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What Is The Linchpin of Kettlebell Training?

Wagon Wheel Linchpin

Imagine being a pioneer traveling in a covered wagon across the vast expanses of the Great American West—with nothing more than your abilities and a few critical pieces of equipment. You are on a quest to build a better life for you and all the future generations of your family.

With many opportunities for harm, peril, and even death, you may think the MOST critical piece of equipment would’ve been your wagon. To have an incapacitated wagon would surely equal hardship—if not death.

However, something critical to the wagon’s operation was a part known as a linchpin.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a linchpin as either "a locking pin inserted crosswise (as through the end of an axle or shaft)" or "one that serves to hold together parts or elements that exist or function as a unit"

Seth Godin - LinchpinThe great marketing mentor and author, Seth Godin, has a slightly different take on the definition of a linchpin. His interpretation is probably a little more relevant as it pertains to us and is closer to the second definition of linchpin: a person or something vital to an enterprise or organization.

Even though the ‘modern kettlebell’ era has existed for more than a decade, we are still pioneers. We are leading the way not only in kettlebell training, but in many other areas.

Unfortunately, many kettlebell pioneers have lost their way by becoming distracted by the fancy, wacky, weird, or novel. They’ve forgotten about the "linchpin." And by losing sight of the "linchpin", they may be threatening the survival of the kettlebell experience.

So, what is the linchpin of kettlebell training?

Before I tell you, promise you’ll take 10 seconds to think about it before jumping to a conclusion.

Here’s a hint about this linchpin: without it, you can’t press, squat, lunge, windmill or bent press. And it wouldn’t a big leap to say get-up or snatch without "owning" the kettlebell linchpin. As a matter of fact, trying to train with kettlebells without it is a recipe in futility. It would be much like trying to drive your covered wagon to a life of freedom without a linchpin to keep the wheels from falling off.

The kettlebell linchpin is the kettlebell clean.

I can almost hear the let-down sighs, and I get it—it’s not nearly as sexy as a get-up, swing, or even a goblet squat. And I agree that it’s not sexy; but I’ll be damned if it isn’t a super valuable and IMPORTANT lift in kettlebell training.

The kettlebell clean is often thought of as a second-class lift, but in reality it should be trained REGULARLY. Maybe, part of the reason for this thinking is because the most popular method of cleaning a kettlebell is the in the "fluid" manner.

The standards for the kettlebell clean from the most recent edition of the RKC Instructor Manual include the following requirements:
  1. All performance elements (especially related to linkage, rooting and full-body tension) that apply to the swing, minus the straight-arm requirement at the top and the float requirement also apply to the clean.
  2. The kettlebell, the elbow, and the torso link up at the top of the clean. The shoulders must be pressed down. The wrist must be straight.
  3. The arc of the kettlebell is kept close to the body.
  4. The kettlebell smoothly connects with the forearm and upper-arm at the top of the clean, and there is a noticeable pause at the top.
Maybe by simply increasing the range of motion (ROM) by doing deadstop cleans—what I call cleans that come from the floor for every rep—we could add value and possibly sexiness to the clean. What do you think would happen if you did 2 sets of 5 (on each side) of deadstop cleans every day for a month with the 48kg beast? I think you’d get a helluva lot stronger!

Then, what if we got out of the ‘ol sagittal plane rut, and used a drill like the inside out rotational clean Master RKC Josh Henkin shared with me. This valuable and sexy drill is a single leg hip hinge that moves through the frontal plane. Still too strong? Do it with a 48kg!

If you don’t have many kettlebells, but still want to "add" to the training load, try a double kettlebell staggered clean. You can never get too much unilateral work. When it comes to "flow" sequences with the kettlebell—much like Master RKC Keira Newton and Senior RKC Beth Andrews do so well with—we haven’t even scratched the surface.
Covered Wagon

But, when it comes to the ‘ol linchpin, the kettlebell clean, once we start putting it into play with things like complexes, combos, and hybrids, then the APPLICATIONS are endless.

Hopefully this little article has put a "sexy shine" on the utilitarian kettlebell clean, and has inspired you to get your kettlebell linchpin training on. I think it will help you find your way to kettlebell freedom.

TroyAndersonCoaching2 thumbnailTroy M Anderson NASM PES, DVRT/Ultimate Sandbag Master Instructor, RKC, is the creator of Alpha Kettlebell Workout and the owner of Anderson Training Systems. For all things edu-taining go to All correspondence can be sent to

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