Single leg kettlebell exercises should be a part of everyone’s training program but unfortunately are often overlooked.
No matter whether you are a beginner or advanced athlete the use of single leg kettlebell exercises has many advantages.
Below I’ve listed the 5 one legged exercises that you need to know along with the benefits of training on one leg.
5 Benefits of Single Leg Kettlebell Exercises
Everyone can benefit from kettlebell training standing on just one leg, here are 5 reasons why:
- Single leg exercises use lighter kettlebells and so have less chance of causing injury
- Standing on one leg improves muscle stabilisation at the hips, legs and core muscles
- Working the legs one at a time fixes muscle and flexibility imbalances between the left and right sides
- Most sports and movement happens while standing on one leg and so single leg training develops useful strength that overlaps into sports and daily life
- Single leg training enables you to naturally scale up your training by making an exercise more challenging while maintaining a similar movement pattern
With so many benefits from single leg training there is no reason why everyone shouldn’t be including them in their workout programs.
Single Leg Neurological Considerations
One leg workouts are very neurologically demanding meaning that your nervous system will be working hard to deal with your balance, proprioception, the load, stabilisation, muscle activation and more.
As with most workout programming you should place the neurologically demanding exercises first in your program so you are better prepared to deal with the demands of the exercise. Performing single leg exercises at the end of your workout would be a big mistake as your nervous system would already be drained from the previous exercises.
The neurological system takes much longer to recover from an intense workout than the muscular system so be careful not to overdo your single leg workouts.
The harder your workouts, the more recovery you will need.
5 Single Leg Kettlebell Exercises
Below I have listed 5 single leg kettlebell exercises for you to try.
The deadlift, bulgarian lunge and pistol squat can all be practiced without a kettlebell and I recommend all beginners start off this way.
The kettlebell clean and the row should be mastered on two legs before attempting them standing on a single leg.
As with all kettlebell training start off with a lighter kettlebell and add more load as you acclimatise to the exercise.
Here are the 5 single leg kettlebell exercises:
1 Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlift
The kettlebell single leg deadlift is superb exercise for strengthening the buttocks, hips, back and core muscles.
Most importantly the single leg deadlift helps develop a strong connection between the lower body and upper body via the cross body core muscles.
The lower back and core muscles must be kept isometrically fixed while the body pivots at the hips towards the floor and back up again.
Hold the kettlebell in the opposite hand of the leg you are standing on, brace your abs and then by taking your rear leg backwards control yourself to the floor.
Your back and rear leg should form a nice straight line as you pivot.
Be careful not to allow the kettlebell to pull your shoulder down and towards then floor, keep your shoulder back and in its socket.
Keep an eye on your hips too, your rear leg should not be allowed to rotate outwards, focus on pointing your toes towards the floor.
Practice: 5 – 8 reps on each leg is about the right amount for this very important exercise.
Watch the Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlift below:
2 Kettlebell Bulgarian Lunge
The kettlebell Bulgarian lunge is an excellent way for beginners to progress into single leg training.
Place your rear foot onto a step or BOSU ball with your feet wide enough to perform a deep lunge.
If you suffer from toe issues you can also place you rear instep on the step so your foot lies flat.
Beginners should start with a low step of only 6 inches (15 cm) because the hip flexors will be put on stretch at the bottom of the movement.
Holding either a kettlebell in each hand or one in the hand of the foot that is back on the step, drop down into the lunge. Ensure the front knee bends to at least parallel with the floor before pushing back to the top position.
Keep your core pinched tight and chest up throughout the entire exercise.
Practice: work through 8 – 12 reps on each leg and 2 – 4 sets in total.
Watch the Kettlebell Bulgarian Lunge below:
3 Kettlebell Single Leg Clean
The kettlebell single leg clean exercise is a more demanding exercise that requires an ability to perform good quality kettlebell cleans first.
There is an increased demand on the core stabilisers throughout this exercise and the hips and glutes will work hard too.
Hold the kettlebell in the opposite hand to the leg you are standing on.
Pinch your core muscles tight before popping the hips forwards so the kettlebell rises close to the body and ends in the racked position.
Use your free leg to help maintain balance as you clean the kettlebell up and then lower it back to the start position.
Those who are more advanced can add the overhead press to the top of the movement, just be careful not to overextend the hips forwards as you press overhead.
Practice: perform 5 -10 reps on each side, those more advanced can add the overhead press.
Watch the Kettlebell Single Leg Clean below:
4 Kettlebell Single Leg Row
The kettlebell single leg row is an excellent way to increase the demands of the regular row exercise and add in the need for more core stabilisation.
Your core muscles will have to work extra hard as they prevent you from rotating diagonally from shoulder to hip.
Hold the kettlebell in the opposite hand from the leg you are standing on.
Brace your abs as you pull from the elbow up and back towards the hip. Keep your shoulders away from your ears so you do not activate your upper trapezius and neck muscles.
The row should be performed slowly with an emphasis on lowering the kettlebell back to the floor under tension.
Practice: 5 – 10 reps on each side is usually a good range before changing sides.
Watch the Dumbbell Single Leg Row variation below:
5 Kettlebell Pistol Squat
The kettlebell pistol squat is the most demanding of all the single leg exercises but well worth the effort.
You will develop pure strength, mobility, balance and core control from this one exercise.
The exercise, in principle, is simple but in practice it is a lot more difficult. Fundamentally you are performing a single leg squat and using the kettlebell and leg as a counter balance to prevent you from falling backwards.
Beginners should progress through a series of easier exercises before finally using the kettlebell pistol squat.
Learn the 5 beginner progressions here: How to master the kettlebell pistol squat
Watch the Kettlebell Pistol Squat below:
Conclusion to Single Leg Kettlebell Exercises
Single leg exercises are a great way to add many benefits to your workout programs including: improving stabilisation, increasing intensity, fixing muscle imbalances, and making them more practical for sports.
Above I have listed 5 of my favourite single leg exercises for you to try. Always practice the exercises without a kettlebell before gradually adding load.
Always start your workouts with single leg movements because they are more neurologically demanding than two legged exercises and will fatigue your nervous system quicker.
Best of luck and enjoy these exercises.
To see more posts about sports performance, go here.
Have you tried any of these single leg kettlebell exercises? Let me know below….