10 Effective Kettlebell Exercises to Work Your Butt and Legs

If you’ve been thinking about using kettlebells but have been a little nervous to pick one up, you’re not alone. “Kettlebells definitely can look intimidating! I mean, they’re literally cannonballs with handles,” says Lore McSpadden, certified personal trainer and owner of Positive Force Movement, a gym in Rochester, New York, that’s committed to working with people who have historically not felt welcomed by the fitness industry. McSpadden says while not everyone absolutely has to use every type of strength-training equipment, for some, getting past that first bit of kettlebell intimidation can be motivating.

“I have, time and again, seen people who were initially intimidated by kettlebells develop familiarity with various kettlebell movements, and then, from there, expertise. The process of going from intimidation to expertise is incredibly empowering,” McSpadden says, adding that when you think about it, that sort of growth is what we take with us from the gym into real life. “To embark on such a journey inevitably increases a person’s awareness of their self-efficacy, which builds a healthy self-regard that will be there for them whenever they encounter intimidating conversations or situations in life outside of the gym.”

Plus, that cannonball with handles is a quite useful tool. “The kettlebell is an excellent option for many people who are interested in building strength, conditioning, and/or mobility safely and sustainably,” McSpadden says. It’s best known for its use in explosive movements—like the kettlebell swing—that help you build strength and power while increasing your heart rate at the same time.

If you’re hoping to add kettlebells to your routine, these lower-body kettlebell exercises below are a great place to start. While they specifically target muscles in your lower half—like the glutes, hamstrings, and quads—they also recruit other muscle groups throughout your body. Specifically, your core has to engage throughout to keep your body stable as you do these compound movements.

As you do these lower-body kettlebell exercises, always keep form top of mind and listen to your body. “Prioritize quality over quantity,” McSpadden says. “Only train with weights that enable you to use safe form and technique. If you have a rep that is noticeably slower than the previous reps or that doesn’t feel as engaged, end the set. There isn’t a rep or a weight in the world that is worth injuring yourself over.” Those are good words to live by when it comes to any exercise or workout!

1. Kettlebell Goblet Squat

  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes slightly turned out, holding the kettlebell by the bell, with both hands, at your chest.
  • Engage your core and keep your chest lifted and back flat as you shift your weight into your heels, push your hips back, and bend your knees to lower into a squat.
  • Drive through your heels to stand and squeeze your glutes at the top for 1 rep.

Targets the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and core.

2. Kettlebell Deadlift

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, holding a kettlebell with both hands by the handle, arms relaxed in front of your body.
  • Hinge at your hips, bend your knees slightly, and push your butt back to perform a deadlift, slowly lowering the weight down toward the ground.
  • Pause at bottom, then slowly stand back up to return to starting position. Squeeze your glutes at the top. This is 1 rep.

Targets the glutes, hamstrings, and core.

3. Kettlebell Squat Clean

  • Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart with a kettlebell on the floor between your feet. Bend your knees and push your hips back to lower and grab the kettlebell with both hands by the top of the handle.
  • Drive through your heels to stand as you pull the weight up to your chest. In the same upward movement, quickly swap your hands from the handles to the bell.
  • Immediately lower into a squat, shifting your weight into your heels and pushing your hips back as you bend your knees.
  • Drive through your heels to stand and squeeze your glutes at the top.
  • Reverse the movement by switching your hands back to the kettlebell handle and lowering the weight back down to the floor, bending your knees and pushing your hips back to keep your spine straight. This is 1 rep.

Targets the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and core.

4. Kettlebell Racked Squat

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes turned out slightly, holding a kettlebell in each hand at your shoulders. Hold the weights by the handles, using an overhand grip so that your palms are facing forward and the bells are resting on your shoulders.
  • Engage your core and keep your chest lifted and back flat as you shift your weight into your heels, push your hips back and bend your knees to lower into a squat.
  • Drive through your heels to stand and squeeze your glutes at the top for 1 rep.

Targets the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and core.

5. Double-Kettlebell Deadlift

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent, holding a kettlebell in each hand by the handle, arms relaxed by your sides with your palms facing each other.
  • Hinge at your hips, bend your knees slightly, and push your butt back to perform a deadlift, slowly lowering the weights down toward the floor.
  • Pause at bottom, then slowly stand back up to return to starting position. Squeeze your glutes at the top. This is 1 rep.

Targets the glutes, hamstrings, and core.

