You might be thinking, “Isn’t this the same as the goblet squat”? While there are a lot of similarities in how they’re performed, they are not the same thing. The main difference between the kettlebell front squat and goblet squat is the former is typically done using two kettlebells whereas the goblet involves using one.
There are a few other differences, however, we’ll get to that in a little bit.
The kettlebell front squat is a really good functional fitness exercise, but it’s going to also build your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and core muscles. If you train with kettlebells, this one is a must-have!
In This Exercise:
- Target Muscle Group: Quadriceps, gluteus maximus, and hamstrings
- Type: Strength, hypertrophy, and function/athleticism
- Mechanics: Compound
- Equipment: Kettlebell
- Difficulty: Intermediate
Kettlebell Front Squat Muscles Worked
The kettlebell front squat is a compound, multi-joint exercise that works several muscle groups. This makes it a time-saving, and more functional movement that will offer better carryover to performing everyday activities, participating in athletics, and not to mention, strengthening your joints, and entire body.
We’ve included brief descriptions of muscles worked during this exercise.
You want a big butt? You need to be training hard on lower body movements that will activate the large gluteus maximus butt muscle. Of course, the butt has other muscle, but maximus is the primary one. The specific function of this muscle is to extend and externally rotate the thighs but it’s a postural muscle as well.
The kettlebell front squat will blast your glutes!
Actually having five muscles despite the name “quad”, the quadriceps are heavy performance muscles flexing the hips and extend the knees when we do things like squatting down and jumping.
Kettlebell front squats are one of the best exercises you can do to build muscular and strong quadriceps.
When you stand up straight or bend your knees (hip extension and knee flexion), you’re using the hamstrings muscles. There are three separate heads for the hamstrings – semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and biceps femoris. Its a very functional trip of muscles that allows us to perform explosive athletic movements and assists us in proper gait (walking) form.
The adductor magnus is the largest of the muscles found in the medial compartment of the inner thigh. It adducts the leg or allows us to pull the thigh in toward the opposite leg with the help of other muscles. Magnus can also extend and medially rotate the hip. It has anterior and posterior fibers that help it act on the front and back of the leg.
The calves are a natural byproduct of performing squats and other compound lower body exercises. That’s because these muscles can produce a lot of force to complete plantarflexion (when you point the toes down). Gastrocnemius is the larger calf muscle while the soleus is smaller. They’re are explosive and athletic muscles that assist us in physical performance.
Tensor Fasciae Latae
The tensor fascia latae (TFL)produces internal rotation of the thigh, external rotation of the leg, and stabilizes our hip and knee joints.
When you tense your midsection to tense your core, perform a crunch, twist your upper body from left to right and bend over, you’re using your core muscles. These include the abdominals, obliques, and erectors respectively. Every squat requires you to brace your midsection to keep everything together and ensure efficiency in your lifts.
How To Do The Kettlebell Front Squat
The kettlebell front squat is by no means a hard exercise to perform, however, it requires more technique compared to the goblet squat. Note: You should have a basic understanding of how to do a goblet squat and kettlebell double clean before doing this kettlebell front squat.
- Place your kettlebells on the floor in front of you in a ready-to-grip position. As an alternative, you can set the kettlebells on a high platform such as a box or counter to make it easier to get the kettlebells into position.
- Find your stance about hip to shoulder-width.
- If starting with the kettlebells on the floor, grab both kettlebells, swing them back and clean them into the front rack position. This is done by simultaneously extending the knees and hips, spinning the kettlebells around the wrists and pushing the elbows underneath the wrists. The kettlebells should sit on the upper arm and forearm. If starting from a platform, lift the kettlebells into positions and then find your stance.
- Your elbows should be directly under your hands and close to the ribs, and not flared out to the sides or pushed forward. Maintain a neutral, tall spine before you descend into the squat.
- Keeping a good posture, squat down until the upper legs are slightly below parallel to the ground. It’s okay if the knees pass the toes as this is going to help you keep your balance and really activate the quads.
- Stand back up and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
Here’s a great video example of how to do the kettlebell front squat.
Kettlebell front squat tips/what not to do
- It’s important that you focus on maintaining a neutral spine throughout the movement. That’s why we recommend first learning and perfecting the goblet squat before progressing to the front squat variation.
- The elbows should be directly under the wrists. Do not push them up in front of you like you’d do for a barbell front squat.
- The knees can pass over the toes. This will ensure you maintain balance and can perform the exercise comfortably.
- Try to focus on keeping the weight over your mid foot.
Kettlebell Front Squat Benefits
Let’s talk about the benefits of doing the kettlebell front squat.
