Kettlebell Sumo Squat: Benefits, Muscles Worked, and More

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
November 18, 2022

Commonly prescribed by physical therapists and by athletic coaches for the purposes of athletic training or physical rehabilitation, the kettlebell sumo squat is an excellent exercise primarily focused on the lower body with a particular flair for the quadriceps muscles.

The kettlebell sumo squat is considered a variation on the far more frequently seen kettlebell squat, with some minor changes in form and a slightly different muscular tension outlay. 

The kettlebell sumo squat is a compound leg exercise that may be performed for a variety of purposes ranging from simple flexibility improvement to high level athletic performance training, all of which require that the kettlebell sumo squat be modified in intensity and focus so as to cater to the exerciser’s needs.

What is the Kettlebell Sumo Squat?

In its most technical definition, the kettlebell sumo squat is a closed kinetic chain compound exercise with a particular focus on the lower body and lower back, fulfilling much the same role as the squat and leg press in other workout or physical rehabilitation routines.

the kettlebell sumo squat

The kettlebell sumo squat is primarily performed by exercisers in order to induce significant training stimuli in all the muscle groups of their legs, as well as to improve their explosive power, of which is a particular necessity in athletic endeavors.

Combined with other forms of lower body exercises such as calf raise isolation exercises or hip adductor exercises, the kettlebell sumo squat is capable of inducing full lower body muscular hypertrophy and neurological adaptation, creating a stronger and more aesthetically pleasing lower body.

How is the Kettlebell Sumo Squat Performed?

To begin performing the kettlebell sumo squat, the exerciser must first select an appropriately weighted kettlebell so as to reduce their chance of strain or injury. 

The particular amount of weight needed for this exercise will depend on a variety of factors concerning the exerciser, such as their own relative strength and exercise experience as well as the particular goals of the exerciser with regard to the kettlebell sumo squat.

Once an appropriate amount of weight has been selected, the exerciser will then place the kettlebell on the floor slightly in front of their feet as they enter the starting stance, of which involves the exerciser standing with their feet somewhat wider than shoulder width apart, with their core braced and their head facing forward so as to maintain a neutral spine.

how to do a kettlebell sumo squat

It is important for the exerciser to maintain a straight back and braced core throughout the entirety of the exercise, as a curved spine or unbalanced abdominal stabilizer muscle group may not only result in muscular imbalances but also potential injuries.

The exerciser will then reach for the kettlebell and hold it comfortably hanging between their legs, prior to lowering themselves at the hips and knees, all the while retaining a neutral spine and ensuring their ankles are firmly planted on the floor.

The exerciser should aim for at least parallel depth in concern to their hips and knees so as to maximize the gluteal muscle group activation during the exercise.

As the exerciser reaches the lowest depth they can manage at the bottom of the kettlebell sumo squat, they will then drive their heels into the ground while flexing their gluteus muscles and quadriceps, drawing them back into a standing position.

This completes a single repetition of the kettlebell sumo squat.

Who Should Perform the Kettlebell Sumo Squat?

The kettlebell sumo squat is an excellent exercise both for casual gym goers and advanced athletes seeking to expand their athletic training regimen, especially considering the fact that the relative intensity of the kettlebell sumo squat is highly adjustable and can be modified to meet any exerciser’s particular needs.

However, individuals with a history of knee, ankle or hip joint injuries should avoid performing the kettlebell sumo squat, as well as if they possess any sort of injury involving the spinal cord or surrounding structures located in the back.

Additionally, exercisers wishing to perform the kettlebell sumo squat without any prior exercise experience may benefit greatly from the coaching of a physical therapist or athletic coach, both to ensure that they maximize the benefits accrued from the exercise as well as to reduce the incidence of injury during so.

What are the Benefits of the Kettlebell Sumo Squat?

