Game Changing Kettlebell Leg Workout -- For Athletes

ATH - Kettlebell Goblet Squat

KETTLEBELL LEG WORKOUT -- 

Kettlebells are a unique and effective tool for building strength and muscle while improving;

  • Endurance
  • Balance
  • Flexibility
  • Overall Physical Fitness

When it comes to performing at high levels, you MUST have a powerful and well-balanced lower body -- a focal point responsible for your explosiveness, speed, and strength.

An effective weight training routine should be a part of every athlete’s training regime. Squats, leg presses, and plyometrics are all great choices, however we’ve come up with a kettlebell leg workout that’ll help level up your overall athleticism.

Read on for some beneficial information on using kettlebells to train your legs. 

Related: Kettlebell training for BJJ

WORKOUT SETS AND REPS 

Before you jump into this kettlebell leg workout, take a few minutes to warm-up with light physical activity. Get your heart rate up and joints conditioned for the session. 

For this workout, you’ll be performing six types of kettlebell movements before finishing off with three rounds of KB swings. 

Use kettlebells that will push you so you can hit your reps, instead of going til failure. 

EXERCISE

SET 1 REPS

SET 2 REPS

KB Squat/Deficit Squat

15 

20 

KB Goblet Squat 

10-12 

10-12 

KB Single-Leg [RDL]

10-12 

10-12 

KB Squat-Clean [Single-Arm]

10-12

10-12 

KB Side Lunge

12 

12 

KB Turkish Get-Up

2-3 per side

2-3 per side


Complete the workout with three rounds of kettlebell swings.

Round 1 - 15 swings

Round 2 - 12 swings

Round 3 - 8 Swings 


7 KETTLEBELL LEG EXERCISES

Read on for in-depth explanations of each kettlebell exercise.

1. KETTLEBELL SQUAT/DEFICIT

The basic kettlebell squat is beneficial for improving stabilization and balance as well as overall lower body strength with a focus on the;

  • Quads
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes

These aspects of fitness carry over nicely to athletic performance and total-body function.

Kettlebells are taller than dumbbells which means you won’t be able to get the same range of motion depending on how low you usually go. To solve this, stand on two step blocks or something similar so that the kettlebell can lower further down. 

This is often referred to as a deficit movement.

Go heavier on the first set, then lighten the load to complete the second set.

2. KETTLEBELL GOBLET SQUAT

The Goblet squat offers more than just lower-body development.

It teaches proper lifting posture by maintaining thoracic extension -- proper thoracic spine position -- in order to perform the squat safely and effectively. 

This strengthens the scapular muscles (upper rear) and consequently helps to improve posture.

Aside from posture, goblet squats help develop scapular stability -- a crucial component of being able to train heavy...safely.

3. KETTLEBELL SINGLE-LEG RDL

The Romanian deadlift (RDL) has become increasingly popular over the years. It’s a deadlift variation that is less taxing than the conventional deadlift and places an emphasis on the hamstring and glutes which extend the hips.

The lower back/erector spinae also gets worked with this movement.

A benefit of the single-leg RDL is that it transfers greatly to athletic performance. 

You see, during the gait or walking cycle (hip flexion and knee extension), the hamstrings store up elastic energy when all three muscles of the hamstring are fully lengthened at both ends. This occurs before the heel strikes the ground. 

This elastic energy is then released to propel us forward. In theory -- if you strengthen these muscles you will begin to see improvements in your athletic performance. 

The RDL is the perfect exercise for achieving this. It’s also a closed kinetic chain exercise which improves joint stability and maximizes muscle recruitment.

You can use one or two kettlebells for this exercise. 

4. KETTLEBELL SQUAT CLEAN -- SINGLE ARM

The kettlebell squat clean combines the swing, clean, and squat.

This movement focuses on maintaining control and balance -- which applies heavily to contact sports and athletics.

The rotational forces that come with the kettlebell swing is a great example of how the KB clean is beneficial to athletes.

5. KETTLEBELL SIDE LUNGE

Most lower-body exercises involve movement in the sagittal plane (lunges, squats, etc). Therefore, many individuals typically stick with exercises that allow them to move in this plane... but this is limiting.

Lateral movement exercises -- such as the side lunge -- need to be incorporated into leg training to develop the muscles of the upper leg and hips.

These exercises benefit lateral mobility as well as improves joint mobility and stability while preventing injury. 

