If you don’t have a home gym or a large space to work with, kettlebells can be incredibly useful for your workouts. Kettlebell workouts typically utilize a small area, and they’re extremely flexible for both upper and lower body leg exercises.
If your goal is to enhance fat loss, gain overall strength, and increase muscle mass, you cannot skip out on leg workouts. Studies have shown that ignoring legs leads to a higher incidence of injury. Furthermore, underdeveloped leg muscles lead to poorer mobility, especially during one’s twilight years.
For this very reason, we’ve come up with ten kettlebell leg exercises that everyone should include in their workouts. We’ve included all types of exercises to sufficiently work out all the major muscle groups in the legs, including the glutes, hams, quads, and calves.
10 Best Kettlebell Leg Exercises
The first and one of the most fundamental exercises is the deadlift. When working out the lower body, you want to include a hinge movement to target the legs’ posterior chain of muscles. This movement is also a crucial part of more advanced ones like swings, snatches, and cleans. Deadlifts are a killer exercise in increasing strength and muscle mass.
To perform a single-arm deadlift, you have to stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, slightly pointing outwards. Your back must remain flat throughout the whole exercise, as the movement will primarily be generated by hinging at the hips, rather than the lower back. With one hand on the kettlebell’s handle, you slowly lower the weight while pushing your hips backward and then hinge at the hips. This movement activates many muscles throughout the body, so you can expect to lift heavier weights with this. Perform this exercise with 6-8 reps on each side at a medium tempo.
A fantastic hamstring workout is a single-leg deadlift. This exercise will challenge your balance and core strength, so you should expect it to be a bit difficult to perform.
As with the single-arm deadlift, you must maintain a flat back, as the lower body, not the lower back, will control the movement. Be sure to hold the kettlebell in the hand opposite to the foot you will be standing on. Slowly hinge the hips as you lower your upper body, ideally parallel to the ground. If you have tight hamstrings, you may not be able to reach this parallel position. Make sure your hips stay square and avoid rotating them. Do six slow and deliberate reps on each leg.
The kettlebell swing is an excellent full-body exercise that works particularly well at activating the hamstrings and the glutes. The movement may seem a bit intimidating at first, but once you master it, it’s incredibly helpful for your whole body, especially the legs.
To perform this exercise correctly, you again must keep your back flat throughout. Your arms must also be straight at the elbow, holding the kettlebell with two hands. The momentum you need to swing the kettlebell up will not so much come from your arms but your hips. The bottom of a kettlebell swing involves the hamstrings decelerating the kettlebell before your hinge pushes the kettlebell back up. Place most of your weight on the heels rather than the toes to prevent from falling over.
You’ll want to get the hang of the movement before you really get into it. Start by practicing 10 reps per set before scaling up to 20. Other people like to perform AMRAPs for a specific amount of time when doing kettlebell swings, so you might want to try that when you master the technique.
One of the ultimate beginner exercises is the goblet squat. This movement activates the glutes, hams, and quads, so you know you’re getting your money’s worth from this exercise. While goblin squats are quite similar to regular squats in the muscles they activate, the position of the weight does make the movement seem a bit awkward at first.
To perform a goblet squat, you have to hold the kettlebell upside down with both hands on either side of the handle. You’ll then grip this weight in front of your chest before squatting down, making sure your thighs are at least parallel to the ground. This ensures that the movement fully activates all the glutes. As with other hamstring exercises, you should keep the weight on your heels to increase your balance.
Remember to keep your chest up and your shoulders down and back throughout. Perform 10 reps at a moderate speed per set.
Kettlebell Racked Squat
The next progression of a goblet squat is the kettlebell racked squat. This movement takes the goblet squat to another level by loading one side of the body. The kettlebell racked squat activates the same muscles as the goblet squat with an added difficulty in engaging your core muscles to maintain stability.
To perform this, you rack a kettlebell by your shoulder, akin to racking a bar for a clean. Holding your other arm out for balance, you then perform a squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. This movement is great preparation if you want to progress to more difficult thrusters, snatches, cleans, and high pulls. For each side, you’ll want to perform 10 reps on medium tempo.
Kettlebell Bulgarian Split Squat
Another key to developing major single-leg strength is the kettlebell rear foot elevated split squat, more commonly known as the Bulgarian split squat. This movement involves holding a kettlebell in both hands, squatting down until your back leg’s knee touches the ground or the front leg is parallel with the floor. Remember to keep your chest up and shoulders down and back to avoid any injuries. This movement is excellent for improving stability and engages your core too. Perform 6 reps per leg per set.
Kettlebell Side Lunge
The next movement will be a lateral one, and that is the kettlebell side lunge. This exercise is sure to tire out your quads and your glutes. You perform this movement by holding a kettlebell upright close to your chest and then making a wide step to the side and down. The deeper you get in your lunge, the more your quads and glutes will activate. Remember to keep your chest up and heels planted to ensure a safe and complete rep. You can perform this exercise by alternating sides, performing up to 20 reps overall.
Kettlebell Lunge with Rotation
The next exercise is the kettlebell lunge with rotation. This movement adds a functional element to your workout with the rotation. Adding this twist to the kettlebell lunge requires more control and balance, as this adds an isometric aspect to it. This makes the movement a lot more challenging, working the quads and the glutes that much more.
To perform it, you hold the kettlebell upright and close to your chest. Make sure to keep your chest up as you lunge forward. When you reach the bottom of the lunge, you will twist your body towards the front leg. You will want to make your movement slow and deliberate, ensuring not to rush during the rotation. Practice this movement and perform 6 reps per side on a slower tempo.
Kettlebell Step Ups
The kettlebell step up is an exceptional starting point towards building single-leg strength. This movement focuses heavily on the quads while indirectly working on the hams, glutes, calves, and core.
To perform the movement, you will need to set up in front of an elevated surface, preferably a riser. Holding a kettlebell in each hand, step onto the riser with one leg. Drive through the front leg and extend the knee as you stand up fully. Slowly lower your rear leg back to the starting position, and perform the movement again. Perform the exercise for 6-8 reps on each side.
Kettlebell Pistol Squat
An advanced single-leg strength exercise is the pistol squat. If you can’t perform an unweighted pistol squat, you’ll want to work on that before moving on to this more advanced technique. This movement involves squatting down on one leg while extending the other in front of you, so a lot of balance and leg strength will be involved. To practice this, you’ll want to hold on to something to keep from falling over.
To perform a kettlebell pistol squat, you first have to pick up a kettlebell, holding it upright in front of your chest. While keeping one leg completely straight, you extend it in front of you while performing a regular squat. Ensure that you’re keeping your weight in the mid-foot or on the heel. When you reach the bottom of the squat, you will pause for 2 to 3 seconds before standing straight again. Keep the entire body tight and under tension throughout the movement.
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