Kettlebell Squat Variations

The squat is among the main fundamental movement patterns beneficial for men and women alike.

Since it’s a compound exercise, squat targets multiple muscle groups including glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, adductors, calves, and hip flexors. 

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Besides strong glutes and legs, squats also improve overall athletic performance, reduce the risk of injury, and keep you moving more easily during the day.

One of the many advantages of squats is their versatility. 

You can perform this exercise in many ways, make it more challenging, and get even more benefits.

For instance, one of the most important squatting aspects is the use of equipment such as the kettlebell to take your squats to a new level.

In this post, we’re going to focus on kettlebell squat variations. Scroll down to learn more about kettlebell squatting exercises. 

  1. Sumo kettlebell squat

Sumo kettlebell squat is a lower-body movement pattern that shares some characteristics as the goblet squat and kettlebell deadlift but is generally performed with a wider stance.

Feet in this exercise point more outward, similarly to sumo deadlift. The wider stance in sumo kettlebell squat squatting allows you to maintain an upright torso but also emphasizes stretching of adductor muscles and hips.

Proper posture for sumo kettlebell squat:

  • Stand straight with feet wider than shoulder-width apart
  • Grip the kettlebell with both hands
  • Position feet at a 45-degree angle
  • Contract your core
  • Pushing the hips backward, bend the knees slowly and lower the legs until the thighs are right below parallel to the ground i.e. squat properly
  • Return to the starting position 

Muscles worked with sumo kettlebell squat include adductors, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, core muscles, and hip flexors. 

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  1. Kettlebell goblet squat

Goblet squat is a full-body movement where a person performs a squat while holding a kettlebell, a single free weight, or a dumbbell in front of their chest.

It’s one of the best exercises to build lower body strength, but also work your upper body and core.

Goblet squats are easy to learn and you don’t have to be a fitness expert to perform them. Plus, they don’t require too much space meaning you can do goblet squats home as well.

Proper posture for kettlebell goblet squat:

  • Grab a kettlebell and hold it at chest level
  • Position your feet hip-width apart or slightly wider
  • Toes should point forward and slightly turn out
  • Sit the hips down over the heels making sure to pull the groin down between your thighs 
  • As you descend into a squat, support the weight (kettlebell) to ensure it remains above the chest line
  • At the bottom of the squat, contract the back muscles to raise the chest high with kettlebell weight at that level

Muscles worked with goblet squat include quadriceps, glutes, scapular stabilizers, traps and rhomboids, lats, deltoids, wrist flexors and extensors, rectus abdominis, deep core muscles, spinal erector, hamstrings, and calves. 

Goblet squats improve balance and stability while also promoting quadriceps development. This beginner-friendly squat and pushing exercise also improves squat mechanics and allows you to do other variations with more ease. 

If you have hip mobility issues turn to a private trainer or an expert who will provide fitness tips and guidance so you can perform this exercise without risking injury.

  1. Swing squats

Swing squat is, actually, a combination of a squat with a kettlebell swing. This combination allows you to obtain the benefits that both exercises provide.

Like previous variations on this list, swing squats work the entire body and improve your range of motion. Plus, they’re beginner-friendly.

Proper posture for swing squats:

  • Stand straight with feet wider than hip-width apart 
  • Bend over to pick up the kettlebell with both hands
  • Swing it between your legs behind your hips
  • Swing the kettlebell in front as you’re getting up
  • Catch the kettlebell with both hands at the chest level
  • Lower into a goblet squat 
  • Return to a standing position and swing the kettlebell between your legs and repeat the process

Another thing you can do is to keep swinging the kettlebell and lower it down into the squat from time to time. For instance, after 10 performed repetitions of swinging you can get into a squat then go back to swinging. 

Muscles worked with swing squats are spinal erectors, glutes, calves, hamstrings, and muscles of the upper back such as rhomboids and traps.

  1. Bootstrap squat

Bootstrap squat is a type of exercise that involves placing fingertips under the toes and going into a deep squat.

This squat variation is particularly useful for improving balance and stability but also works for large muscle groups. Here, large muscle groups mean the exercise activates legs, buttocks, back, and chest.

Adding a kettlebell makes it more challenging. Bootstrap squat with a kettlebell is a more demanding exercise and may not be the best option for beginners.

As a huge exercise, bootstrap squat requires excellent mobility and balance that allows you to squat deep, without shallow squatting.

Proper form for bootstrap squat:

  • Take a kettlebell and hold it under the chin with both hands
  • Stand straight with feet shoulder-width apart
  • Squat deep (go low so that you almost sit on your heels)
  • Lean the body forward and straighten the legs out at the same time
  • While leaning forward make sure to stretch the arms downward so the kettlebell goes between the legs
  • Bending the legs again sit back on the calves and bring the kettlebell back to under your chin
  • Go back up into the starting position 

Muscles worked with bootstrap squat include glutes, calves, hamstrings, groin muscles, lower back, hip flexors, quadriceps, and outer thighs muscles. 

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  1. Split squat with kettlebell

The split squat is similar to a lunge. The position of the legs is the same for both exercises.

The only difference is the lack of movement in a split squat; your feet don’t move.

On the other hand, lunge requires you to make a move by stepping forward, sideways, or backward. With proper execution, split squats can enhance your flexibility and increase leg strength. 

Proper form for split squat with kettlebell:

  • Stand straight with feet shoulder-width apart and hold the kettlebell in your right hand
  • Take a big step forward with the left foot i.e. just one leg is forward
  • Start bending the knee slowly to the ground without moving the knee of the left leg 
  • Stand up and repeat 
  • Switch sides after a few reps 

Keep in mind you need to hold the kettlebell on the opposite side of the forward foot. So, if your right foot is forward, you need to hold the kettlebell in your left hand.

