Some people get stuck on the idea that you need a gym full of equipment to get a good lower-body workout in. That flawed thought process has led to a lot of skipped sessions … and missed opportunities.
Consider the following six-move lower-body workout, designed to torch your quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes using an array of functional exercises, including squats, lunges and a killer core movement to finish it off. The best part? You only need one kettlebell or dumbbell to squeeze the maximum benefits out of it.
“These are some of my favorite lower-body exercises that I used while training from home during the coronavirus lockdown in Los Angeles,” says Oxygen Elite Ambassador Josefine Holmberg, a celebrity trainer, online coach and NPC Bikini competitor (Instagram @holmbergjosefine). “I was lucky enough to have some kettlebells on hand that I could use.”
Holmberg even borrowed a few tricks from the routines she designed while prepping actress Mackenzie Davis for her starring role in 2019’s Terminator: Dark Fate. “We often only had access to minimal equipment at hotel gyms, so we had to get creative,” Holmberg admits.
Here, Holmberg offers two options: a more endurance-oriented “AMRAP” approach, in which you do as many total rounds of the six-move circuit as you can in 20 minutes, or a more standard muscle-building style, in which you do four sets of each exercise. Either way, you’re in for a solid workout and some sore legs to prove it.
If you’re looking to target your arms and shoulders, check out Holmberg’s one-kettlebell upper-body workout routine here.
Equipment Required: One kettlebell or dumbbell (or more if you want to have various weight levels to choose from) and an exercise mat if you prefer to use one when lying on the floor.
Josefine Holmberg’s 20-Minute Kettlebell AMRAP Lower-Body Workout
Set a timer for 20 minutes and do as many rounds as possible of the following six exercises:
|Tabletop Hip Lift||20|
|Modified Kettlebell Swing to Goblet Squat||10|
|Suitcase Split Squat||20 (per leg)|
|Goblet Lateral Lunge||10 (per leg)|
|Kettlebell Dead Bug||30 seconds|
Josefine Holmberg’s Lower-Body Functional Muscle Routine
Do the following six exercises bodybuilding style. Complete all sets and reps of one movement at a time, resting 30 to 60 seconds between sets:
|Jump Squat||4||30 seconds|
|Modified Kettlebell Swing to Goblet Squat||4||12 reps|
|Suitcase Split Squat||4||15 reps (per leg)|
|Goblet Lateral Lunge||4||10 reps (per leg)|
|Tabletop Hip Lift||4||20 reps|
|Kettlebell Dead Bug||4||30-60 seconds|
Tabletop Hip Lift
How-To: Sit with your glutes down, feet together and on the floor, knees bent to 90 degrees, and arms straight with your hands placed beneath you, aligned underneath your shoulders. From here, raise your hips straight upward into a tabletop position, your feet and hands remaining on the floor as your body forms a straight line from your knees to your head. Hold that position for one count, then slowly lower your glutes back down to the floor.
Holmberg’s Pointers: “Your fingers should be open and pointing in the direction of your lower body with your palms back. To lift yourself into the tabletop, you should be squeezing your glutes and contracting your core to hold your body in a straight line.”
Modified Kettlebell Swing to Goblet Squat
How-To: Stand with your feet a bit wider than shoulder width, and hold a kettlebell by the upper portion of the handle with both hands. Allow it to hang in front of your hips. From there, slightly bend your knees and lower the kettlebell down between your legs, then generate momentum with your hips to drive it upward, bending your elbows to keep the kettlebell close to your body in front of you.
At the top, switch your grip on the kettlebell midair so that you’re grasping it on each side of the handle at your chest. From your same stable, shoulder-width stance, squat down until your thighs are parallel with the floor and your elbows or upper arms make contact with your knees. Drive back up through your heels to a standing position, then change your grip again to hold the top of the handle as you lower it down between your legs and immediately go into the next rep.
Holmberg’s Pointers: “During the swing, your knees should be just slightly bent — you don’t want to turn the swing into a squat. At the top of the swing, squeeze your glutes and keep a neutral arch in your lower back — don’t overextend in an effort to swing the ’bell higher. You’ll want to take it slow in the transition between the swing and the squat, as it is key you don’t lose your grip on the kettlebell. Most importantly, know that this is an advanced exercise because of the grip changes, so if you’re not comfortable or familiar with this move, you should instead just stick with a standard kettlebell swing without the goblet squat.”
Suitcase Split Squat
How-To: Stand with your feet about shoulder-width or slightly wider apart, and hold the dumbbell in your left hand. Step back into a lunge position with your left leg going to the rear and your right leg remaining forward. From here, drop your hips and bend your knees to squat straight down until your front knee forms a 90-degree angle and your back knee is just an inch or two off the floor. Drive back up through your heels to a standing position — repeat for reps on one side, then switch the kettlebell to your right hand and step back with your right leg.
Holmberg’s Pointers: “Watch your stance here: You want to be at least hip width or slightly wider to give you a more balanced, stable position from which to lunge. You should also have more weight on the front leg — think about driving through the heel of that front leg to return to the top position during each rep.”
Goblet Lateral Lunge
How-To: Holding a kettlebell at chest level just below your chin — you can either hold it by the handles, goblet style, or cradled as shown in the photos — assume a feet-wide stance, legs straight. To start, take a long step out to one side, bending that knee to lower your torso and hips toward the floor. Your trailing knee will be extended, with that foot remaining in contact with the floor. At the bottom, start returning to a standing position by driving through your heel and straightening your knee. Repeat on the opposite side.
Holmberg’s Pointers: “Your torso should remain upright throughout. Avoid the tendency to lean forward as you rep, and engage your lats to help steady the kettlebell at your chest. When you step out to the side, as you lower yourself down, think about sitting back into that glute muscle, and your knee should be tracking straight forward over your toes and not to the inside or outside of your foot.”
How-To: For this bodyweight move, put the kettlebell off to the side and stand with both hands directly in front of you, knees slightly bent and feet placed shoulder-width apart. Keeping your chest up and back flat, squat down until your thighs approach parallel with the floor and then explode upward as high as possible, allowing your feet to leave the floor. Land on soft knees to absorb the impact, and repeat immediately by descending down into the squat.
Holmberg’s Pointers: “For optimal jump squats, think about driving through the balls of your feet to leap upward and landing softly — like a cat — with slightly bent knees to absorb the impact.”
Kettlebell Dead Bug
How-To: Lie on your back with your arms extended straight over your shoulders, holding the kettlebell firmly with both hands. Lift your legs up in the air so your body forms a 90-degree angle at the hips. Breathe out as you lower one leg toward the floor until it is straight and hovering a few inches from touching down. Hold that for three to five seconds, then switch so the opposite leg comes down toward the floor. Throughout, you’ll continue holding the kettlebell overhead.
“Try to lower each leg slowly and get it as close as possible, but only go as low as your core strength allows. Don’t let your lower back come off the floor. If you’re working out with a friend or partner, they shouldn’t be able to slip their hand under your lower back at any point during the exercise.”