If your overall goals are fat loss, gaining strength, shaping your lower body or improving your ability to move faster or more efficiently then Kettlebell exercises for the legs are vital.
Research shows that exercises focused on the lower body have more of a carryover to the upper body that upper body exercises do to the lower body.
So if you have the choice, working on your lower body will have a bigger impact on your overall health than upper body exercises.
With this in mind lets explore kettlebell exercises for legs:
Kettlebell Exercises for Legs | The Hamstrings
You can think of the legs as being divided into two halves, the front and the back. At the back of the legs you have 3 long muscles collectively named the hamstrings.
The hamstring muscles attach to the bottom of the pelvis and help to extend the hips and flex the lower legs.
From a movement perspective the hamstrings are the body’s natural brakes. When you run downhill or need to slow down or stop it’s your hamstring that work to achieve this.
The hamstrings can also work to help stabilise and control the pelvis when other muscles don’t function correctly, which can be a common reason why many people suffer from tight hamstrings.
Strengthening the hamstrings is very important to help maintain balance between the front and back of the legs and vital for preventing future injuries.
Here are 5 kettlebell exercises for legs you can use to strengthen your hamstrings:
1 Kettlebell Good Morning
The kettlebell good morning exercise is a great beginners exercise for feeling how the hamstrings function as well as strengthening them at the same time.
The back should be kept nice and flat from buttocks all the way up to the shoulders.
Keep your weight back on your heels and slowly push the hips backwards as you breathe out.
You will feel the hamstrings lengthen.
Only go down as far as your hamstring will allow before you start to lose the flatness of your back.
Refrain from using a heavy kettlebell during this exercise and treat it merely as an introduction to hamstring training.
Perform between 5 – 10 reps at a slow tempo as practice or as a warm up.
Watch the Kettlebell Good Morning video below:
Kettlebell Single Arm Deadlift
The kettlebell single arm deadlift is the perfect introduction into kettlebell training and will help you to master the all important hip hinge movement.
Just as with the kettlebell good morning exercise the back needs to stay flat throughout the entire exercise.
Movement up and down is generated by pushing the hips backwards and hinging at the hips rather than the lower back.
As a fundamental movement pattern, the single arm deadlift uses most of the muscles in the body and so is great for all types of training from fat loss to building muscle.
Due to the high amount of muscle activation used for this exercise you can expect to lift some quite substantial loads, so don’t be afraid to increase the weight once you have mastered the movement.
Perform 6 – 12 reps on each side at a medium tempo.
Watch the Kettlebell Single Arm Deadlift video below:
Want more? See 7 Kettlebell Deadlift Variations
3 Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlift
The kettlebell single leg deadlift exercise is a personal favourite hamstring exercise of mine.
Practicing this tricky kettlebell leg exercise will challenge your balance and core muscles as well as your hamstrings.
Again the back needs to be kept flat throughout the entire exercise and all movement needs to come from a hinging at the hips.
Be sure to hold the kettlebell in the opposite hand as the leg you are standing on.
Slowly hinge at the hips as you move downwards towards the floor. If your hamstrings are tight then you may need to stop before the kettlebell touches the ground.
Try to keep your hips as square as possible and avoid rotating at the hips during the exercise.
Practice 5 slow and deliberate reps on each side.
Watch the Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlift video below:
Want More? See How to Master the Single Leg Deadlift
4 Kettlebell Two Handed Swing
The kettlebell swing is the ultimate full body kettlebell exercise and works particularly heavily into the hamstring muscles.
There are not many muscles that avoid activation during the complete kettlebell swing movement.
The bottom of kettlebell swing involves a deceleration of the kettlebell by the hamstrings as they work eccentrically (lengthening rather than contracting).
As with the last 2 kettlebell leg exercises the back is kept flat throughout and all hinge movement comes from the hips rather than the lower back.
Keeping your weight back on your heels rather than your toes will help to further activate the hamstring muscles.
Practice 10 reps before resting and work up to 20 reps per set.