As you go down into the squat, make sure your front knee doesn’t go past your toes.

Muscles worked with split squat include glutes, quadriceps, side shoulders, obliques, hamstrings. 

  1. Squat deadlifts with kettlebell

Squat deadlifts are among the most common squat variations. They belong to a group of exercises suitable for beginners too. As a cornerstone of many kettlebell courses, this variation is fun and builds upper- and lower-body strength at the same time. Adding kettlebell into the mix provides even more muscle activation.

Proper form for squat deadlifts with kettlebell:

  • Stand straight with feet shoulder-width apart
  • Place kettlebell on the ground between your feet
  • Get into a squat position making sure you have a flat backside 
  • Take the kettlebell with both hands
  • Engage your core and tighten glutes, raise the body with arms extended
  • Lower kettlebell to the ground 
  • Repeat 

Muscles worked with squat deadlifts with kettlebells including the lower back, middle back, forearms, trapezius, glutes, and hamstrings.

Besides squat deadlifts, you can also perform another easy similar squat variation and one of the best kettlebell exercises – squat hang lifts.

The process is almost the same, you just don’t lower the kettlebell to the ground. Instead, you keep it in your hands the whole time. This way you get constant resistance.

You can use one or two kettlebells.

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  1. Overhead kettlebell squat

Overhead squat with a kettlebell is a challenging exercise that builds your stability and strength. If you’ve never done it before, it’s useful to learn all the tricks and benefits in a kettlebell book.

While this squatting exercise has a lot of benefits in terms of working your upper and lower body, it’s not suitable for beginners. It’s a very demanding exercise.

Proper form for kettlebell overhead squat:

  • Hold a kettlebell in one hand and extend the arm so it’s straight and positioned directly above the shoulder
  • Position feet shoulder-width apart
  • Perform regular squatting while keeping the arm with kettlebell permanently overhead 
  • Return back into the starting position

Remember, you can extend the other arm to maintain balance.

Muscles worked with this exercise include shoulders and legs. 

Other variations of kettlebell squats 

Besides the abovementioned seven squat variations with kettlebells, you can also do the following:

  • Kettlebell Pistol squat
  • Racked kettlebell squat
  • Double kettlebell front squat
  • Single kettlebell front squat

FAQ

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Which variation of the squat uses kettlebells?

A wide range of squat variations uses kettlebells. Some of the best examples include a goblet squat, sumo squat, swing squats, racked kettlebell squats, bootstrap squats, split squats, just to name a few.

If you’re a beginner, you may want to start with basic squat movement and work your way up to more complicated variations.

Perfecting kettlebell squat takes time, so make sure to be consistent with your kettlebell workouts.

Are kettlebells good for squats?

Kettlebells are a great addition to your strength training workout.

A kettlebell workout can help you improve athletic performance and take different exercises to a new level. Squats are among them.

Kettlebell squats work your legs dynamically, but also activate the upper back and shoulders.

In other words, a combination of kettlebells and squats acts as a full-body workout. The main point is to hold the kettlebell and squat equally as you normally would.

As you’re holding a kettlebell in front of you, the core muscles are also engaged and activated. Besides kettlebells, barbells are also good for squats.

In fact, barbell squats are very popular among people who want to work their upper body and lower body at the same time.

How much weight should you squat with kettlebells?

In order to get the most from kettlebell squat variations and other exercises, you need to choose the right kettlebell.

Proper weight of kettlebell also prevents injuries and helps you grow stronger. 

There is no “one size fits all” rule when it comes to kettlebell weight for squats. Average active men can work with kettlebells that weigh around 40lbs or more while women do best with 25lbs to 30lbs.

While most guys can handle 70lbs for goblet squats, you don’t need to go that heavy. It can be practical to stick to a kettlebell that weighs 53lbs.

Beginners should start with a smaller weight of kettlebells. For leg exercises, men may want to start with 35lbs (16kg) whereas women may opt for 26lbs (12kg) weight of a kettlebell.

Start with a lightweight kettlebell, if these are too heavy for you, and work your way up.

Before you buy a kettlebell, you need to consider several factors including your grip strength, fitness levels, goals, and quality of the equipment. Always strive to learn as much as possible about the kettlebell first.

For example, the Bowflex kettlebell review offers a lot of information about this kettlebell and you can easily determine if that’s exactly what you need.

Bear in mind rack position is equally important as the quality of kettlebell. Make sure to hold this piece of equipment properly with the handle pointing upwards.

What are 2 variations of a squat?

While there are over 40 variations of squats, basic and plie squats are among the most popular.

It’s practical to do kettlebell training and learn different variations of squats because they target different muscles and bring more versatility into your workout routine.

Conclusion

Squats are among the most important exercises we can do in our workout routines. Kettlebells make them even more challenging.

This post focused on kettlebell squat variation. Some of them are beginner-friendly whereas others are more complex. Start from the basic squat and work your way up.

Besides kettlebells, you can use other pieces of equipment to perform squats. The barbell squat is a great example.

References

https://www.medicinenet.com/what_does_a_goblet_squat_work/article.htm
https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness/benefits-of-kettle-bell-swings#muscles-worked
https://www.nuffieldhealth.com/article/how-to-kettlebell-squat
https://www.mensjournal.com/health-fitness/how-choose-right-kettlebell-weight/
https://www.coolblue.be/en/advice/what-kettlebell-weight.html

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