Building Leg Strength

Discussion in 'Kettlebell' started by SuperGirevik, Aug 8, 2019.

  1. SuperGirevik

    SuperGirevik More than 300 posts

    I think I have over looked my legs...

    I've been doing S&S and recently started doing deadlifts but today I was quite humbled when I attempted to do a set of barbell low-bar back squats and noticed that 135lbs was giving me a challenge while doing 3 sets of 5. Yet my shoulders and back are relatively strong —I'm able to press a 40kg kettlebell and deadlift over 400lbs.

    If I wanted to focus on improving leg strength and composition, which kettlebell movements would you recommend?

    The options that come to mind are:
    • Goblet Squat (wouldn't be able to go too heavy due to the single bell)
    • Double Front Squat
    • Clean and Jerk (I've noticed that many GS athletes who perform the long-cycle tend to have strong legs)
    But with kettlebells being somewhat limited in weight, I'm wondering if perhaps barbell squats are the way to go in my case. I suppose building up to doing double 32kg-40kg squats or clean & jerks wouldn't be too bad.

    Any thoughts?
  2. MikeTheBear

    MikeTheBear More than 500 posts

    Barbell squats. Period. Full stop.
  3. william bad butt

    william bad butt More than 300 posts

    Super, is that your only goal? It depends. What are your other goals? But it is hard to beat barbell back squats for leg strength (or overall strength). And the beautiful thing is that they work even if the dose is as little as once per week.
    SuperGirevik likes this.
  4. SuperGirevik

    SuperGirevik More than 300 posts

    @MikeTheBear, I appreciate the input. In my head, your comment was narrated by Mark Rippetoe.

    @william bad butt, to be honest, I don't have specific strength goals. The closest I have to a goal is to achieve a 450lbs deadlift and to be "strong" (which is such a general term). I mentioned my legs because I felt it was a glaring deficiency in my strength.

    I'm already deadlifting and if barbell squats is next in line, then I might as well take a stab at doing a typical 3x5 or 5x5 barbell cycle (deadlift, squat, press and bench). My bench is rather weak too (3x5 @ 195lbs is pretty challenging). Perhaps I do need a bit of overall barbell work...
  5. william bad butt

    william bad butt More than 300 posts

    I think you will find synergy with those 3 lifts, especially the squat. For me, my squat builds my deadlift.

    If you've never done it, I would recommend it sooner vs later.
    MikeTheBear, Anna C and SuperGirevik like this.
  6. WxHerk

    WxHerk More than 300 posts Certified Instructor

    Here’s your answer. Don’t be distracted by shiny objects; put weight on a bar and squat. It really is that simple. @MikeTheBear has as much time under a barbell as I do in a car; he knows his stuff..
    Kozushi and SuperGirevik like this.
  7. Alan Mackey

    Alan Mackey Triple-Digit Post Count

    I second MikeTheBear's comment, but you can't get very strong doing DKBFS.
  8. MikeTheBear

    MikeTheBear More than 500 posts

    You have no idea how funny this because if you read some of my comments on Mark's Youtube videos where he talks about Olympic weightlifting you'd think I absolutely despised the man. Not true. I freely admit that I vehemently disagree with Mark's ideas about Olympic weightlifting and I do not and will not apologize for that. But when it comes to general strength training we are basically on the same page.

    The above is my experience as well.

    As for double KB front squats, you are correct that they are too light. Having said that, if you pause in the bottom position for around 5 seconds, you'll be amazed at how difficult they can become. Whenever I pause in the bottom of a squat I am quite humbled. Also, because the center of mass is further out with two KBs the stabilization demands from your core are much greater. So, the exercise is not useless. However, for brute strength, a barbell is the way to go.