Watch the Kettlebell Two Handed Swing video below:
5 Kettlebell Windmill
The kettlebell windmill exercise is a tricky movement that adds strength and stability to the shoulders and core muscles but also works deep into the hamstring muscles.
The back leg is kept straight for this exercise but the front leg can have a slight bend when you first begin.
Keep the top arm locked out throughout the movement with the focus always kept on the kettlebell.
Again weight is kept on the heels rather than the toes as you push the hips backwards and descend towards the floor.
Don’t force your way to the floor if your hamstrings and hips are too tight. You can begin with the just touching the front knee, then the ankle and finally the floor.
When you can reach the opposite foot with good technique then you know you have great mobility in your hips and flexibility in the hamstrings.
Practice 5 slow and controlled reps on each side.
Watch the Kettlebell Windmill video below:
Want more? See How to Master the Kettlebell Windmill
Kettlebell Exercises for Legs | The Quadriceps
The Quads are the muscles on the front of the thighs, known as quads because there are 4 of them.
Just like the hamstring muscles they attach to the bottom front of the pelvis and help flex the hips and extend the lower leg.
The Quadriceps, on many people, tend to be disproportionately stronger than the hamstrings and can therefore affect the position of the pelvis resulting in a forward tilt.
All standing quadricep exercises will involve activation from both the hamstrings and the quads because unlike the hamstring exercises they will involve a bending at the knee.
So in many ways you get “more bang for your buck” with quadricep exercises but avoiding hamstring specific exercises would be a mistake due to the overriding strength of the quads over the hamstrings.
One final point about quadricep training.
A 90 degree bend in the knee is important for many exercises to also activate the glutes or buttock muscles. Failure to move through this 90 degree range can result in an over dominance of the the quads over the glutes and ultimately a muscle imbalance.
Below are 8 kettlebell exercises for legs and the Quadriceps:
6 Kettlebell Goblet Squat
The kettlebell goblet squat is the ultimate beginners leg exercise and involves activation of the quads, hamstring and glutes.
Squatting down so the thighs are at least parallel with the floor will ensure that the buttock muscles are activated fully.
As with the hamstring exercises keeping your weight back on your heels rather than your toes will ensure better activation of the leg muscles.
For many people this natural squatting movement is challenging so practicing without a kettlebell first, holding onto a post or back of a chair can also be helpful.
Remember to keep the chest and rib cage lifted throughout the movement.
Practice 10 reps at a medium tempo.
Watch the Kettlebell Goblet Squat video below:
Want more? See 7 Kettlebell Squats You Need to Know
7 Kettlebell Racked Squat
The kettlebell racked squat takes the goblet squat to the next level loading the one side of the body with the kettlebell.
You will achieve the same quad, hamstring and glute activation as with the goblet squat but challenge the core muscles a little more as you battle for stability.
As more advanced kettlebell athletes will know the racked squat provides a beautiful segue into so many other exercises like the thruster, snatch, one handed swing, clean, high pull, lunge and more.
Practice 10 medium tempo reps on each side.
Watch the Kettlebell Racked Squat video below:
8 Kettlebell Racked Reverse Lunge
The kettlebell lunge makes the transition from a two legged quads exercise to a more single leg dominant exercise.
The quads are heavily worked during the lunge as well as the glute muscles.
The lunge offers a more intensive kettlebell exercise for legs that is not only great for shaping and developing the legs but also practical for movements in daily life and sports.
The reverse lunge is the easier of the lunge variations followed by the forward lunge.
You will also achieve some great hamstring activation from the kettlebell lunge too as the hamstrings work to stop the bottom part of the exercise.
Try to kiss or get as close as possible with the back knee to the floor in order to fully activate all the muscles involved and also maintain good mobility in the hips.
You will also achieve a surprisingly good cardio workout from the kettlebell lunge exercise.
Practice 6 – 12 steady controlled reps on each side.
