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Having tree trunks for legs is undoubtedly one of the biggest flexes! There is nothing more attractive than huge quads, defined hamstrings, lean calves, and developed glutes. Thankfully, kettlebell leg exercises are the solution to all your lower body exercise needs and goals.
So before you grab a pair of kettlebells and start swinging, check out the following workout info to get the pair of leg muscles you have always dreamed of.
If your goal is to build an aesthetic pair of legs, then kettlebells have you covered without needing to break the bank. All you need is one or at max 2 pairs of kettlebells, one heavy kettlebell pair, and one lighter kettlebell pair.
The lighter kettlebells would cater to the kettlebell exercises done with advanced techniques and less stability like the pistol squat and single-leg kettlebell deadlift. These kettlebell leg exercises are more difficult to master and therefore you should use lighter weight in the beginning.
The heavy kettlebell pair would cater to the compound exercises with basic techniques and more stability involved like the kettlebell deadlift, kettlebell pick-up squat, kettlebell goblet squat, and kettlebell Romanian deadlift. These movements have simple techniques and are therefore easier to progressively overload over time with significantly heavier weight.
30-Minute Kettlebell Leg Workouts
Kettlebell Goblet Squats (heavy): 12-15 Reps for Two sets
Kettlebell Squat Clean: 12-15 Reps for Three sets
Kettlebell Sumo Deadlift(Heavy): 10-12 Reps for Two sets
Kettlebell Racked squat: 12-15 Reps for Three sets
Kettlebell Swings: 12-15 Reps for Two sets
kettlebell Reverse Lunge: 10-12 Reps for Three sets
Staggered Deadlift To Power Knee Drive: 12-15 Reps for Two sets
Sumo Squat: 10-12 Reps for Two sets
Rest for 30-90 seconds in between sets to maintain intensity and use moderate to heavy weights for maximum muscle hypertrophy.
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Single vs Double Kettlebell Exercises for Legs
To decide between single and double kettlebell leg exercises, it truly depends on the amount of experience you have and your current situation. If you have progressed from a beginner to an intermediate, it is recommended that you use a kettlebell in each hand for most of your exercises.
However if you are just starting out, you should focus on first learning and understanding the movement patterns of different kettlebell leg exercises instead of weight. Secondly, it depends on what you have available.
Even if you have just one kettlebell, you can still have an excellent kettlebell leg workout routine, with increased sets and reps to make up for the lack of weight.
Lower Body Kettlebell Workouts
If there is one thing that kettlebells train like no other, it’s your lower body. Kettlebells of lighter weight or heavier weight provide great results to strengthen your entire legs, hips, and lower body mobility.
Whether you want to gain some muscle down there, improve cardiovascular endurance, or just strengthen your mobility, kettlebells have got you covered!
Kettlebell Good Morning
Good mornings are an excellent compound movement that mainly targets your entire posterior chain including your hamstrings and glute muscles. The technique for this movement is quite simple for most beginners and it is recommended to first understand the movement by performing the exercise without weight or with minimal weight.
In the starting position, grab a kettlebell and with the handle facing the ceiling, rest it on your traps. When you find a comfortable standing position, bring your feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Focus your entire weight on your heels and push your hips backward allowing your upper body to slowly bend forward.
At this point, you should feel a stretch in your glutes, hamstrings, and even your calves, this is your cue to pause and slowly get into your starting position again. This marks the completion of one rep and should be repeated for 12 to 15 slow reps for a few sets.
Split Stance Glute Bridge
Glute bridges or floor hip thrusts are one of the best kettlebell leg exercises for your glutes and hamstrings. Start by lying on your back flat on the floor with your face towards the ceiling. Bend one of your legs till it creates a sort of 90-degree angle with the floor, keeping the other leg extended.
At this point, you must push your weight through the heel of the leg against the floor, try to push your glutes as high as you can and squeeze them hard and pause at the top of the movement. Slowly lower your body to the starting position and repeat. When you have progressed enough with your bodyweight you may add a kettlebell on your stomach for further added resistance.
Repeat for both sides for a few sets of 12 to 15 reps with the last set being until failure.
The hamstrings if built well can be one of the most aesthetic and practical muscles you can have. They provide great lower-body stability and can be trained with any lower-body exercise. Although most kettlebell exercises like the kettlebell swing train the hamstrings to a decent level, there are options to directly isolate this part.
Also called the Romanian deadlift, this movement is one of the best kettlebell leg exercises for building and strengthening your hamstrings. This is a partial deadlift that focuses only on the top half of the movement, especially on the eccentric to properly load and stretch the hamstrings.
