  • As the bells land on the top or your chest as you rack them, they'll knock some air out of you (you can forcefully exhale to absorb the impact)
  • As you lower the weights from the chest to arms length, slightly push away and inhale.
  • Stop inhaling as you catch the weight at arms length,
  • Slight Exhale or Grunt at the beginning of the swing up.
  • Inhale on the way back up
You do not have to use this breathing method. You can find your own, just remember that intra-abdominal pressure helps save your spine from injury and it is important to always maintain some when you are lifting heavy weight.

Now let's discuss the Rack position, or the middle of the exercise. The important thing to remember is you can rest in the rack for as long as you want. So it makes sense to find the most comfortable position. For me that means, my hips are pushed slightly forward so that the kettlebells are directly over the hips and my knees are locked. My shoulders are relaxed and the kettlebells rest on the V created by my bicep and forearm. My elbows rest on the Iliac Crest, or top of the pelvis.

From the rack one must perform the jerk. To perform the jerk, begin by inhaling as you perform a shallow squat, followed by an explosive leg drive, which should transfer force from the legs, through the abs, and into the arms to launch the kettlebells upwards. Explosively dip into another quarter squat before the kettlebells reach the top and use the triceps to lock the elbows, so that there is no pressing involved at all in the movement. Exhale as you lock the knees and hold the lockout with no movement before inhaling and returning the kettlebells to your chest, commencing the next repetition.

It is wise to break down the movement into each of its three components and pace yourself at each point. Taking extra breaths in the rack position as needed.

To develop a program for the Long Cycle Clean and Jerk, take your favorite Girevoy Sport training program that you would normally use for Jerks and Snatches. Modify it, by replacing Jerks with Clean-and-Jerks, and replace Snatches with 2 KB cleans. You can keep one day per week of your long cycle program for 3-6 sets of snatches, if you want to. Do not forget to strengthen the abs and the quads; they are very important in this exercise. Get lots of rest between workouts. You'll need it.

Remember to always train smarter!

Christian Rubio is a certified Circular Strength Training Instructor, Certified Russian Kettlebell Challenge Instructor, and Certified Personal Trainer. His book Explosive Strength Endurance is the number one selling book on Kettlebell Sport in America. He is available for personal instruction, program design, or online consultation through