6. Kettlebell Swing

  • Make a triangle with the kettlebell and your feet, with your feet at the bottom of the triangle and the kettlebell about a foot in front of you at the top of the triangle.
  • With a soft bend in your knees, hinge forward at your hips, push your butt back, and grab the handle with both hands. Tilt the bell on its side, handle toward your body.
  • Hike the bell high up in your groin area (your wrists should touch high on your inner thigh) and thrust your hips forward aggressively so that at the top of the swing, you are essentially in a standing plank, looking straight ahead, squeezing your core, glutes, and quads.
  • Once the bell reaches about chest height (and not above shoulder height), hinge forward at your hips and push your butt back again, letting the bell drop on its own as you do. You should not feel like you’re using your arms to lift anything. Let your eyes, head, and neck follow so that you don’t strain your neck. This is 1 rep.
  • When you’re done with all of your reps, perform a back swing: Bring the bell through your legs, but instead of thrusting your hips forward to bring it to shoulder level, safely place it back on the floor.

Targets the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and core.

7. Alternating Single-Arm Kettlebell Swing

  • It’s best to master the two-handed kettlebell swing first before attempting this move. You may also find when first learning this move that you want to start with a lighter weight. By handling the weight with only one hand at a time, you’re demanding more stability from your core.
  • Make a triangle with the kettlebell and your feet, with your feet at the bottom of the triangle and the kettlebell about a foot in front of you at the top of the triangle.
  • With a soft bend in your knees, hinge forward at your hips, push your butt back, and grab the handle with your right hand. Tilt the bell on its side, handle toward your body.
  • Hike the bell high up in your groin area (your wrists should touch high in your inner thigh) and thrust your hips forward aggressively so that at the top of the swing, you are essentially in a standing plank, looking straight ahead, squeezing your core, glutes, and quads.
  • When the bell reaches about chest height (and not above shoulder height), bring up your left hand and pass the weight to your left hand.
  • Hinge forward at your hips and push your butt back again, letting the bell drop on its own as you do. You should not feel like you’re using your arms to lift anything. Let your eyes, head, and neck follow so that you don’t strain your neck. This is 1 rep.
  • On the next rep, pass the weight back to your right hand. Continue alternating hands with each rep.
  • When you’re done with all of your reps, perform a back swing: Bring the bell through your legs, but instead of thrusting your hips forward to bring it to shoulder level, safely place it back on the floor.

Targets the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and core.

8. Kettlebell Racked Split Squat

  • Start standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a kettlebell in each hand at your shoulders. Hold the weights by the handles, using an overhand grip so that your palms are facing forward and the bells are hanging down and resting on your shoulders.
  • Step forward about 2 feet forward with your left foot and plant it firmly on the floor. Bend both knees until your left quad and right shin are approximately parallel to the floor. Your torso should lean slightly forward so your back is flat and not arched or rounded. Your left knee should be above your left foot and your butt and core should be engaged.
  • Push through the heel of your left foot to return to the starting position. That’s 1 rep.
  • Do all your reps on one side, then repeat with the other leg forward.

Targets the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and core.

9. Single-Arm Racked Curtsy Lunge

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your left hand on your left hip. Hold a kettlebell in your right hand in the racked position at your shoulders, gripping the weight by the handle, using an overhand grip so that your palm is facing forward and the bell is hanging down and resting on your shoulder.
  • Step your left foot diagonally behind you and lower your left knee until it almost touches the floor. Your front knee should bend to about 90 degrees, or as far as your mobility allows.
  • Drive through your right heel to stand back up and return to the starting position. That’s 1 rep.
  • Do all your reps on one side, then repeat with the other leg, holding the kettlebell in the other hand.

Targets the glutes, quads, hamstrings, inner thigh muscles (hip adductors), and core.

10. Kettlebell Tactical Lunge

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a kettlebell in your right hand by the handle, arm resting comfortably by your side.
  • Step back (about 2 feet) with your right foot, landing on the ball of your right foot and keeping your heel off the ground.
  • Bend both knees to create two 90-degree angles with your legs. In this position, your shoulders should be above your hips and your chest should be upright, with a slight forward lean of the torso so that your back is flat and not arched or rounded forward. Your left shin should be perpendicular to the floor and your left knee should be stacked above your left ankle. Your butt and core should be engaged.
  • While you are lowered in the lunge position, pass the kettlebell underneath your front (left) knee and hand it off to your left hand.
  • Push through the heel of your left foot to return to standing.
  • Then, step your left foot back into a reverse lunge, and pass the weight from your left hand to your right.
  • Push through the heel of your right foot to return to standing. This is 1 rep.
  • Continue alternating sides and passing the weight underneath your legs each time.

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