Kettlebell Split Squats – Build Strong & Athletic Legs

Kettlebell split squats are the best exercise you’re not doing. If you do include them in your workouts I’d bet that it’s not with enough weight or intensity.

This article will show you why you need them in your workout right now. Whether you’re training to improve performance in a sport or want to have better looking legs, kettlebell split squats will help you reach your goal. 

How To Do Kettlebell Split Squats

While I have a lot more to say about this exercise, I don’t want to force you to read and scroll through it like many recipe bloggers require. Here’s what you’re reading this article for, the best guide on how to perform kettlebell split squats. 

  1. Stand up straight, holding the kettlebell(s) by your side.
  2. Keep your shoulders back and chin up, look straight ahead.
  3. Begin split squat. Step forward until your feet are 2-3 feet apart. 
  4. Squat down on your front leg until you get to a 90 degree angle.
  5. Keep your upper body upright, shoulders square as you squat. 
  6. Flex the knee of your rear leg at the same time. 
  7. The heel of your rear leg will come off the ground as you squat down.
  8. The knee of your rear leg will touch the floor or be just above it at the bottom position of this exercise.
  9. Return to the starting position by pushing off with your front foot. 
  10. Stay in the split stance.Repeat for the prescribed number of reps.

Repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions.

After performing one set you can immediately do another with your other leg or rest for a few minutes. The heavier you go, the more rest you’re likely to need.

Kettlebell Split Squat Video Demonstrations

Here’s a video demonstrating the proper way to do a kettlebell split squat. He’s using 2 kettlebells in this video. The technique will be the same if you are only using a single bell.

This video shows another way to perform split squats with a kettlebell if you’re using a single kettlebell. The only difference here is how you hold onto the bell. Instead of using the handle and holding the weight by your side, you grab it by the each side of the handle with both hands. 

This makes the exercise a bit more challenging for your core and arms.  

Benefits Of Kettlebell Split Squats

  • They’re safe. Unlike barbell squats you can do them without a spotter. 
  • Split squats are less stressful on your lower back than barbell squats. 
  • Studies prove they make your legs as strong as 2 legged barbell squats. 
  • 1 leg at a time means both legs get equally strong. 
  • Doing them builds better looking athletic legs faster than other exercises. 
  • More specific to many sports and activities – especially – running than 2 legged squats. 
  • They require very little space,at most a few feet in your living room. 

Kettlebell Split Squats – FAQ

What Equipment Is Required?

All you need are a kettlebell and a small amount of room. Enough room to perform lunges is perfect.  

A second kettlebell may be needed for you to get stronger and build muscle if you’re already pretty fit. 

How Heavy Of A Kettlebell Should I Use?

If you’re new to this exercise, I recommend first doing it without a kettlebell. This is the fastest way to perfect proper technique. 

Add extra weight with kettlebells when you can do 5 sets of 10 reps with perfect technique.

When it comes to a starting weight, use one that you can perform at least one set for 8 reps. Start off doing 3-5 sets of 5 reps per leg. 

Make it your goal to increase the number of reps you can do with good form at every workout. 

Once you can do 5 sets of 10 reps per leg with great technique it’s time to increase the difficulty of the exercise. You can do this by increasing the weight you use, changing how you hold onto the kettlebell (rack position, overhead, etc.), and decreasing the amount of rest between sets. 

You can also increase the difficulty of kettlebell split squats by wearing a weighted vest or backpack. This is what I do when I need more weight than I had available. Be creative. 

Which Muscles Are Trained During Kettlebell Split Squats?

The primary muscle groups trained are your: glutes (butt), hamstrings, and quadriceps. While these muscles are trained in both legs on each rep, your front leg does the majority of the work. 

Researchers find that these muscles are trained just as much as they are when doing 2-legged back squats with a barbell. 

Those in this study did barbell split squats and back squats but the movement is similar enough with kettlebells that it’s safe to make this statement.

Your Core & Upper Body Get Stronger Too

In a different way, kettlebell split squats also strengthen and build your upper body. Your grip strength is improved, especially when you are using a heavy weight. Similarly, your forearms, biceps, triceps, upper back and shoulders get a workout when they’re working to keep the weight in your hands and body in the proper position. 

Last but certainly not least, your abs and low back get stronger from this exercise too. This happens because they’re contracting to keep your body in the proper position throughout the movement. 

Can I Get Really Strong With Split Squats?

While the why to this answer is an article unto itself, the answer to this question is Yes! 

Several strength coaches including Mike Boyle and Ben Bruno make split squats and variations their primary exercise for leg strength and power. These guys are training professional athletes who get paid for their results. If split squats didn’t make their clients stronger for their sport and less likely to be injured, they aren’t getting hired. 

These coaches and many others routinely have athletes that are able to do split squats and other single leg squats with weights in excess of 300 pounds for 3-5 reps per leg. 

When In My Workout Should I Do Kettlebell Split Squats?

This depends on lots of things including: which body parts you are training that day, your personal goals, among other factors

I prefer to do kettlebell split squats first in my workout. This way you can train with heavier weights to strengthen each leg individually. 

How Often Can I Do Split Squats?

As long as you’re fit and injury free you can do them 3 or more times a week. As long as you change up the weights, rest periods

Conclusion

You now know how to perform kettlebell split squats. You’ve also learned when and why they should be more than just an assistance exercise in your workouts. All that’s left is for you to get started. Replace back squats with split squats as your primary leg exercise for 2-3 months and get back to us with your results. I’ll be shocked if you train hard and your legs aren’t stronger than ever. I’ll even bet that your back squat strength increases significantly too. 

Sources

Barisik Y, CSCS. Stacked Magazine. Accessed November 3, 2020. https://www.stack.com/a/how-strong-is-strong-enough-for-single-leg-exercises-stronger-than-you-think

Hyson S, CSCS. How To Get Athletic Legs Without Squats. Accessed November 3, 2020.https://www.mensjournal.com/health-fitness/never-squat-again-single-leg-training-serious-strength.

DeForest BA, Cantrell GS, Schilling BK. Muscle Activity in Single- vs. Double-Leg Squats. Int J Exerc Sci. 2014;7(4):302-310. Published 2014 Oct 1.

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