When you’re focusing on improving your overall fitness, building lower-body strength should be one major item on your to-do list. Adding a kettlebell legs workout to your weekly rotation will make it easy to check off—and you don’t need to stuff it with tons of moves, either.
If you’re looking to create a leg-day routine you can build upon as you get stronger, you’ll want to focus on squat or hinge movements—better yet, work in both, certified personal trainer Morit Summers, owner of Form Fitness Brooklyn, tells SELF. “It’s also a good idea to have movements using both legs, like a squat, and single-leg movements, like a lunge,” she adds. That’s because they train your body in different ways, which is important for strength both inside and outside of the gym. Using both legs to do a move makes it easier to lift heavy and improve absolute strength, and single-leg movements tap into balance and coordination and help you spot—and fix—any muscle imbalances from side to side.
In the workout Summers created for SELF below, you’ll use kettlebells for these kinds of exercises, which work your muscles a little differently than dumbbells thanks to their unique shape. There are just four moves here, and they target every part of your lower body: your quads (the front of your thighs), hamstrings (back of your thighs), hip adductors (inner thighs), hip abductors (outer thighs), and the soleus and gastrocnemius (your calves). They also hit your glutes—it’s hard to really work your legs and not your butt, too.
Because this kettlebell legs workout emphasizes basic movement patterns, it’s a great staple to have as part of your weekly program. “A plan helps keep people on track,” Summers adds. “It helps take the guesswork out of what you should do.” What’s more, repeating a workout week after week provides a good baseline to monitor your progress as you go. Gradually adding more resistance or reps is called progressive overload, and it’s vital for keeping your workout challenging—and your muscles getting stronger. A workout like this one, which focuses on one exercise at a time with solid rest time in between, allows you to lift heavy enough to really see the strength gains you’re after.
But arguably the most important quality of a great go-to workout? You actually like doing it. It feels challenging, yet also inspires you to work and get better at it, Summers says. Hopefully, this routine does just that!
What you need: Two medium-to-heavy kettlebells—the exact weight will depend on your experience and fitness level. Summers says you want to choose one that’s heavy enough so that the last two to three reps of each exercise feel hard, but not impossible to do with proper form. She recommends reassessing after each set and increasing the weight if you need to. “If you could have done five more reps at the weight you were using, grab a heavier weight for the second set,” she suggests. On the other hand, if you can only squeak out five reps at the weight you chose, lighten it up.
- Front Squat
- Suitcase Split Squat
- Single-Leg Deadlift
- Lateral Lunge
- Do 8–10 reps of one exercise, then rest for 1 to 2 minutes. Repeat for 3 to 4 rounds total.
- After doing all your sets of one exercise, move onto the next move.