It trains the hamstrings in the lengthened position all in all making it a solid choice. Make sure to perform this exercise with a slow eccentric, allowing yourself to create a strong mind-muscle connection with the feeling of your hamstrings being stretched. Slow eccentrics go a long way in muscle hypertrophy.
Split Stance Deadlift
The split stance deadlift is a great exercise for strengthening and building muscle along the entire posterior chain. The main difference between this movement and a regular conventional deadlift is that in this one foot rests slightly behind the other. This makes the entire exercise look like a sort of forward lunge movement.
Start by standing upright with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width, with heavy kettlebells on each side. Grab the kettlebells and deadlift them like you would pick up a trap bar. Then move one of your feet slightly back into a comfortable position, after which you lower yourself straight down like you would in a Bulgarian split squat position. After this, go straight up in an explosive manner, this completes one rep.
Chris Bumstead might have called it “cheating” but he was talking about barbells. As for kettlebells, the kettlebell sumo deadlift is one of the best kettlebell leg exercises to build your glute muscles and hamstrings!
This is just like your ordinary barbell sumo deadlift. Start with a heavy kettlebell in front of you and open up your legs as wide as comfortably possible with your toes slightly turned outwards, which will help you maintain stability during the movement. It should be noted that the wider the stance, the more your legs will be biased.
After you find a comfortable position, bend your knees allowing your body to go straight down, grab the kettlebell with an overhand grip, and explosively go straight up to the starting position. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement and maintain a neutral back throughout the entire exercise.
Staggered Deadlift and Power Knee Drive
The staggered deadlift is one of the best movements for increasing core stability and building strength and muscle mass in the hamstrings and glutes. This movement works best when most of the weight lies on the front and back legs just to help keep you upright and stable.
Start in a standing position holding a kettlebell with both hands by the top of the handle. Position your feet in a staggered position, the front leg will be the one doing most of the work, and your back leg should be on its tiptoes to keep you from falling over. Begin the exercise by hinging at your hip, letting your upper body lean forward as you push your hips back while keeping a flat back.
Move back up into your starting position in an explosive manner and repeat for the desired amount of sets and reps. Make sure to first perform this exercise without weight and understand the technique and movement, this will prevent you from falling over when you do it with heavier weights.
The second part of this movement is the power knee drive, which is essentially driving your knee up until your hamstrings are parallel to the ground. This is great for building explosive power in your lower body, and adding weight, and another movement like the staggered deadlift is a great way to create muscular endurance and save time.
Double Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlift
Another good option that is slightly advanced and better if you only have lighter kettlebells available is the single-leg kettlebell deadlift. The technique for this is that you have to keep one of your legs elevated during the entire movement, keeping the entire load on only one leg. This movement is also elite for strengthening your core muscles.
It is highly recommended you first start this exercise with one lighter kettlebell and then progress to one light kettlebell in each hand. Getting carried away and using too much weight too soon could lead to you falling over and potentially getting injured. Avoid this by being patient with the weight you use.
Kettlebell Goblet Squats
You only need a few slightly advanced kettlebell exercises to build yourself a great pair of legs. One of them is the Goblet squat which is one of the best and is known for its versatility to hit all parts of your legs including the glutes, quads, hamstrings as well as calves. The beauty of goblet squats is that they are also a core exercise and you easily progressively overload your leg muscles with them over time.
The kettlebell goblet squat, like others, has quite a simple technique that most can easily follow. You start with your feet slightly apart shoulder width with the kettlebell held at chest height and elbows tucked into your stomach.
The next step is to brace with your core and squat straight down as deep as comfortably possible. The goal is to feel a good stretch on your quads and glutes before standing up in an explosive manner.
A side note and tip is to keep your back straight during this exercise and also elevate your heels by putting something like a small weight plate under them, this helps with ankle mobility and shoulder stability and allows you to squat deeper.
Kettlebell Racked Squat
The kettlebell racked position squat is a great complete lower body exercise that targets your core, hamstrings, glutes, quads, calves, and lower back muscles. The technique is similar to an ordinary goblet squat, the only difference is the placement of the kettlebells and that this is a double kettlebell exercise.
Start in a standing position, holding a kettlebell in each hand from the top of its handle, such that the bottom part rests on your forearms and in front of your shoulders. With your core muscles engaged, go straight down into a squat position as deep as comfortably possible, keeping a solid focus on the stretch and mind-muscle connection.