    The C&J is a great exercise all on its own. When I go for higher reps training GS I definitely feel it in my quads. I think it's primarily because of the eccentric "drop" from the overhead position using the legs to absorb the impact. When I do barbell push presses I actually lower under control to work my shoulders. But with KBs I try to save my shoulders so I drop the KBs, and eccentric loading is what causes muscle soreness. However, the problem here is again the KBs are not going to be that heavy and your range of motion, at least when talking about the legs, is very short.
  9. Shawn90

    Shawn90 More than 500 posts

    You don't need a strong squat to have strong legs. Imho and experience.

    I love Farmer Carries for overall strength including my legs.. Heavy. They are magical.
    Mark Kidd, SuperGirevik and offwidth like this.
  10. Marc

    Marc Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    Also depends on your equipement/circumstances.
    If you have access to everything, I'd day front squats and/or regular squats.
    If you only have KBs/BW: KB FSQ, pistols, airbourne lunges, split squats.
    SuperGirevik likes this.
  11. SuperGirevik

    SuperGirevik More than 300 posts

    @Shawn90, I think since I'm deadlifting +400lbs, I feel there is a severe imbalance with my squat, which if I had to guess would probably max out at a little over 200lbs.

    @Marc, I have access to barbells, so I think I will do a cycle of back squats.
  12. masa

    masa More than 2500 posts

    If your DL is 400 and squat 200, then your squat has only technique issues.
    Simply strong likes this.
  13. Mark Kidd

    Mark Kidd More than 500 posts

  14. MikeTheBear

    MikeTheBear More than 500 posts

    I don't agree with this. If someone has been focusing on deadlift and has not squatted for a while then I would agree that the lack of practicing the squat movement is one of the reasons why it is lagging. But technique alone cannot account for a 200 lbs. discrepancy. The quads are the primary movers in the squat. A lagging squat indicates weak quads for the most part.
  15. MikeTheBear

    MikeTheBear More than 500 posts

    I agree that weighted carries are fantastic. But they will not directly work the squat movement pattern. So I guess we need to define the phrase "strong legs." Weighted carries will certainly impact overall strength, and the stability demands on the back and core will definitely help other lifts. But I don't know about building strong legs.
    IonRod, WxHerk and offwidth like this.
  16. Marc

    Marc Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    A barbbell is probably the best tool to directly target the legs. In my opinion you can absolutely build impressive strength and muscle with body weight alone in the upper body but heavy squats cannot be substituted that easily.
    That's not to say that you cannot build decently strong and muscular legs with bw alone but you probably won't reach your whole potential this way.
  17. Papa Georgio

    Papa Georgio Triple-Digit Post Count

    I would agree that practice and form are probably the cause of the discrepancy. I would also say that barbell will be the most versatile tool for building strength and/or hypertrophy. But don't discount the pistol squat as far as pure strength. You basically have to squat 80% of your body mass plus whatever you're holding while balancing one leg. A 200lb man doing a pistol with a 48kg bell is about the equivalent of him doing a 2 leg squat holding 412 lb barbell, but with more stabilization demands.
    SuperGirevik and Mark Kidd like this.
  18. BrianCF

    BrianCF More than 300 posts

    You need to squat. Build up to 5 x 5 with 135 and keep adding weight. You'll see quick gains. And yes you can do this in addition to S+S.

    I think the biggest issue with the ROP is the lack of squatting. You could leave out one of the pressing days and make it a squat ladder day.
    SuperGirevik likes this.
  19. SuperGirevik

    SuperGirevik More than 300 posts

    Great comments everyone. While I'm referring to leg strength in this particular thread, the overall goal is to get strong... period. My main concern is whether my training is a balanced strength program.

    Judging by my squats, I feel that my training has not targeted my whole body.

    After reading all the comments, I have come to the conclusion that barbell back squats will be included in my next cycle.
    Anna C and WxHerk like this.
  20. Alan Mackey

    Alan Mackey Triple-Digit Post Count

    You can always do a reverse-PttP cycle: instead a lower body pull and an upper body push, switch things up and do a lower body push (any squat variation) and an upper body pull (chins, rows...).
    SuperGirevik likes this.

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