Do Kettlebell Clean + Presses Work Your Legs “Enough”?

Do Kettlebell Clean + Presses Work Your Legs “Enough”?

I’ve gotten multiple emails in the last week asking this exact question.

And, since we discussed the “top 2-3 kettlebell exercises for ‘YOUR’ legs” last week, I thought we’d review this topic again. 

Especially since it seems to be a “sticking point” for a lot of people.

When we talk about “legs” we’re generally talking about one of three areas:

[1]  Front of legs (thighs) – quadriceps (quads)

[2]  Back of legs – hamstrings and glutes

[3]  Lower legs – calves

The kettlebell Clean (single or double) is a “hip-dominant” movement, which means it biases the back of the legs – the posterior chain – and depending on how you perform it…

It also hits / works your calves.

Notice I used the word, “biases.”

The Clean also works the quadriceps, especially the “tear drop” – called the vastus medialis. 

This is a really important muscle for knee health. So it’s important to make sure this is developed. 

The fact that the C+P hammers the posterior chain (and your “tear drops”) is a critical point we must not overlook.

Here’s 5 reasons why strengthening your posterior chain is must:

[1]  Prevents, even eliminates lower back injuries associated with aging

[2]  Improves your ability to run and jump if and when you need to, along with overall athleticism

[3]  Reduces the likelihood of slipping and falling as you get older

[4]  Improves ADLs – Activities of Daily Living – makes life easier

[5]  Reduces, prevents, even reverses (through restoration of function) knee injuries by strengthening the glutes and hamstrings (along with those “tear drops”)

That’s a pretty good list if you ask me…

Now, on to the concept of “enough.”

If your goal is to have HYYOOOGE quads and earn the nickname, “Quadzilla”… 

Or if your goal is to improve your squatting strength and turn your legs into hydraulic jacks…

Then, nope-ity nope – the C+P is not going to be “enough” to develop your legs.

You’ll need to do some specialized quadriceps work:

Goblet Squat or –

The Double KB Front Squat…

Or dare I say it – 

Barbell Squats – especially the Barbell Back Squat, if your goal is to have a 1000 pound Squat..

But the reality is, Goblet Squats and Double Kettlebell Front Squats will make your legs “strong enough.”

For example, my friend, and former StrongFirst CEO, Mark Toomey, worked up to doing multiple sets of 10 with 48kg Goblet Squats about a decade ago when he was in his early to mid-50s.

The result?

Weighing around 190/5 pounds, he could easily pause in the hole with a 315lbs barbell Back Squat.

(He also said the Goblet Squat helped him overcome some previous knee injuries too. So that’s a bonus.)

And Donnie Thompson, first powerlifter to total 3000lbs, would routinely do Double KB Front Squats – paused – if I remember correctly – for 3 sets of 8 with a pair of 40kgs. He said it was “enough” for him.

So, if you “need” jacked, muscular legs, then the Clean + Press will not be “enough” for you.

Interesting side note:

Several guys have reported getting huge pumps in their legs and DOMS – Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness – after doing “just” Clean + Presses.

Why some can feel their legs and others can’t I can only guess:

[1]  Better “mind-muscle” connection – able to use their muscles more because they’re aware of what they should be using

[2]  Better technique – which empowers them to use that “mind-muscle” connection and actually use more of their muscles when they lift on both the Clean AND the Press

[3]  Stronger / Using heavier weights – which will be more challenging on the body as a whole

At the end of the day, whether or not Clean + Presses are “enough” to work YOUR legs is entirely up to you, based upon YOUR goals.

One thing’s for sure:

Guys who are serious about getting stronger and leaner with their kettlebells, are embracing the Double Kettlebell Clean + Press as THE go-to minimalist exercise to get them there.

If you want a large variety of leg exercises, along with your single KB Clean + Presses, and want to dump some body fat before the holidays, this program has you covered.


If you’re new to the Double KB Clean + Press, I recommend starting with the “Strong!” program found here.


‘THE GIANT’ is an excellent intermediate and advanced Clean + Press plan found here.


‘THE GIANT X’ is brand new, and uses lots of variety. It’s here.


And finally, if you’re looking to incorporate a large dose of Squatting with your Clean + Presses, here’s the plan for you.


Stay Strong,


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