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Simply carrying kettlebells as you walk or up stairs will build leg power.
A kettlebell is an effective tool for working all the muscles of the lower body. Kettlebells are one-handed free weights that resemble cannon balls with curved handles, and like dumbbells and barbells, they can be used to develop muscle size, strength and endurance. Because the weight of a kettlebell is not centered on its handle, it requires more careful control that may translate into greater balance and strength. This makes them useful for compound exercises that target the quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.
Kettlebells for Quadriceps
Although kettlebells and dumbbells have distinct differences, they are similar enough that any exercise that uses dumbbells, or sometimes barbells, can be modified to work with kettlebells. A classic exercise that works the quadriceps is the goblet squat, which uses a single kettlebell held at neck level. You can also do a kettlebell front squat variation that uses two kettlebells for extra weight. If you want to perform more advanced exercises that challenge leg strength, balance and a variety of muscles, do kettlebell Turkish get-ups and kettlebell pistol squats.
For an exercise that works the hamstrings, try doing deadlifts while holding one or two kettlebells. Make these harder by standing on one leg with the other leg lifted behind you for balance. You can do lunges holding a kettlebell to the chest or one in each hand, or you can make them more interesting by doing threaded lunges: do a lunge-back holding a single kettlebell on the side of the stationary leg, and at the bottom of the movement pass the kettlebell under the legs to the other hand. The kettlebell swing is another popular and effective hamstring exercise.
Build Your Calves
To target the calves, you can stand with a kettlebell in each hand and do calf raises up onto your toes, making sure to hold at the top of the motion before rolling back onto the heels. If you have trouble balancing, try holding only one kettlebell and using the other hand to balance against a wall. To make this easier, you can do seated calf-raises with kettlebells resting on your thighs. To challenge the strength and explosiveness of your calf muscles, do kettlebell power cleans and kettlebell jump shrugs, making sure to contract your calves to explode upward.
Sample Workout and Safety
Try this sample workout to incorporate all the benefits of the exercises above into a simple routine: Warm up with jump ropes, then do three to four sets each of goblet squats, kettlebell deadlifts, calf raises, kettlebell swings with forward walk, threaded lunges, kettlebell cleans, Turkish get-ups and kettlebell swings with sideways walk. To increase muscle size, do eight to 12 repetitions in each set. Keep in mind that kettlebells are less predictable than their dumbbell cousins and are much easier to drop, which can cause serious injury. If you are unsure whether to perform these exercises, consult a licensed medical professional.