Sumo squats with a single heavy kettlebell

Hi all, for those of you who do strength training, this question is for you: has anyone tried doing sumo squats with a single, heavy kettlebell? I’ve done traditional barbell squats on and off over a 20+ year period, and they never worked very well for me – I never got into a comfortable position and my back always eventually hurt despite working with several strength coaches and doing flexibility work too. Finally a coach told me I shouldn’t do barbell squats because they just don’t work well for my body, and I agree.

So, I currently do single-leg split squats. Those work pretty well and have the advantage of working each leg independently. I can get a decent amount of weight by holding a dumbbell in each hand, but eventually I will run out of grip. Just for kicks I did a few sumo squats with a 44 lb kettlebell in the low position, and that felt like it really hit my quads despite that it wasn’t very heavy. I can get into a nice low position with a kettlebell which seems to work my quads more. The kettlebell is right in the center of my body and I feel like this might be a good exercise with a 150 lb or 175 lb kettlebell along with a weight vest (if I can grip the kettlebell long enough). Has anyone tried that, and do you think it might be a decent substitute for traditional barbell back squats?

I also do sumo deadlifts with a barbell and those are good too but the kettlebell really felt like it could focus on working my quads more. Please share your thoughts and thanks.

How are you holding the KB I am a little confused sorry.

@steveneal that’s a good question, I didn’t explain it very well. I am not holding the kettlebell up to my chest which is one of the classic positions – no way could I do that with a 150 lb kettlebell.

I’m getting into a sumo squat position, legs wider than shoulder width, feet pointed about 40-45 degrees outwards. The kettlebell is sitting on the floor between my legs about even with my torso. Then, I squat and reach straight down to the handle, gripping the handle with both hands, butt back. Then I pick it up off the floor (for the 1st rep). Then I rise up to standing, then squat back down with butt back and back straight for each rep without putting it back on the floor. So, my arms, hands and the kettlebell are basically hanging straight down from the center of my body for the entire set.

With the weight in the center of my body and in a sumo position, I can get into a much deeper squat position than I ever could with a traditional barbell back squat. That should work my quads more, at least it feels that way. Since my arms are hanging straight down, all I have to do is grip the 'bell with my hands. So, I should be able to lift a heavier 'bell this way up until it gets so heavy that I can’t grip it. And, it’s much easier on my back than a barbell back squat. I wonder if it’s really working my quads like I think it is though, or if it’s more like a deadlift. And, I wonder why I don’t see this exercise discussed very much as an alternative to barbell back squats. To vary the weight (since 'bells don’t come in small increments at this level of weight), I’m thinking about using a weight vest with small weights in it which I can gradually increase over time.

I wonder what you and the other coaches might think of this approach to squats.

This sounds more like a very narrow grip dead lift than a squat. I wouldn’t be able to maintain good technique with that narrow a grip and that kind of weight. I would end up rounding my shoulders and compromising my middle and lower back position. But I sit in front of computer all day, so I start kinda hunched.

I mix in rear foot elevated split squats, goblet squats (often on Bosu), hex bar deadlifts, and back squats. I have both weighted shorts and a weighted shirt. I like the shorts a lot and the shirt less so. Either makes any movement harder and long body weight sessions really tough.

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If you do not mind sharing you age I might be able to advise based upon that as well as any injuries in the past? I am not a fan of barbell squats either because most do not know how to execute good form and not risk getting injured and in my opinion there are better movements for cycling. In my experince, form trumps amount of weight and the right exercises for you based on imbalances etc is crucial for each athlete to identity and plan a program that addresses these first!

A strength program like all things you do off the bike should compliment the bike and help you deliever more power and be able to just sit and pedal on the bike for longer as well as just being a more healthy upright human being. Way too often I see athletes lifitng heavy stuff what at the end of the day does not deliver more power on the bike. Creating stiffness delivers more power and lifting heavy stuff usually does not accomplish this, you might become stronger and maybe power powerful but it still does not translate to the bike because you have not taught all the muscles to activate and engage to create that stiffness which equals more power. The saying goes like this: promimal stiffness creates distal motion. When you can learn to enage entire core (knees to shoulders) and create stiffness there you generate distal motion or more power on the bike.

At the end of the day, it is the right program based on your imbalances, injures and the right movements with the right reps and sets that will get you great gains. Some of the best exercises you do off the bike you would never see most cyclists doing, wink wink!!

I am happy to provide more details offline based on my strength and movement experience and certifications. my email is

thanks and i hope this helps



I agree with all the of the points and questions in the two posts from @inlinegeek and @Fpike.

If we are just talking about the technical position of an exercise (and not where you are at with lifting experience, injuries, etc, etc) then the pic below is an example of what you are trying to perform.

One important thing to keep in mind with strength training, is do not use the same position all of the time.

The exercise you are closely mimicking, is the belt squat. If you google belt squat you will see there are machines to do this, as well as using a belt, attaching weights to a chain that hang between your legs, stand on boxes that allow the weights to move and not touch the floor while you squat.

This would only be one movement in a program of many.


The KB squat you alluded to, by definition, must be a front squat. If you grab at the handle, it’s a goblet squad.
The sumo stance of the goblet squat puts more emphasis on the inner thighs and calves.
In addition, the sumo squat allows for more range of motion at the hip joint - different emphasis.
I changed from Kercher Squats to goblet squats a week ago due to an olecranon bursitis… I see nothing nothing wrong with the exercise.
Kettlebell… displaced centre of mass…less weight required…one could increase time under tension … unlimited options.
You can also use a dumbbell instead of the kettlebell.
If you aren’t a powerlifter, you can vary with all sorts of squats (what you are currently doing) and don’t need the BB squat too often.
If you get stronger with the front squat, don’t forgo on your glute/midsection, there’ll be a transfer to the BB back squat eventually.

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I am older (59). I like the kettlebell squat (held in front of chest) a lot because of the additional/balance stabilizers. I weigh about 175 lbs and a kettlebell of about 80 lbs is a full load (5-10 reps). Admittedly, the arms are the weak link, but I like that it engages a lot of different muscles. I also do single leg step ups with kettlebell to keep track of imbalances and practice alternating legs. Also like the lunge a lot since I ski too. Weak glutes have been diagnosed as a source of back pain, so this exercise is also aimed at correcting a few things. Since I started doing these and some abdominal work about 6 years ago, I have not had any back issues.