After this, explode straight up into your initial starting position and repeat for 12-15 reps for a few sets. Bonus points if you keep your heels slightly elevated! This will allow you to squat deeper which will bias the quads significantly more. Try using small weight plates under your heels to achieve this efficiently.
Kettlebell Pistol Squat
The pistol squat is one of the most advanced movements in bodyweight training. Very few experienced athletes can perform this exercise with proper form. To perform this movement without any added resistance is a true feat of strength, to add a kettlebell into the mix is even rarer!
This movement requires good single-leg strength, mobility, balance, and motor control. Start with your feet around shoulder width apart. Squat down on one of your legs, keeping the other extended in front of you, making sure that you flex your knee and sit back on your hips. The kettlebell should remain in front of your chest throughout.
Hold the position for a few seconds, and then use your heels to drive back up to a standing position. You should focus your weight on your heels and try to keep your feet flat and back straight, a good cue to practice this is to learn how to brace properly.
Kettlebell Pick Up Squats
The kettlebell pick-up squat is essentially a clean movement into a squat. Just like a barbell squat clean, the same technique applies here. With your feet shoulder-width apart and a kettlebell in front of you, grab and pull the kettlebell to the rack position in an explosive manner by bending your knees to go down.
The only added step here is that when you clean the weight, you must go under the kettlebell into a squat like you would in a barbell squat clean. This exercise is great for training your entire lower body as well as your speed, explosive power, and agility.
Kettlebell Racked Reverse Lunge
Lunges have many variations and are very popular for the plethora of benefits they bring. They help strengthen single-leg strength, and mobility and also increase core strength. One of the best variations is the racked position reverse lunge.
Start by holding two kettlebells from the top of their handles in the racked position such that the weight rests on your forearms. Stand with your feet at around hip-width apart.
To initiate the movement, simply take a step backward allowing your knee to bend just enough that it almost touches the floor, and return to your original position. Keep your core and glutes engaged during the whole movement and try to keep it slow and controlled for maximum efficiency.
Start by holding two kettlebells from the top of their handles keeping them on the sides of your body and stand with your feet at around hip-width apart.
Start the rep by simply taking a step forward allowing your knee to bend just enough so that it almost touches the floor, and return to your original position. Keep your core and glutes engaged during the whole movement and try to keep it slow and controlled for maximum efficiency.
The lateral lunge is just like an ordinary lunge, the only difference lies in the way your leg moves backward. Instead of taking a step directly back as you would normally, you step back to your left or right side. This is a slightly more advanced movement however it only gives the added benefit of increased mobility if trained with proper form.
Backward Lunge (aka Reverse Lunge) Unracked
This movement is the same as the racked backward lunge with the only difference being that in this movement the kettlebells hang freely by your sides.
Simply take a step backward allowing your knee to bend just enough so that it almost touches the floor, and return to your original position. Keep your core and glutes engaged during the whole movement and try to keep it slow and controlled for maximum efficiency.
Kettlebell Two-Handed Swing
One of the most famous and versatile movements in kettlebell workouts is none other than the full kettlebell swing or two-handed swing. The reason for the popularity of this movement is that it targets almost the entire body like a compound movement from your shoulders to your lower back but mainly your entire lower body.
The swing consists of two main movements, the hinge forward, and the thrust. The first step is to stand upright holding the kettlebell with its handle, keeping your feet around shoulder width apart. Next is to bend in a hinged manner to let the weight freely glide backward between your legs, at this point, you should feel a good stretch in your hamstrings and glutes.
This stretch is basically the green light for you to thrust the kettlebell in front of you, pushing with your glutes. You should note that at this point your arms should be loose allowing the weight to move freely in front of you after which you return to the original starting position.
Are there common mistakes people make when adding a kettlebell to leg exercises?
There are not really any serious mistakes that people can make when implementing kettlebell leg exercises into their routines, only small mistakes like over-training or compromising on form.
Most kettlebell leg workouts and exercises are full-body movements, meaning that aside from your legs, they train your lower back, core muscles, and also shoulders. This means that if you have an intense kettlebell leg workout, chances are you might have a sore upper body the next day.
This becomes a problem when you train your already sore upper body the next day, this kind of overtraining can reduce efficiency and can even set you back multiple weeks of progress with an injury. It is recommended to only train with kettlebells three times a week for maximum efficiency, and also not to train your upper body without optimal rest periods between workout sessions which is 48 hours.
Another mistake beginners and even intermediates often make is compromising on form to lift a heavier weight. Not using the proper form can lead to minor and major injuries which is just not worth the little flex of lifting a heavier weight. Use a decent weight during workouts and train hard for efficient and effective training.