Watch the Kettlebell Racked Reverse Lunge video below:
Want more? See 16 Kettlebell Lunge Variations
9 Kettlebell Bob and Weave
The kettlebell bob and weave is our first lateral moving leg exercise and serves as a great introduction into training sideways (frontal plane).
It is important to keep the chest up and rib cage lifted throughout the movement to prevent straining the back muscles.
Keep your weight on the heels as much as possible to fully activate the quads.
Take your time to move deeper and deeper into the movement to further activate the quad muscles and open up the hips.
Work up to a total of 20 alternating reps gently getting deeper into the movement each time.
Watch the Kettlebell Bob and Weave video below:
10 Kettlebell Side Lunge
The kettlebell side lunge progresses on from the bob and weave exercises and provides a far more aggressive leg exercise.
Just as with the bob and weave the objective is to get as deep as possible to maximise activation of the quads and glutes.
Again keeping your weight back on your heels rather than the toes will help to further activate the leg and buttock muscles.
Practice 5 reps on each side keeping the chest up and working on increasing the depth of the movement.
Watch the Kettlebell Side Lunge video below:
11 Kettlebell Pistol Squat
The kettlebell pistol squat is a true strength based exercise that will max out the quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
You will also need good core strength, mobility and cardio in order to perform a series of good quality repetitions.
I recommend everyone practice the pistol squat without a kettlebell first.
You can practice by holding onto a door frame, post or using a band or TRX attached in front of you.
Move slow and steady on the way down keeping your weight back on your heel.
Holding onto a light kettlebell can help with counterbalance to stop you from rolling backwards.
Practice single or double reps before changing legs.
Watch the Kettlebell Pistol Squat video below:
12 Kettlebell Lunge with Rotation
The kettlebell lunge with rotation adds a more functional training element to the exercise.
Adding a twist into the kettlebell lunge requires more control as the back knee needs to remain suspended above the ground as you twist the upper body.
Holding the knee above the floor during the twist adds an isometric part to the movement making it a lot more challenging and fatiguing on the quads and glutes.
It is important to take your time as you move through the exercise and not rush the rotational element.
Practice the movement by alternating sides as you lunge forwards with the opposite leg.
Watch the Kettlebell Lunge with Rotation video below:
13 Kettlebell Double Lunge
The ultimate leg burner is the kettlebell double lunge.
Fundamentally this kettlebell lunge exercise involves you performing both a forward lunge and a reverse lunge without you putting you foot down and resting in between movements.
Due to the seamless transitions between the movements you will find this exercise very cardiovascular as well as fatiguing on the legs.
As with all lunge exercises keep your chest up and focus on getting your knee as close to the floor as possible.
One repetition counts as both forwards and backwards. Work up to 10 full repetitions on both sides.
Watch the Kettlebell Double Lunge video below:
Full Body Kettlebell Exercises for Legs
One of the great benefits of kettlebell training is that you can activate over 600 muscles with certain exercises so not only are you working the legs but the rest of the body too.
Full body kettlebell exercises save a huge amount of time and teach the body to move in one fluid movement.
If your ultimate goals are fat loss then using full body exercises more frequently can be a real game changer.
Also look out for the cardiovascular demands that are required to complete some of these exercises. You will feel your heart rate increase rather quickly!
Here are 4 kettlebell exercises for legs that work the full body too:
14 Kettlebell Clean & Press
The kettlebell clean and press takes the kettlebell on a journey from the floor to the very top position and back down again.
You will connect both the legs and the upper body via the core during this kettlebell exercise.
The movement should not be rushed especially from the racked position, with the kettlebell against the chest, to the overhead press exercise.
Not only will the clean and press work into the legs and glutes but also your cardio will be challenged too.
The overhead element of the exercise will limit the amount of weight you can use but the overhead press can be made slightly easier by using the legs and a push press.
Practice 5 – 10 reps on each side.
Watch the Kettlebell Clean and Press video below:
Want more? See How to Master the Kettlebell Clean
15 Kettlebell Thruster
The kettlebell thruster is a very challenging exercise for all areas of the body.
