If Mr. Nestie teases you about those chicken legs, it may be time to hoist a kettlebell and add some Olympic 100-meter-medalist muscles on those bones. In the process, you’re going to get stronger glutes and a more powerful lower back, so get ready to look like a goddess of sprinting. Or at least a version of yourself looking strong and sassy, with well-toned legs that look shapely in shorts or yoga pants.
Your leg-strengthening program depends on eventually working with heavy weights -- if not at the beginning, then as you get stronger. Many kettlebell exercises can be done with two medium-weight KBs -- as physical trainers call them -- instead of one heavy one, which should help your legs get bigger, certified KB instructor Mike Mahler notes. Go for eight to 12 reps, or whatever your trainer or workout buddy recommends. Form is important for many kettlebell swings and lifts, so obtaining expert guidance at one or more training sessions is well worth it.
The squat rules for strengthening and building up your quadriceps, the muscles at the front of the thigh, whether you perform them with your body weight, barbells, dumbbells or kettlebells. Your calves also obtain a good burn doing squats. You can hoist a kettlebell in either hand for the double kettlebell squat or grasp a single KB by the sides of its handle for the goblet squat. You can also perform the overhead rear lunge -- take a short lunge to emphasize the quads rather than the glutes -- or the KB duck walk, which looks like what it sounds like, for the ultimate leg-building challenge.
The mainstay of kettlebell workouts, the swing, works your hamstrings, as these muscles at the back of the thigh propel your body up and forward to pop the kettlebell into the air level with your eyes. Your glutes, lower back and wildly pumping heart will also know plenty about this challenging all-round exercise, which you can perform with one or both arms. Add kettlebell deadlifts, a tiptop hamstrings exercise with barbells as well. Windmills, snatches or cleans can add variety to a workout emphasizing hamstrings.
To strengthen your calves, perform calf raises with a kettlebell in one hand and the other on a bar for support. The raise is the most targeted KB move for the calves, although the Turkish getup and squats also help your lower leg muscles.
Barbell workouts are really the key to increasing leg size, Mahler believes. But kettlebells can certainly also fill a role in leg strengthening, especially for women, who don’t bulk up as much as men because of hormonal differences that affect muscle size. To make the most of your kettlebell session, warm up by lightly jogging for 10 minutes. Wear supportive footwear, stop if you feel dizzy and hydrate well, especially if you do swings, Turkish getups and similarly demanding exercises.
An award-winning writer and editor, Rogue Parrish has worked at the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun and at newspapers from England to Alaska. This world adventurer and travel book author, who graduates summa cum laude in journalism from the University of Maryland, specializes in travel and food -- as well as sports and fitness. She's also a property manager and writes on DIY projects.