Kettlebell Exercises for Legs

Kettlebells have begun to replace dumbbells in most weight training workouts.

Kettlebells have begun to replace dumbbells in most weight training workouts.

A kettlebell is a classic piece of Russian weightlifting equipment that has enjoyed a surge of popularity across the country. Kettlebells come in a variety of weights, from very light to very heavy. Much like dumbbells, they allow you to add resistance and weight training to almost any workout. Although kettlebells are held in your hands, you can use them in a variety of ways to increase your leg strength.

Basic Squats

Squats are one of the best exercises for legs, with or without a kettlebell. Learning and performing a basic squat can increase strength in your thighs and glutes. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with your feet either facing straight ahead or turned out slightly, whichever is most comfortable for you. Hold the kettlebell in front of you at your chest level with your arms bent so the bell is close to your chest. The handle can be turned either up or down. Inhale and slowly lower yourself as close to the ground as you can go or until your legs are bent to about 90 degress. You must keep your feet flat and your back straight during the squat. Make sure your descent is controlled. Go as low as you can. If you have never performed a squat before, try to get at least near a sitting position. Stay in the squat for five seconds and slowly exhale as you push yourself back up to a start position. Repeat four or five times, increasing repetitions as you improve. As you gain strength, you can vary the weight of the kettlebell, the positioning of your feet and how you hold the kettlebell.

Suitcase Squats

Hold a kettlebell in each of your hands by the handle. Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart. Keep your back straight and let the bells hang at your sides. Let them hang loosely, but maintain a firm grip on the handles. Inhale as you slowly descend into a mid-squat. The kettlebells should land on the floor as your buttocks lower behind your knees. Keep your feet flat on the floor and your back as straight as possible. You will naturally lean forward some in this position. Exhale as you slowly rise back to the starting position. Repeat the squat five to 10 times as your comfort level allows. This exercise develops your quads and glute muscles.

Threaded Kettlebell Lunge

Hold one kettlebell by the handle and let it hang at your side. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with your back straight. In a controlled but fluid motion, place your left foot behind you several feet so your right leg bends almost perpendicular to your body. As you descend, pass the kettlebell through your legs to your other hand. Return to your start position and repeat, placing your right leg behind you, lunging with your left leg and passing the kettlebell back through your legs. Do not hold the lunge, but instead stand and lunge in a controlled, yet continuous motion. This works your quads, hamstrings and glute muscles. Repeat five to 10 times and increase speed and repetitions as your leg strength increases.


A kettlebell swing is a classic kettlebell exercise that works both your core and your leg muscles. Stand with your legs as wide apart and straight -- without locking your knees -- as is comfortable and place the kettlebell on the ground in front of you. Reach over and grab the kettlebell with an overhand grip with both hands. Pick up the kettlebell and swing it in a controlled but fluid motion between your legs so the kettlebell goes under or slightly behind your buttocks. Reverse the kettlebell's motion and swing it while moving into a standing position so it reaches your head level in front of you with your arms extended fully. This swing outward should produce a thrusting motion that works out your glutes and hamstrings at the same time. Repeat the exercise 10 times, and increase repetitions as your comfort level allows.

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About the Author

Michelle Hogan is a writer and the author of 13 books including the 2005 bestselling memoir, "Without a Net: Middle Class and Homeless (With Kids) in America." Hogan studied English at American University and has been writing professionally since 1998. Her work has appeared in "The New York Times," "Redbook," "Family Circle" and many other publications.

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