If you’re looking to build muscle then there is absolutely no question that kettlebell squats are one of the best ways to do just that. Not only are kettlebells great for building muscle, but they’ll also give you a lean, ripped, athletic look.
When it comes to kettlebell exercises to build muscle the kettlebell squat is one of the most important exercises that you can do. Apart from the cardio and strength training capacity it possesses, it also helps with functional movements like sitting and bending. Additionally, it reduces your risk of getting injured while performing other exercises, and it strengthens your body.
But as it is with anything, doing the same exercises over and over can get boring. Despite its utility for our everyday lives, sometimes the motivation to keep performing the squat comes from adding a little variety to the mix.
Incorporating a kettlebell into your squat routine can not only inspire you to keep pushing, but it adds a challenge that takes your workout to the next level. Now you are probably wondering how to do kettlebell squats, so let’s go over it.
The question isn’t can you build muscle with kettlebells, it’s what’s the best kettlebell exercise to build muscle.
How do Kettlebells Squats Build Muscle?
A fantastic attribute of the kettlebell squat is that it targets all of your major muscle groups. This exercise will improve your strength and mobility while building muscle mass.
By performing the kettlebell squat a few times a week, you can get results in a shorter amount of time. This is a byproduct of using multiple muscles simultaneously to perform the movement. The muscle activation that you get from the kettlebell squat burns many calories, which equates to fat loss and lean muscle growth.
Another one of the most significant benefits of doing kettlebell squats, strengthening your core, is heightened by adding a kettlebell. Your abs are fully engaged for the duration of the squat in order to maintain proper form.
What Muscles Do Kettlebell Squats Build?
Before you learn how to do kettlebell squats, it helps to know which muscles you’ll focus on. Here’s a quick breakdown of where you’ll feel the burn.
Primary Muscles Worked by Kettlebell Squats
- Tibialis Anterior (the muscle that runs down the front of your leg near your foot)
Secondary Muscles Worked by Kettlebell Squats
- Upper Back
- Lower Back
Doing the Kettlebell Squat
It’s recommended that you’re able to do at least 20 to 30 bodyweight squats before attempting to add a kettlebell.
A 35lb (16kg) kettlebell should suit you well for males that are just starting, though most men can handle more than that. For women, a 26lb (12kg) kettlebell is going to be most effective, though you may be able to go higher over time.
Remember that if it seems like your form is compromised, then you may need to get a lower weight to start with and work your way up gradually. Don’t try to be brave; you wouldn’t want to rush it and risk a pesky back injury!
Steps to Complete a Kettlebell Squat
- Begin by standing up, knees slightly bent, with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Hold the kettlebell on either side of the handle with both hands.
- It is imperative to make sure that your back is straight as you begin to descend into the squat on this step. Slowly lower your hips until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
- Do not allow your knees to go past your toes or your heels to lift from the ground as you push through them to rise back into the starting position.
Video: Kettlebell Squat to Build Muscle
Here is a quick video showing you the proper technique when doing a traditional kettlebell squat to build muscle:
A few helpful tips to get the most out of this exercise is to be sure that you’re squeezing the glutes throughout the rep and breathing properly to avoid feeling lightheaded.
A good starting point to incorporate the kettlebell squat into your workout regimen is 3 sets of 10 reps. If you can complete these successfully, then the next goal is 3 sets of 20-25 reps. Continue to add reps in increments of 10-15 to challenge yourself, or you can use a heavier kettlebell.
For high-intensity cardio training, you’ll be doing high sets and high reps with a lower weight. Contrastly, you’ll be using a heavier kettlebell with a lesser amount of reps, around 10-12, for 3 sets for strength training.
Whatever your goals may be, the kettlebell squat is an excellent addition to the routine. We’ve even provided a few squats variations to push yourself and target other areas such as the upper body if you’re looking for something new.
Kettlebell Squat Variations
These variations will add a kick to your squat routine, but be careful, they are for more advanced kettlebell users!
The Kettlebell Overhead Squat
For this exercise, you’ll keep the kettlebell overhead for the duration of the rep. This variation focuses on mobility in the shoulders and upper back; it’s also great for improving grip strength and balance. You’ll be tired for sure after a few sets of the overhead version.
This variation doubles as a cardio exercise since holding your arm over your head continuously causes the heart to work harder to pump blood upward.
The Two-Handed Kettlebell Squat (Reverse Grip)
The two-handed kettlebell squat is similar to the original squat. The only significant difference is in the way you hold the kettlebell. Instead of holding it on either side of the handle, you’ll flip it upside down and place both hands on the “ball” part. You may find it easier to do the squat holding it by the bell rather than the handle in this position.
An excellent way to activate even more of your muscles is to add a pressing movement at the top of the squat as you get stronger. However, you have to work up to performing 20 perfect reps before adding the press to the squat.
Video: Kettlebell Squat Variations
Here is a video showing you 23 additional kettlebell squat variations:
Best Kettlebell for Building Muscle
If you’re just getting started and not sure if kettlebells are right for you, you can turn your existing dumbbells into kettlebells using a tool like the Kettle Gryp (available on Amazon.com) is a cool choice (see my full Kettle Gryp review).
If you’re looking for something extremely versatile, then the Bowflex SelectTech Adjustable Kettlebell (available on Amazon.com) is a great choice (see my full Bowflex SelectTech Adjustable Kettlebell review).
Final Thoughts on Building Muscle with Kettlebells
If you’re looking for an excellent way to improve your overall physical strength and add versatility, the kettlebell squat is a must-have. Performing this exercise a few times a week should be sufficient, but you can always adjust as necessary. If you have a pre-existing back or hip injury, then you should consult with your physician before incorporating the kettlebell squat.