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Workouts for Women

The Functional Lower-Body Kettlebell Workout

Keep your training tools to a minimum while maximizing your results with this leg-focused kettlebell workout from Miami-based trainer Jacqueline Kasen.

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For this functional workout, all you need is a good mindset and a kettlebell.

“The true athlete isn’t just skilled in strength, speed or endurance — it’s all of the above,” says Miami-based Oxygen Ambassador Jacqueline Kasen, a personal trainer and master educator for Technogym. “That means you should train to be as strong as you are fast, as powerful as you are mobile.”

To help accomplish that feat, Kasen devised a functional workout that’ll definitely put your lower body through the gauntlet. “The goal is for you to keep moving efficiently, feeling well, training optimally, and most importantly, have fun while doing it,” she explains. “Here, you’ll be working on balance, coordination, stability and strength, covering all three planes of motion and locomotion, which is the ability to move optimally from one place to another.”

Equipment Required: Just one kettlebell, and an exercise mat if preferred for on-the-floor movements.

Jacqueline Kasen’s Functional Kettlebell Workout

To build strength, use a heavier kettlebell and perform 6-8 reps of each of the following movements for 3-4 total sets, performing each rep slow and under control to maximize your time under tension. If you’d prefer an endurance-building workout, grab a kettlebell you can handle for longer duration sets of 30 seconds.

For the first warm-up round, do 30 seconds of each movement, then take a minute to two minutes of rest. Next, set the timer for five minutes and combine the five exercises into a circuit, doing each exercise for 10 reps before moving onto the next. Challenge yourself — see how many rounds you can complete in the five-minute period. After a rest of at least one to two minutes, try a second five-minute round.

Exercise Sets Reps
Pendulum Swing 3-4 6-8
Staggered Single-Arm Clean 3-4 6-8 per leg
Staggered Ipsilateral Squat 3-4 6-8 per leg
Cross-Body Clean 3-4 6-8 per leg
Lunge to High-Knee Hold 3-4 6-8 per leg
Pendulum Swing

1. Pendulum Swing

How-To: Start with the kettlebell arms-length in front of you on the ground, your body in a hinge position, your knees bent to about 45 degrees. Engage your core and keep your spine aligned, your lats retracted and depressed. Drive your feet into the ground as you bring your torso up slightly so that the kettlebell is clear, then swing it underneath your hips.

From its rearmost position, drive your hips forward to initiate a full forward kettlebell swing, standing up as the kettlebell moves up in an arc to shoulder level. Once it reaches the top position, let the momentum of the kettlebell return back through your legs as you bend forward into a hinge position. Next, as the kettlebell returns forward, drop into a squat with pressure on your heels, chest up, and head up, to lower the kettlebell back to the ground in the starting position. You will then repeat the pattern — hinge, swing, hinge, squat — until finished.

Kasen’s Pointers: “Make sure that you are engaging your muscles as if you are about to lift your body off of the ground at the beginning of each swing. Your entire posterior chain, especially your glutes and hamstrings, should be ‘turned on’ and ready to fire to power the kettlebell.”

 

Staggered Single-Arm Clean

2. Staggered Single-Arm Clean

How-To: With the kettlebell between your legs on the floor, assume a staggered stance, feet hip-width apart, the heel of your back foot lifted and both feet in alignment with one another. Sit back into a hinge position, core braced and your lats retracted, then place the same-side hand as your back foot onto the kettlebell.

Internally rotate your hand while grasping the handle and, flexing your core, drive the kettlebell up to a standing position using your lower body. The kettlebell should remain as close to your body as possible as you come up — as if you are zippering up a jacket — and land in a front rack position, your fist in a neutral position at your chest and elbow hugged to the side of your body. Continue flexing your core as you hinge at the hips to place the kettlebell where you started, and repeat.

Kasen’s Pointers: “In the starting position and throughout, your back foot should be lifted as if you are wearing high heels, with all the pressure on your front foot; the back foot should just be helping provide some balance.”

 

Staggered Squat

3. Staggered Ipsilateral Squat

How-To: Begin in a staggered stance, the kettlebell in the front rack position on the same side as the rear foot, free hand extended forward for balance. Make sure to keep your back foot heel up and maintain the load on the front foot, and slowly lower your hips straight down into a squat. Squat as low as you are able to go with good posture, then return to standing. Perform reps for one side, then switch and do the same amount of reps with the other leg forward and the kettlebell racked in the other arm.    

Kasen’s Pointers: “Focus on maintaining balance, which is a challenge because you have the load on one side of your body. If you’re having trouble as you’re learning the motion, you can hold the kettlebell with two hands until you get fully comfortable with the single front rack position.”

 

Cross-Body Clean

4. Cross-Body Clean

How-To: Start with the kettlebell on the floor, in a side lunge to your left with the weight next to your bent-leg (left) foot. Hinge at the hips and grasp the kettlebell handle with your right hand. Drive up with the left leg as you bring the kettlebell up — you’ll shift your legs into a side lunge on the right side as the kettlebell settles in at a front-rack position at your right shoulder. Return along the same path back to the start and repeat for reps; halfway through the set, switch so that you’re starting on the right side and finishing on the left.

Kasen’s Pointers: “This will require some practice as you develop the coordination to bring the kettlebell up as you’re shifting from a lunge on one side of your body to the other. For balance, I suggest keeping your free hand straight out in front of your body at shoulder level, as shown in the photos.”

 

Lunge to High-Knee Hold

5. Lunge to High-Knee Hold

How-To: Place the kettlebell in the front rack position, holding it in the same side-hand as the foot you’ll be stepping back with; your free hand can be crossed over your chest and touching the opposite shoulder, as shown. Step back and lower your hips into a deep reverse lunge, stopping before your back knee touches the ground. Then powerfully bring that back leg forward and continue up into a high knee. Repeat for reps, then switch legs for reps with the opposite side to complete the set.

Kasen’s Pointers: “Focus on your lunge form — you want your torso upright, your core tight and eyes forward. The key is control from the lunge all the way up into the high knee so as to keep your balance and body control throughout. Make sure the bottom leg is straight while at the top position in order to work your glute and hamstrings.”