Being an intense compound exercise capable of inducing impressive training stimuli in an athlete, the kettlebell sumo squat is known for its ability to impart a variety of positive effects in any individual who repetitively performs the exercise at a regular interval.

Athletic Benefits

Among the primary positive effects of performing the kettlebell sumo squat regularly is its ability to greatly improve an individual’s athletic abilities, combining both static strength and explosive power in a single compound exercise that may directly translate into a variety of movements normally found in sports.

Whether jumping, performing burpees, lifting an object form the ground or even remaining suspended horizontally from a climbing wall, the kettlebell sumo squat is an excellent way to not only make these athletic feats easier but to also perform them in a more complex manner.

Systemic Benefits

Shared by many resistance exercises but found in particular with the kettlebell sumo squat, levels of human growth hormone, androgenic hormones as well as various other positive compounds endogenous to the healthy function of the human body can all be elevated during and after the performance of kettlebell sumo squats.

Even in instances where the maximal load of the exercise is rather low or the relative perceived rate of exertion is not quite high, simply performing several sets of the kettlebell sumo squat or similar compound exercises may greatly improve the human body’s function.

Cross-training Benefits

Considering the explosive power and static strength training induced by the kettlebell sumo squat, it should be no surprise that performing the exercise can have marked benefits in the form of other training methods, such as cardio or plyometrics wherein the leg endurance or explosive strength accrued from the exercise can carry over quite well.

This is all the more so in individuals that perform high repetitions and multiple sets of the kettlebell sumo squat, requiring further cardiovascular ability and significant leg muscle endurance and improving upon them.

What Muscles are Worked in the Kettlebell Sumo Squat?

The kettlebell sumo squat involves a variety of muscle groups all with different levels of activation and diverging functions that come into play during the performance of the exercise, some of which receiving the brunt of the training stimuli owing to the fact that they activate the most during the movement.

This is not to say, however, that other muscle groups involved during the exercise do not accrue some level of training stimuli, and it is likely that the kettlebell sumo squat is just as capable of inducing muscular hypertrophy and some level of strength growth in muscles that are not considered primary movers.

Primary Movers

The main source of force exerted during the performance of a kettlebell sumo squat repetition, primary movers are muscle groups accruing the most training stimuli and direct activation from the resistance applied from the exercise.

These muscles are primarily the quadriceps femoris located along the front and sides of the thigh, the three gluteus muscles located in the buttocks and the hamstring muscles along the back of the femur.

These primary mover muscles do not equally share the same level of activation, however, and the relative load of resistance may shift during different portions of the kettlebell sumo squat movement, such as the activation of the quadriceps primarily being in the eccentric portion of the exercise, and the gluteus muscles being responsible for force emitted at the bottom of the repetition.

Stabilizing Muscles

Considering the large size of the muscles acting as primary movers during the performance of a kettlebell sumo squat repetition, it should be no surprise that quite a few stabilizing muscles also come into play, ensuring that the individual does not overextend themselves, induce overtraining or otherwise develop injuries from unstable and shaky positioning.

The primary muscles used as stabilizers are the abdominal or core muscles, the erector spinae as well as the various smaller muscles located in the calves, all of which must remain firmly in place and activated during the entirety of the exercise in order to prevent injury.


1. Coratella G, Tornatore G, Caccavale F, Longo S, Esposito F, Cè E. The Activation of Gluteal, Thigh, and Lower Back Muscles in Different Squat Variations Performed by Competitive Bodybuilders: Implications for Resistance Training. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2021; 18(2):772.

2. Erdağ, Deniz & Yavuz, Hasan. (2020). Evaluation of Muscle Activities During Different Squat Variations Using Electromyography Signals. 10.1007/978-3-030-35249-3_114.

3. Taco Fleur. (2019) Kettlebell Exercise Encyclopedia VOL. 4: Kettlebell squat, swing, and windmill exercise variations Volume 4 of Kettlebell Exercise Encyclopedia Self Published via Google books Health and Fitness section

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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