Build size and strength
Beginners and intermediate exercisers will especially benefit from the size and strength gains you can make with this exercise. You can gradually increase the weight of the kettlebells and the number of reps to keep creating a growth response and develop your strength.
Improve your functional fitness
When it comes to building functional strength and stability, exercises similar to the kettlebell front squat are cream of the crop. If you want to be more athletic, functionally strong, more coordinated and better overall, you should be performing movements that involve the total body with no assistance from machines.
Train lifting posture
We like front squat variations because they reinforce good lifting posture. Holding the kettlebells in the front rack position is a great way to remind yourself to keep your chest up and shoulders back.
Great progression from the goblet squat
While this is a great exercise overall, it’s also a good way to progress from the goblet squat and is a good option for those who may not feel quite ready to get under a barbell. Beginners often need to start small and gradually build their way up using weight training equipment and this exercise fits the bill.
Little setup/minimal space needed
All you need is two kettlebells and a little space to perform the movement. This also makes the kettlebell front squat convenient and a go-to when you don’t want to hop in a squat rack or train with a barbell. It’s also a good leg exercise alternative in a busy gym where using other equipment is more difficult.
Kettlebell Front Squat Drawbacks
There are a few possible drawbacks to the kettlebell front squat.
Requires a little experience
You should be able to do a goblet squat and clean two kettlebells to the front rack position. This requires mobility, flexibility, proper lifting form, balance, and stability. With some training, you should be doing this exercise in no time.
Can be hard to use big and heavy kettlebells
It’s easy to see how it could be challenging to get two big kettlebells into position to do this movement. See how far you can challenge yourself by gradually increasing the weight but understand that the kettlebell front squat may not be the best option for all out strength effort.
Kettlebell Front Squat Variations
It doesn’t get much better than the kettlebell front squat for what it offers and how convenient it is to do. But we think you’ll also like these variations.
1. Dumbbell and barbell front squat
Of course, you can use dumbbells to do this exercise if you do not have kettlebells or if you just prefer using dumbbells. You’ll probably be able to use more weight this way too.
The barbell front squat is also always a good option. It’ll allow you to move the most weight and therefore, build the most strength too. The only thing is it’s much harder and more involved.
2. Goblet squat
While the kettlebell front squat can be used as a progression from the goblet squat, it’s still an exercise we recommend. Maybe you feel like you need some more training or want to improve your lifting form before progressing or adding more weight to your kettlebell front squat.
Learn about the goblet squat in this exercise guide.
3. Banded front squat
Resistance bands are an amazing training tool because you can replicate compound lifts but without having to handle any weights. Therefore, you can do it at home too.
And don’t think that means it’s going to be any easier. If you use enough resistance, the exercise will be extremely challenging.
The most common way to do this variation is to stand on the band and lift the top part of the band to the front rack position. You’d then perform front squats using the same technique.
Single kettlebell front squat
If you’re up for the challenge, you can do the kettlebell front squat using just one kettlebell. The one big benefit we can think of by using this variation is that it’ll really challenge your core muscles and lateral stability. This has application to athletic activities and is a great option for athletes to be more well-rounded.
You want to ensure that your shoulders are level and fight against the resistance of the kettlebell to maintain proper lifting form.
How To Incorporate The Kettlebell Front Squat Into Your Training Regime
The kettlebell front squat makes for a great variation that anyone can benefit from. Here are a few ways to include it in your training routine.
We can’t think of a better home for this exercise than in a circuit training program. This sort of workout consists of doing several exercises back to back with little to no rest in between.
The kettlebell front squat would make a great other half for a superset. Simply pick one other exercise that trains an opposite muscle such as hamstrings curls (or whatever you want) and do a set back to back with no rest in between. Rest for 90 seconds and repeat the superset two more times.
Standalone leg punisher
If you have limited equipment or have to get it in a quick and effective leg workout that benefits your entire body, the kettlebell front squat is perfect in our opinion.
Knock out 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps and you’ll be golden.
CrossFit style workouts
If you do CrossFit then you’ll likely benefit from this exercise. Add it somewhere into your weekly workouts to take advantage of the functional benefits. You can even create your own complex using kettlebells to perform a sequence of movements.
The Kettlebell Front Squat Is a Powerful Total-Body Exercise
If you need something a little more advanced than the goblet squat, are not ready to do barbell squats, or you need to spice up your workouts, try the kettlebell front squat. It’s a muscle and strength builder but is also a functional fitness exercise that has many great benefits that make it worth adding to your workouts.
Use this guide to learn proper form execution, benefits of doing movements like this, what variations you can do, and how to get the best results from this exercise by including it in your training regime.