I tried this 7-move kettlebell leg workout to build bigger legs — and wow

a photo of a man with a kettlebell
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Use this spicy kettlebell leg workout to build and sculpt leaner legs at home with one kettlebell and just seven moves. It’s the antidote to any stale leg day routine, and you don’t need a rack of KBs or the gym to get it done, either. 

This kettlebell leg workout promises bigger, stronger legs and glutes. It uses functional bodybuilding principles to increase your strength through your full range of motion, and you only need one medium or heavy kettlebell to get the job done. 

Alongside programming my workouts, I love to explore and test what is out there, and this one shoots up the charts alongside the latest dumbbell abs workout I tried and this 15-minute ab kettlebell workout. If you want an all-over full-body burn, why not combine these routines for a kettlebell workout that tests your skill, strength and coordination? 

Learn how to do a kettlebell swing with proper form, grab one of the best fitness trackers to track your progress, or read on for what happened when I put this kettlebell leg workout to the test. 

Watch the 7-move kettlebell leg workout 

The 7-move kettlebell leg workout is a leg day all-rounder, targeting your quads, glutes and hamstrings to build stronger, bigger leg muscles. It comes from Marcus Filly of Functional Bodybuilding (opens in new tab) and uses minimal equipment. 

Filly explains that your legs need a higher level of intensity to adapt, grow and get stronger. But how do you do that without a high load or equipment? By playing with your variables, of course. One variable is your range of motion.

These are the seven best moves for getting the correct stimulus without a ton of load, and Filly runs you through each exercise in detail on the YouTube video. Here’s a taster of the workout techniques below. 

1. 1-¼ goblet cyclist squat: 10-15 reps/ 3-4 sets/ 30-60 seconds rest

Marcus Filly performing an elevated goblet squat

(Image credit: Marcus Filly)

The goblet squat uses a 1-¼ rep range to increase difficulty. Sneaky. Use a sturdy surface (like a weight plate) to elevate your heels and load your quads even more. You need a level of knee stability to achieve this, and the higher you elevate your heels, the more work for your quads (and knees). 

2. Rear foot elevated supported goblet split squat: 10-12 reps/ 3 sets

Marcus Filly holding one kettlebell performing a foot elevated split squat

(Image credit: Marcus Filly, YouTube)

Also known as Bulgarian split squats. Elevate your rear foot using a box or bench to place more load on your front leg. Support your hand on something sturdy before you begin your split squat. The elevated foot provides a deficit that allows you to drop deeper into the squat and increase your range of motion. Why the hand placement? More load and less focus on balance and coordination 

3. Box goblet pistol squat: 6-8 reps per leg/ 2-3 sets

(Image credit: Marcus Filly/ YouTube)

Elevate your foot on a box or bench to create a deficit. Filly even provides a few drop-down options if a pistol squat isn’t in your repertoire (some ankles just do not like this exercise). Again, this exercise isolates one leg and maximizes the load as you work the leg on the box.  

4. Single-leg KB hip thrust: 15-20 reps/ 2 sets

Marcus Filly performing a hip thrust with kb on his hips and back on a bench

(Image credit: Marcus Filly/ YouTube)

Elevating your back on a bench and loading the kettlebell onto your hips allows you to maximize the hip-hinge movement and drive your hips upwards to work your glutes. This isolates one leg and focuses on high reps to burn out those glutes. It’s a big muscle, and it can take it.  

5. Curtsy drop lunge: 10-12 reps per leg/ 2-3 sets

Marcus performing a curtsy lunge with one footed on a box and holding a kettlebell

(Image credit: Marcus Filly/ YouTube)

You use two principles- rotation and off-angle planes of motion (direction of movement). Standing on a box or bench with one foot, you have a deficit to curtsy lunge with your other leg at a slight angle. The drop lunge extends your range of motion with a slight twist as you lunge. Again, you burn out one leg at a time.  

6. Low-handle Cossack squat: 15 reps/ 1-2 sets

Marcus doing a side to side squat holding a kettlebell low in front of him

(Image credit: Marcus Filly/ YouTube)

Known as a side-to-side lunge, the Cossack requires you to hold the kettlebell in both hands in front of you, low down. A front-loaded weight can help correct your posture. The wide stance also allows your inner leg muscles (the adductors) to stretch and contract and that is why this exercise is used in mobility routines to increase flexibility. It is complementary to building muscle.  

7. Deficit Romanian deadlift: 10-15/ 2 sets

Marcus with both feet on a box performing a stiff-legged Romanian Deadlift

(Image credit: Marcus Filly/ YouTube)

First, check out how to do a Romanian deadlift with proper form. Similar to the traditional deadlift, this exercise works your posterior chain with emphasis on your hamstrings and glutes. RDLs require minimal bend in the knee and a hip hinge, which is why you’ll feel that pull in the hamstrings. Standing with your feet elevated on two stable surfaces, you can increase your range of motion and drop the weight lower. Filly recommends slowing your tempo down to maximize contraction.  

I tried the 7-move kettlebell leg workout — here’s what happened

My legs are still shaking. This workout is brutal and intelligent and you don’t need to go heavy to burn out your legs — trust me. 

The first three exercises are knee-dominant squat variations that use the elevation of your foot or heel to create a deficit and increase range of motion. If you struggle with knee pain like me, I would opt out of the elevation on the first exercise and consider dropping in weight, too. 

Exercise four is hip-hinge dominant, which means the glutes are the star of the show. It focuses on high reps and low weight to create burnout instead, and I love that this kettlebell leg workout moves through different planes of motion and really only uses hip thrusts, squats, deadlifts and lunges to create an action-packed and challenging leg workout.

Filly adopts simple techniques like tempo and range of motion to keep your legs guessing without loading up your barbell and maxing out on weight. You can hold the kettlebell either by your side or in both hands up to your chest, so you don’t need a rack or gym environment to get it done, either. 

Filly recommends 30-60 seconds of rest between sets which was the perfect work: rest ratio for me. What did I take away from this workout? With a few basic principles, you can create lashings of intensity without the gym, and all you need is creativity and one kettlebell to make it happen

Writer Sam Hopes performing a Romanian deadlift using one kettlebell

(Image credit: Sam Hopes)

Next: This 7-minute glute workout is the perfect finisher on leg day, these are the best glutes workout to try, and the slim legs in 20 days workout has arrived. Also check out what happened when I did Pamela Reif ab workouts every day for a week and was shocked by the results.

Sam Hopes
Staff Fitness Writer

Sam Hopes is a level III fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and resident fitness writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. Having trained to work with mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and fitness, and their impact on performance. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods.  When she's writing up her experiences with the latest fitness tech, you’ll find her writing about nutrition, sleep, recovery, and workouts.