Not only are the legs worked during the squatting portion of the exercise but the core and upper body is also challenged together with your cardio.
Practitioners should master the racked squat exercise first before adding the pressing element onto the movement.
As the overhead pressing part of the exercise is facilitated by the momentum of the squat, heavier kettlebells can be used.
Practice 10 – 15 reps on each side at a medium tempo for a full body workout.
Watch the Kettlebell Thruster video below:
Want more? See Master the Kettlebell Thruster
16 Kettlebell Lunge and Press
The kettlebell lunge and press is a demanding exercise that not only challenges the quads, hamstrings and glutes but also the core and shoulder too.
The exercise begins in the same way as the regular reverse lunge except as you return to the standing position you drive the kettlebell up and overhead.
Beginners should master the regular lunge first before moving on to this more dynamic variation.
Practice 5 – 10 controlled reps on each side.
Watch the Kettlebell Lunge and Press video below:
17 Kettlebell Snatch
The kettlebell snatch is a big full body movement that also works into the hamstrings and glutes.
This kettlebell exercise can be difficult to learn for some as it involves good timing as well as a degree of confidence to throw the kettlebell overhead.
A good quality kettlebell swing as well as being comfortable with the overhead press will certainly help.
As a very dynamic exercise the kettlebell moves at a good pace from top to bottom so expect your heart rate to rise quickly.
Work up to 10 repetitions before changing hands.
Watch the Kettlebell Snatch video below:
Double Kettlebell Exercises for Legs
If you want to build size and muscle then overloading the legs is important.
The legs and buttocks are the strongest muscles in the body so often you need to use two kettlebells in order to really challenge them.
Using two kettlebells is not always necessary, anyone who has mastered the Pistol Squat can attest to the sheer intensity of this exercise without the need for too much load.
However, certain exercises do lend themselves perfectly to using two kettlebells at the same time.
Below are 4 double kettlebell exercises for legs you can use:
18Double Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlift
The double kettlebell single leg deadlift adds extra load to the regular one kettlebell version while balancing up the body.
You will notice that although there are extra demands on the one leg there is less torque generated during the movement.
Keep the knee bent just slightly throughout the movement and the back flat.
Practice 5 reps on each leg with perfect form.
19Double Kettlebell Lunge
The double kettlebell lunge can be performed either forwards or backwards.
The reverse lunge variation will be slightly easier.
The kettlebells can also be held either down by your sides with arms straight or up in the racked position as shown in the image above.
Remember to lower the back knee carefully towards the floor and work on nice deep lunges in order to activate as many muscles as possible.
Get ready for a serious cardio workout using this exercise too.
Perform 8 – 12 reps on each leg.
20Double Kettlebell Clean, Squat and Press
The double kettlebell clean, squat and press is the ultimate full body exercise.
You will not only activate over 600 muscles of the body but also elevate your heart rate very quickly.
Practice the exercise with one kettlebell and become familiar with the movement before progressing on to the two kettlebell variation.
You also have the option to use your legs a little and perform a push press at the top of the movement rather than a strict overhead press.
Work up to 10 total repetitions before resting and repeating again.
21Double Kettlebell Alternating Clean
The double kettlebell alternating clean is a fast and challenging exercise but one that will certainly work your full body.
Timing is everything with this exercise as you will need to perform a slight knee bend during every clean.
Your glutes and hamstrings will be worked hard and dynamically throughout the movement.
Practice working up to 20 total repetitions before resting and repeating.
Conclusion to Kettlebell Exercises for Legs
Above I have listed 21 kettlebell exercises for the legs.
You can choose between those more targeted towards the hamstrings, the quads, the full body or using two kettlebells.
As with all resistance training be sure to master the movement without a load before adding a kettlebell to the movement.
Training your legs using kettlebells is a great choice for fat loss, adding muscle, gaining strength, improving movement skills as well as preventing future injuries.
Enjoy these kettlebell leg exercises and all the results that they will produce.
Have you tried any of these kettlebell exercises for legs? Let me know below….