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Everything You Need To Know About Kettlebell Squats: How To Do It, Mistakes to Avoid, And Squat Variations To Try

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

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Alongside the kettlebell swing, the kettle squat is a highly known exercise known for hiring all those major muscle groups, meaning a greater hormonal response and metabolic effect. Though if you’re new to the kettlebell world and even to squats, this article is a must-read! We’re going over how to perform a perfect squat, different squat variations to try, and so much more

Kettlebell Squats vs. Barbell Squats: What’s The Difference?

Though both are weightlifting exercises there are a few differences here, the first being equipment:

A CrossFit couple doing kettlebell squats at the gym
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One uses a dumbbell for the free weight and the other uses a kettlebell.

Next is the muscles worked: 

Front squats with a barbell engage your core muscles and upper back muscles, while similar kettlebell squats focus on your core and really emphasize the hips and buttocks. 

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Lastly, the difficulty level:

Kettlebells are viewed to be easier since the kettlebell counterbalances your weight during the front squat movement unlike the barbell, though once you get a hang of each, both aren’t really that difficult at all. 

How To Do Squats With Perfect Form

The kettlebell squat is a regular squat, but with added weight. This means that before you load up your squats with weight, you have to master the bodyweight squat, and here’s how you do them:

Starting Position

For your starting position, stand tall, feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointed forward. You should be looking ahead with your hands at your side.

The Downward Movement

While keeping your back flat and your core braced, push your hips back as you bend your knees. Lower your body until your hips are parallel to the floor. Here is where you should “sit” into the exercise, pushing with your butt back as if you were sitting in an invisible chair.

Staying Level

Do not bend forward with your waist as it will increase the stress on your spine and throw you off balance. Instead, keep your chest high and back as straight as possible. At this point in the exercise, it’s recommended to pause, verifying that your squat is level and you don’t dip too far down or lean too far forward.

The Upward Movement

After the two-second pause, push yourself back up to the starting position, repeating the squat movement over and over until your set is finished. 

Adding the Kettlebell

Now if you’re adding the weight keep it centered at your chest, not pressing against you, and not all the way out with extended arms. It should hover right in front of you at chest level, being held up with both hands gripping the body of the bell or the sides of the handles.

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Watch Out For These Kettlebell Squat Mistakes:

Knees Passing The Toe Line

When you add a weight it changes your weight distribution so be very careful about not letting your knees pass your toes. Your knees should stay behind the toes throughout the entire movement. 

Forward Chest

When you’re in the squat position, many people like to lean forward, which can cause you to fall forward and even cause back and spine problems. Always stay upright with good posture to avoid hurting yourself. 

Wonky Elbows

If you notice your elbows are starting to spread out too far, think about going to a lighter weight or keep an eye on it and remind yourself over and over to keep your elbows tucked in.

Your Breathing 

Make sure to breathe once per squat, inhaling on the way down and exhaling on the way up. Doing too many breaths or too little can make you dizzy and cause you to injure yourself. 

What Are The Benefits Of Kettlebell Workouts Though?

Kettlebell movements are often very low impact and are very good at building core strength, muscle mass, and muscular endurance. On top of making you stronger, it can also assist in your range of motion including hip mobility. Many of the kettlebell workouts are great for smaller spaces as well. If you have an at-home gym with limited space, using a single kettlebell can be not only a space saver but a fun way to spice up your workout routine. 

Are 20 Minutes Of Kettlebells Enough?

One of the other benefits of using kettlebells is that they’re also a time saver. All you really need is ten minutes of kettlebell squats in intervals of thirty-five to twenty-five seconds with a 20-pound or heavier kettlebell to improve cardiovascular health and muscular endurance.

6 Squat Exercises To Try With Kettlebells:

If you’re already bored of the regular kettlebell squats and things like the kettlebell swings, then we have the best squat variations on the internet right here starting from the most beginner friendly to advanced. 

Kettlebell Goblet Squats

One of the simplest kettlebell squats is the goblet squat. Everything is the same squat-wise except while you hold the kettlebell upside down or the regular way with both hands in front of your chest your elbows should move past your inner thighs bringing you into a deeper squat. You’ll want to pause at the bottom of this squat as well before returning back to the starting position. 

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Kettlebell Rack Squats

This variation is basically a single-handed version of the kettlebell squat except you’re going to use one hand. With a firm grip and tucked elbow, hold the single kettlebell at chest height, feet about shoulder-width apart, toes turned out slightly. 

Keeping the weight on your heels, lower until your thighs are parallel with the ground while not allowing your chest to fall forward. If you find yourself leaning, try switching to a lighter weight. 

After your pause, bring yourself back to the starting position while having an engaged core the entire time. Do these squats on one side for a set and then switch to the other side for the same quantity. 

Kettlebell Sumo Squat

Start with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart and your toes turned out about 45 degrees. With your arms holding the kettlebell weight in front of you in a deadlift-type hang, keep your arm extended. Keep your back flat and your entire core tight while you push your hips back, bend your knees, and squat down with the kettlebell as it hangs between your legs. Pause and push yourself back up just to do it over and over again until your set is finished. 

Double Front-Racked Kettlebell Squat

Stand with your feet flat and shoulder width apart with your toes pointed forward. With each hand hold a kettlebell of the same weight by the handle so the bell is resting on the outside of your forearm and your elbow is tucked in towards your torso in a racked position (this means your palms should be facing towards your body). Of course, you can swap the two kettlebells for a single kettlebell, but for this one, we’ll talk about the double. Now keep your back flat and core tight as you bend your knees and squat until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Pause and then push yourself back up to the starting position. 

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Kettlebell Overhead Squat

If you want to include a good upper body workout to your squat, the kettlebell overhead squat is perfect. For this one, you’ll stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes facing forward as both hands hold a kettlebell in the front-racked position like you would for the double front-racked squat. 

With your standard squat movement keep your back straight and lower your body until it’s parallel with the floor. After your pause, push your way back up as you push both kettlebells straight over your head in one fluid motion, locking your elbows and bringing your biceps close to your ears. And as you move into the next squat, bring the kettlebells slowly back to that original rack position. 

Kettlebell Pistol Squat or Kettlebell Single Leg Squat

This exercise is certainly one of the hardest as it requires much more than strength, but also balance. To start, hold the kettlebell with both hands at chest height with your elbows tucked in. Keep your head and eyes straight ahead, brace your abdominal muscles, and squat slowly with your weight on your heels. 

Except, instead of a regular squat, one leg will be held out in front of you while you use the kettlebell for a counterbalance as you lower until you can’t go any further and then push yourself back up engaging your glutes at the top of the movement

Our Top Pick
Yes4All Solid Cast Iron Kettlebel
Based on our testing, this is the best kettlebell for beginners. For about 45$, this greatly-designed, sturdy kettlebell will last you for years. It also comes with a 1 year warranty.

If you’re struggling with the descent, allow the knee to collapse inward, keeping it in line with the straightened leg. For some people it’s easy without the weight so if you’re still struggling here, try it with just your body weight or with a resistance band.

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About

Julien Raby is the owner of BoxLife. He owns a bachelor in literature and a certificate in marketing from Concordia. He's Crossfit Level 1 certified and has been involved in Crossfit since 2010. In 2023 he finally made it to Crossfit Open Quarterfinals for the first time. LinkedIn Instagram Facebook

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