14 Kettlebell Squat Variations
This article plus ‘The Goblet Squat or rather Goblet Grip‘ will provide you with tons of information that will add a whole new dimension to your kettlebell squat training or that of your clients.
Cavemantraining has made 14 videos in which you can see 14 different grips on the kettlebell. Different grips on the kettlebell works different goals, believe it or not. Following are just a few details, not nearly enough to make you fully understand all intricacies involved, but enough to get you going.
I’ve listed all of these videos for free below, but some require you to be a free member of the Cavemantraining community, so if you’re not registered yet, do it now, or sign in. If you watch the videos, they’ll not only show you how to achieve the grips, i.e transition into them, but they’ll also show how to safely release the grips.
Without further ado, here is the amazing list of kettlebell squat variations:
Squat dead lift
The first variation demonstrated is the squat dead lift, also called a deadlift (squat style), this is performed with a hook grip. We’re showing this one first as it’s the most common variation. You can do this with one or two kettlebells, you can even do it with a stacked grip if you got big hands and a strong grip. FYI: the other deadlift variation, the conventional one, that is the hip hinge style deadlift.
Squat hang lift
This is performed the same way you do a squat dead lift, except that the weight does not return dead to the ground, thus providing constant resistance. You can do this with one or two kettlebells. Don’t confuse this with Romanian Deadlift —which btw has died ages ago, read here.
You can perform this with one or two kettlebells, with interlocking grip, racking grip or racking safety grip. One kettlebell provides imbalance, which is great to challenge stabilization more. Two kettlebells with interlocking grip is the easiest and takes away complexity, allowing you to focus on squatting heavier. The racking grip requires you to stabilize more with the shoulders and pecs, thus bringing in more complexity, which is great if you want to give the upper-body more of a workout.
Video included in the one above.
The overhead squat is great to work on shoulder stability and strength, thoracic mobility and overall stabilization. You can perform this with one or two kettlebells. If you perform it with two kettlebells, more flexibility is required. Good lat activation required to keep the arm safely tucked in the shoulder socket.
This is what I call the fireman’s squat, because I named the grip ‘fireman’s grip’, but you can also call this a kettlebell back squat. This totally moves the weight from being in the frontal plane to being at the back. Great for people having trouble staying upright in the squat, that’s if they have the flexibility and strength to do so, and have been explained to let the weight pull them slightly back to remain in upright position during the squat. You can chose to have the kettlebells hanging off or resting on the shoulders, hanging position challenges your grip more and also provides a good tricep stretch —I love free bonus stretches during training. It’s super important to get the kettlebells safely on and off your shoulders, you need to know what you’re doing. Use leg drive to get them off your back, don’t press them from that angle.
I’d almost want to call this the holy grail of kettlebell squatting due to it’s popularity, but it’s not, there are much better variations covered below. This is the popular squat grip whose name a lot of people use incorrectly, if you have not read my article on it, do it now, it’s what prompted me to put some of the squat variations together and write about them for you. The bell is resting in the palm of the hand while the handle is pointing downwards. The closer your elbows are together, the easier this grip is. Can provide a good workout for your shoulders through isometric contraction.
Goblet squat (reverse grip)
Same as the normal goblet squat but the handle is pointing up. I can’t really think of any other benefit for having the handle up rather than down, other than added complexity to get it pointing up. It’s easier to clean the kettlebell straight into goblet grip rather than reverse goblet grip.
Video included in the one above.
Crush grip squat
This variation is almost like the goblet squat, but the main difference is that the bell is not resting in the palm, it’s gripped with a tight crush grip to prevent loosing grip on the kettlebell. This is a great things as it works the pecs and delts as well. Your palms need to grip more around the middle round part of the bell, where as the goblet grip is more towards the bottom part of the bell, which allows the bell to rest rather than fighting to keep a grip on it. Your elbows also come out more to make the grip harder, which is what you want, as the objective of this grip is to work the delts and pecs.
Open hand horn squat
Out of all the variations this one is probably the easiest grip, thus a great grip to start beginners out with who need the added resistance of a kettlebell. The kettlebell is close to the chest, resting in the palms positioned right above the elbows, all this provides a good even base which turns this into an easy grip. Also great for people who start out with kettlebells, are not yet familiar with proper grip and bell placement to avoid forearm discomfort.
Horn grip squat
You perform this while holding the kettlebell by the horns and the base of the bell is facing down. This grip has many benefits, namely, it works on lateral wrist strength, grip strength and it also works the biceps as an isometric contraction of the muscles. This version provides the most resistance to the biceps.
Horn grip upside down squat
Same as the horn grip squat except that the base of the bell is not facing down but up. This version provides less resistance on the biceps. Thus a good progression to the more advanced one. Video included in the one above.
I call this the waiters squat as you’re squatting with the kettlebell in a waiters grip, just like a waiter would hold a tray. Great for wrist mobility and strength. This grip requires a lot of stabilization in the arm, great for rehab with a light weight. The big bonus is that this looks pretty freaking cool too.
This is yet another great grip variation for your squat, it will totally challenge you with the stabilization and control required, you’ll feel like you only just started kettlebell training, as this grip will humble you. If you normally press a 24kg, then you’ll be moving back to a 8kg with this until you get used to it.
I call this the noob squat, and if you want to know why, you should download the PDF on kettlebell grips from Cavemantraining, as it will explain exactly why I named it that. If you know what a noob is, then know that, although you might look like a noob, it certainly challenges you like no other advanced move would! This is a whole new level for your training, I guarantee it. No one seems to train this way because “it’s not how you’re supposed to hold a kettlebell”, stuff that, be unconventional, train like a Caveman and implement the noob grip in your training. Challenge your arms from a completely different angle! If you front squat with two 24kg for example, then try this with half that, it will be more difficult than the 24’s in normal racking position. The key is to hold the bells away from each other and away from the body. Good luck and let me know how you go.
and covered in this article “How to improve your barbell racking mobility for CrossFit”. I created this drill to help improve tricep and lat flexibility, shoulder mobility and more, read the article to learn all about the open palm squat.
If you’re interested in knowing all the possible grips one can implement with a kettlebell, check out the free PDF we’ve made available on all possible kettlebell grips, there is simply nothing like it. The ebook contains close-up photos of all the grips available. A lot of people have been downloading this free ebook before you, but hardly any (none) take the time to leave feedback on the content, I hope you’ll consider that we spend a lot of time providing free high quality content to you. You just sharing, liking, leaving a comment or a review means a lot to us. Come on, keep our content free and help out a little.
So there you have it, fifteen kettlebell squat variations totally free of charge, for you to do with as you please, challenge yourself or your clients on totally new levels. But if you think that’s the extend of it, you’re wrong, there are so many more squat variations that your head would start spinning if I told you about them. Become a Cavemantraining affiliate or certified Caveman Trainer and open up a whole new world of training.
If you like our writing and want to explore all intricate details of the kettlebell press, make sure you check out the book Master The Kettlebell Press, written by Joe Daniels and Taco Fleur. A must get if you want to learn over 100 kettlebell press variations, learn how to progress, how to spot and fix issues with your pressing or that of your clients.
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For those of you who take the time to read all the way through to the end of our articles, below is a video with all fourteen in one video combined. Simply register and sign in to view.
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Bonus. Great squat video for beginners.
Bonus. Old video on squatting.