Upgrade Those Dumbbells For The Ultimate Leg Workout

by Allen Gil April 27, 2015

Upgrade Those Dumbbells For The Ultimate Leg Workout

Somehow you made it through Monday, or as I like to call it, “International Chest Day” and you have recovered enough to drag yourself back into the gym.  Your entire upper body aches and you can barely lift your arms enough to scratch your head.  You figured you would workout your legs today, but you aren't sure you can actually hold the bar in place for squats.  Perhaps you overdid it a little with the dumbbell bench presses my friend, but it’s too late to change that now isn't it?

The leg press machines are all taken and you really want to blast your legs, but you aren't sure what to do. If only you could do some squats without having to lift your poor brutalized arms. Don’t worry, I’ve got just the solution for you and you might be surprised that some of the best exercises for your legs have been hiding in plain sight all along. See that rack of dumbbells over there by the mirror? That’s a leg training gold mine and you don’t even know it.

In order for me to follow through with my claims about getting you amazing results with your wheels (That’s gym lingo for “legs”) I better explain just what these mystical exercises are.  I’ve got two simple movements that are both biomechanically sound (done in the manner the body was meant to move) and more importantly, if done right, these exercises will kick your butt (pun intended). So what are these mystical exercises?

  • Kettlebell deficit squats
  • Kettlebell swings

Wait a minute.  Weren’t we just talking about the dumbbell rack?  How exactly are you supposed to do either of these exercises that call for kettlebells, when all you have is the standard rack of dumbbells ranging from 5 to 120lbs that most gyms have?  You get yourself a Kettleclamp of course.

A Kettlewhat?


The Kettleclamp is a brilliant fitness accessory that you can connect to the handle of any dumbbell and essentially turn it into a kettlebell. The difference between a regular dumbbell and a kettlebell is all in the location of the weight relative to the handle.  Dumbbells put your hand in between the weight plates, which is just fine for a lot of your standard pressing and curling movements. The Kettleclamp adds on a wider, oblong handle that sticks out from the top of the dumbbell giving you the ability to grip it with both hands at once. Try to grab ahold of the handle on a dumbbell with two hands to do a standard swing and you’ll find out really quickly what the limitations of this tool are.  Even though it has been around for hundreds of years, the common dumbbell just isn’t very practical when it comes to leg exercises.  If you’re looking to work the upper body, dumbbells are your best friend, but when it comes to the bottom half of the body, they just leave something to be desired. Yes, I know you can do lunges and suitcase squats with dumbbells, but the limitation of this antiquated tool becomes apparent when you try to go heavy like is needed to really challenge the big leg muscles. Holding dumbbells that are heavy enough to really dig into your legs requires immense grip strength in each hand due to the awkwardness of a really long dumbbell, strength that most people just do not possess and that is why using the Kettleclamp to “upgrade” those dumbbells is a real game changer.

Alright, let's examine the exercises and see why I think they are so great for working your legs.

Kettlebell goblet squat with the Kettleclamp 

The kettlebell deficit squat, or as I like to call it, "The butt blaster 5,000", is one of those exercises that once you learn it and can do it properly, you will have a serious "Love/Hate" relationship with. This exercise allows you to really get deep into hip flexion, which forces you to use the glute max and hamstrings way more than pretty much any other compound leg exercise. I warn you though, don't do too many of these the first couple times you try it, or you will end up not being able to get on or off of the toilet for a few days.  The key components to the kettlebell deficit squat are:

  • Use a couple steps, stacked weight plates or benches to stand on.  This added height will allow you to squat down really far before the weight touches the floor, thereby putting the focus on the backside of the thighs and really helping you to build strength and size in the sometimes hard to reach glutes and hamstrings.
  • Go slow. Due to the much longer range of motion allowed with this form of deficit squat, you may find your muscles just aren't used to stabilizing and balancing, since they aren't accustomed to the increased distance you have to travel to accomplish each rep.
  • Start light.  Just because you can barbell squat 300lbs or leg press 500lbs, doesn't mean those same weights will translate to the deficit squat. Perfect your form using a FULL range of motion before you start to increase how big of a dumbbell you use with the Kettleclamp. Your focus needs to be on quality, not quantity.
  • Make sure to keep your chest up and your back flat.  This is a squat, so the prime movers should be the legs, not the back.
If you are still able to stand up after smashing out a few sets of the deficit squats and you are feeling like a challenge, then it is time to stumble on over and do some kettlebell swings.  This is where the Kettleclamp really shines as the unique handle design gives you the perfect double hand grip to muscle around the really big dumbbells that would otherwise be too awkward to do anything with. When a dumbbell gets heavier, it does so by adding more weight to its ends.  This makes heavier dumbbells really wide and they end up being nearly impossible to handle for pretty much any exercise other than a bent over row or chest press.  The Kettleclamp's handle is wide enough to allow you to use two hands to grip it and more importantly for the swings you are about to do, the Kettleclamp's handle can unlock and rotate 90 degrees putting the excessive length of a heavy dumbbell in line with the swinging direction so it will easily pass between your legs.

Kettlebell swing using the Kettleclamp

Heavy swings not only blow torch your poor quads due to the unrelenting stress placed on them, but they also help to develop explosive hip extension power that will take your regular barbell squats and deadlift poundages to a new record next time you do them. Some things to look out for when doing the kettlebell swing:
  • The swing movement comes from hinging at the hips more so than squatting and standing over and over.  Try to do these standing sideways next to a mirror so you can watch yourself and work to perfect your form before you go heavier.
  • Make sure you are actually using you glute/hamstring complex to do the work here, not your poor spinal erectors.  Done properly, this exercise is a magnificent activity for developing hip drive, but done wrong, you can really torque your back and put yourself out of commission for a while. Nobody wants that, so pay attention to your form.
  • The movement of the weight comes by way of hip thrust, NOT from trying to lift with the arms and shoulders.  While you might be able to get away with doing these improperly with a light weight, once the pack on some serious poundage, you will quickly find that the huge leg and hip muscles are the only things you can use to keep the weight swinging, so start light and again, perfect your form from the beginning.
Using a Kettleclamp to repurpose all of  those boring and unwieldy dumbbells into something that will literally kick your ass, just seems to be a really smart idea that I personally wish I was intelligent enough to have come up with myself.  Alas, I am not and all I can say is I am glad the guys over at Kettleclamp came up with this tool because it has given me a whole new set of options with the dumbbells in my gym and now I have shared a couple of those options with each of you.  What you do with your old dumbbells is up to you, but if you are seriously looking to kill your legs after you just did the same for upper body, grab a Kettleclamp and make sure you have a wheelchair handy.

You can purchase the KettleClamp at GetYourFit.com by clicking here!

Allen Gil
Allen Gil


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