Author’s Note: There are a TON of different exercises that you can use to build strong quads with when you only have one kettle bell or dumbbell. These five were chosen to provide a full range of options for targeting the multiple quad muscles.
This exercise is fantastic for increasing the stretch of quads and pushing your limits when it comes to time under tension. It’s an easy movement to help drive effort up and can be used as a solid quad finisher or main lift.
If you’re really trying to up your strength and hypertrophy efforts with a unilateral exercise, then single-leg goblet squats are a fantastic variation to try. After you’ve hit depth, stand back up and lockout at the top with a strong quad contraction.
Bulgarian split squats are ridiculously brutal as is, but when you add an ipsilateral load, then you can up their intensity even more. Find a stable base to place your back foot on, then establish a stance width that allows you to achieve depth while keeping the planted leg’s heel down.
Grip the kettle bell in the hand that is on the same side as the foot and keep a light brace throughout the core. Slowly yourself down to full depth, then return to your starting position by thinking about driving through the floor.
An easy exercise to modify with tempos and higher rep sets for additional work. Extend the quad and work on getting the kettle bell as high as possible, then slowly lower back to your starting position.
Contralateral step-ups are a great variation because they demand balance, stability, and strength to produce proper movement mechanics and lower body control. Place the foot firmly on the surface, then step up by thinking about driving the leg down and extending and contracting the quad.
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But if you want to develop the most impressive quads possible, you'd better start rethinking your definition of squats. The classic versions (back and front squats) fail to effectively hit all the muscles that make up the quadriceps.
This makes it more challenging for the rectus memoirs to generate tension and contribute substantially in force production. But when we do lift where our hip doesn't move, such as leg extensions, we can properly train our rectus memoirs and our quads as a whole.
However, there's still room for improvement since the rectus memoirs has a second important action, hip flexion, which doesn't get maximally challenged with leg extensions. That's where the sissy squat shines since it can force the rectus memoirs to both do hip flexion (isometrically) and knee extension, while getting into some higher degrees of length.
With these we can take a basic body weight movement and turn it into an intense quad builder. If you don't have dumbbells, use any kind of extra load, such as a backpack or water jug.
It's best to start light and get comfortable with the movement before adding significant load. Whichever leg is on the side holding the weight will get worked slightly harder since you're resisting rotating that direction.
Setting it up this way is actually harder because the weight ends up being further away from your axis point, making the moment arm longer. If you hold the weight closer to your midline, this is less of an issue compared to the last variation, so try to just bring the weight closer in line with your chest and you might find you work your legs evenly.
Set up with the barbell anchored down low and then have the bar at your chest in a goblet grip. What's cool about this variation is that if you stand further back, the landmine essentially just acts more like a core-challenging hand support than resistance.
But as you move your feet closer and your knees go forward and your torso goes further back, you'll get challenged more by the resistance. If you're struggling with it, you can play around with letting your hips bend too and making it more of a heel-elevated goblet squat.
You'll need to play around with your foot distance, but once you find it you can get a nice arc motion. The landmine arcing motion works really well here because as you bend your knees, and they go down and forward, the bar will follow a similar line.
Get started and just let the band move in front of your shoulders. Dr. Sam Spinelli is a physical therapist, strength coach, and cofounder of Citizen Athletics and E3Rehab.
If your overall goals are fat loss, gaining strength, shaping your lower body or improving your ability to move faster or more efficiently then kettle bell leg exercises are vital. The hamstring muscles attach to the bottom of the pelvis and help to extend the hips and flex the lower legs.
Strengthening the hamstrings is very important to help maintain balance between the front and back of the legs and vital for preventing future injuries. Keep your weight back on your heels and slowly push the hips backwards as you breathe out.
Refrain from using a heavy kettle bell during this exercise and treat it merely as an introduction to hamstring training. 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.
Practicing this tricky kettle bell leg exercise will challenge your balance and core muscles as well as your hamstrings. There are not many muscles that avoid activation during the complete kettle bell swing movement.
Keeping your weight back on your heels rather than your toes will help to further activate the hamstring muscles. 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. 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.
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.
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 quads over the glutes and ultimately a muscle imbalance.
The kettle bell 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 kettle bell 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. You will achieve the same quad, hamstring and glute activation as with the goblet squat but challenge the core muscles a little more than you battle for stability.
As more advanced kettle bell 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. 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 lower body cardio workout from the kettle bell lunge exercise. The kettle bell 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. Work up to a total of 20 alternating reps gently getting deeper into the movement each time.
Just as with the bob and weave the objective is to get as deep as possible to maximize 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. The kettle bell pistol squat is a true strength based exercise that will max out the quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
You can practice by holding onto a door frame, post or using a band or Tax attached in front of you. Move slow and steady on the way down keeping your weight back on your heel.
Holding onto a light kettle bell can help with counterbalance to stop you from rolling backwards. The kettle bell lunge with rotation adds a more functional training element to the exercise.
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. 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 of the great benefits of kettle bell 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.
If your ultimate goals are fat loss then using full body exercises more frequently can be a real game changer. The movement should not be rushed especially from the racked position, with the kettle bell against the chest, to the overhead press exercise.
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 kettle bells can be used. Practice 10 – 15 reps on each side at a medium tempo for a full body workout.
The kettle bell 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 kettle bell up and overhead.
The kettle bell snatch is a big full body movement that also works into the hamstrings and glutes. A good quality kettle bell swing as well as being comfortable with the overhead press will certainly help.
As a very dynamic exercise the kettle bell moves at a good pace from top to bottom so expect your heart rate to rise quickly. The legs and buttocks are the strongest muscles in the body so often you need to use two kettle bells in order to really challenge them.
Using two kettle bells 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. The kettle bells 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. The double kettle bell clean, squat and press is the ultimate full body exercise.
Depending on your goals you can perform lower reps with a heavier kettle bell e.g. You can either repeat the same leg circuit for a total of 2 – 4 sets or change exercises each round.
Training your lower body using kettle bells is a great choice for fat loss, adding muscle, gaining strength, improving movement skills as well as preventing future injuries. Kettle bell swings are considered one of the best hip hinge exercises and similar to the traditional dead lift.
More emphasis is placed on the posterior chain using the kettle bell swing, these muscles include the hamstrings, glutes, back and hips. Everyone recovers from exercise differently but if the intensity and your overall well-being match you can train with kettle bells every day.