We have to strengthen ourselves in all areas to be well-rounded.

6. KETTLEBELL TURKISH GET-UP 

The Turkish Get-Up starts from a laying down position and is one of the more advanced kettlebell moves -- not ideal for beginners. 

The goal is to “get-up” into a standing position while holding the KB above your head throughout the movement. Then reversing the movement back into the laying down position.

Make sure to keep your eyes on the kettlebell throughout the movement from start to finish. 

This advanced move improves core strength, mobility, flexibility, as well as coordination. 

7. KETTLEBELL SWING

The kettlebell swing is one of...if not the most effective kettlebell exercise. 

This movement doesn’t just build your posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors), it also hits your core and allows for triple extension

Triple extension is the simultaneous extension of your ankles, knees, and hips. And because the movement is done in an explosive manner, it’s perfect for teaching and maximizing power and athleticism.

This is, after all, how the body moves when performing athletic activities. 

The kettlebell swing is a hip hinge movement so you’re not swinging it with your arms. The swing should come from the thrusting of the hips.

Kettlebell Turkish Get Up

4 REASONS WHY TRAINING LEGS ARE IMPORTANT...

LEGS ARE YOUR FOUNDATION

Collectively stronger than upper body muscles -- your legs are the base for all athletic movements and performance.  Athletic movements start from your feet and move up the kinetic chain -- generating the majority of your power.

BOOSTS HORMONE LEVELS

In a study based on endocrine response to high intensity barbell squats -- the results found that performing compound movements such as squats increased the secretion of testosterone (T), growth hormone (GH) and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). 

These three hormones are key for building muscle and increasing strength.

AIDS IN FAT LOSS

Working larger muscles, such as the ones that make up your legs, require bigger compound movements with higher levels of resistance. These movements expend more energy, resulting in increased levels of calories burned -- which aides in fat loss. 

High intensity training with heavy loads have shown to be effective for optimal calorie-burning.

REDUCES THE RISK OF INJURY

Lastly -- training legs reduces your risk of injury. 

Muscle imbalances, poorly conditioned hamstrings, and a lack of mobility can lead to a variety of issues such as low back pain and ACL injuries. 

Squats, lunges, and deadlifts will help develop your hamstrings, build muscle around weak joints, and help promote stability and mobility.

If you want to perform at a high level -- make leg days a priority.

HOW MANY TIMES PER WEEK SHOULD I TRAIN LEGS AND WHY?

Minimum -- 2x a week. Maximum -- 4x a week. 

We recommend beginners to train legs twice a week and build a strong foundation before increasing leg days. Advanced individuals may train legs up to four times a week depending on their training goals. 

Your legs...like all muscles, need time to rest, repair, and rebuild. There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for effective leg training.

Keep the following strategies in mind...

  • The more frequently you train: The less overall volume you should do per workout session. 
  • The less frequently you train: The more volume you’ll need to effectively stimulate the muscles to cause an adaptation.

Remember… this will vary between individuals. The more advanced you become in your training, the more volume you’ll be able to handle. 

In a study conducted on the relationship between resistance training volume and hypertrophy/strength it was found that muscles performed best with higher volumes and spread out sessions, allowing your muscles the rest they need to repair and rebuild in order to build strength. 

BENEFITS OF ADDING KETTLEBELLS TO MY LEG WORKOUTS?

The uneven weight distribution of the kettlebell is where you maximize all the benefits of the KB. By working with an unstable object you must compensate in many ways in order to perform a functional KB movement.

Kettlebells are a great way to increase aerobic capacity as shown in one significant study by the American Council of Exercise [ACE].

John Porcari, Ph.D., and head researcher at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s Department of Exercise and Sport Science had this to say about kettlebell training... 

When most people think of resistance training, they don’t think of being able to increase the aerobic capacity. Yet, we saw a 13.8 percent increase in aerobic capacity.”  

In the same study, the core muscles saw a 70% boost in strength -- while dynamic balance (in the posterolateral direction) showed a significant improvement

In addition, it was concluded that kettlebell training significantly improved VO2max, leg press, grip strength. 

BOTTOM LINE 

Be prepared to make some awesome gains with this game-changing kettlebell leg workout. It’s the perfect routine for athletes and we hoped you learned a lot about the benefits of each exercise. 

Do it once or twice a week and be sure to perform the movements safely and with proper form. 

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