I am just wondering on the Kettlebell Clean and Jerk, is it necessary to bend your knees as you lift the kettlebell above your head? I cannot see the logic behind this.
You’ve raised a good question and one that echoes what I’ve been saying lately in many seminars. It’s a stretch to utilize Olympic-style weightlifting terms like Snatch or Clean and Jerk when using cables, dumbbells or kettlebells.
While lifting a weight to the shoulders or overhead may resemble the competitive lifts of the same name, the object or the intensity seldom allows for similar technique to be used. Change the technique, and the benefits change as well.
The intermediate level kettlebell exercise labeled Clean and Jerk hardly resembles the competitive weightlifting movement of the same name. As demonstrated, the Kettlebell Clean and Jerk requires swinging the weight (albeit, from a “hang” position) rather severely to the shoulder, and then using a Power Jerk movement to get the weight overhead. Only in a very loose sense does this lift resemble the Clean and Jerk.
The technique described and illustrated looks a lot like a Dumbbell Swing (a competitive lift in days gone by). In that exercise, the dumbbell went overhead, more like a Snatch.
As far as logic applied to the overhead portion of the lift, the reason for lowering the body under a rising weight is to ultimately and effectively lift more weight than could be otherwise lifted. For example, let’s say someone can press 100 pounds (1RM). Using a Push Press, which involves bending and extending the knees once, they may manage 125 pounds. Progressing to a Power Jerk, in which the same explosive triple extension is followed by a rapid lowering of the body under the rising weight, we could see them lift 150 pounds.
When we apply weightlifting terms to light dumbbell or kettlebell exercises, the low intensity used does not require the same efficient, athletic moves to succeed. What you’ve pointed out is valid: the model has such a light kettlebell, she could easily Press or Push Press the weight overhead. Going through the motions of a Power Jerk (she is NOT fulfilling the criteria for a Jerk) is questionable in terms of what it does for the lifter. Is she getting stronger? No, the weight is too light. Is she gaining power? Unlikely, as the weight is light and the effort rather minimal.
She is simply going through the motions of using a kettlebell to roughly approximate a Clean and Power Jerk. If you use a light weight, there’s no need to lower yourself under the weight. But call it a Clean and Press or a Clean and Push Press (depending on your final technique). If you end up using enough resistance, you’ll quickly see the logic in lowering the body under the “jerk” portion of the lift.