Are Kettlebell Squats Better Than Barbell Squats?

Barbell squats have been the tried-and-tested Mecca for lower body development. Despite that, they have also been fraught with controversy, injuries, and misinformation. Shimmy in the James Dean of leg exercises: Kettlebells. Are the slick kettlebell squats superior to the mighty barbell squats?

Kettlebell squats are an effective alternative to barbell squats in improving athletic performance, power output, and posture control. However, with insufficient experimental data and interest, preliminary scientific results and evident limitations prove no significant advantage over barbell squats.

It may seem gutting to find out that the Muhammad Ali of legs remains undefeated. After all, barbell squats have been a behemoth of the gym world for decades. A status justly earned but not without a trail of broken hearts. So, fret not because plenty is here to encourage rooting for this well-rounded cast iron underdog.

Kettlebell Squats Vs. Barbell Squats—The Fight Starts Here

These two contenders are both closed kinetic chain exercises (CKC). These exercises fix the target muscle group to move in a stationary plane. As opposed to open kinetic chain (OKC), which allows free movement in space, usually, a movement pivoting away from and back to the body.

CKC exercises are functional and better simulate everyday movements and athletics. (Psst! You want some of this.)

While there is comparatively an abundance of research on barbell squats, interest in the kettlebell squat is sophomoric and still trying to find its legs after a loaded leg day.

Are Kettlebell Squats An Upset For Barbell Squats?

Barbell squats are just as infamous as the great Ali’s disclaimer to all his challengers. Remember the one with the epic monologue about going homicidal on a rock, wounding a stone, and putting some poor brick in the infirmary?

We’ve seen colossal men bend to the barbell (see Ronnie “The King” Coleman, and he was only out here lifting “lightweight, baby”).

Barbell squats are known to cause or exacerbate kyphosis (neck hump). The neck hump is a protrusion of the C7 resulting in an exaggerated curve in the spine and rounded shoulders. The kind caused by the barbell in barbell squats is usually a fatty deposit on your C7 to protect your spine (this is from bad form; the bar should be lower).

I like to call these pesky concerns the glow of The Hunchback of Notre Dame because he still got the hun.

On the other hand, Kettlebell squats have been humble in their rise to blog stardom. They offer greater security to your back and posture health with consistency and effort, achieving commendable results. They do require some research (dare I say, what you are doing now) to achieve noteworthy levels of muscle hypertrophy.

One of the ways one can maintain good hypertrophy is to increase the volume of repetitions and sets to counter the decrease in achievable weight load.

Kettlebell squats are a major upset for barbell squats not only because of the unmatched security they offer, but also because they train similar muscle groups.

Do Kettlebell Squats Punch Similar Muscles To Barbell Squats?

Kettlebell squats not only improve your posture but involve the entire body; they train all prime muscles in the lower body, just like barbell squats. And just like barbell squats, they also hit the core (engage), softly split the shins, back, and forearms. They strengthen bones, aid fat loss, and -to a smaller degree- help build a staunch upper back and mountainous shoulders.

Dissimilar to barbell squats, they help curb injuries but also fall short because of the lack of progressive overload they offer. This progressive overload limitation is one of the biggest hindrances for veteran lifters in wholly embracing the kettlebell squats.

Do Kettlebell Squats Even Lift More Than Barbell Squats, Effective?

Kettlebell squats are an effective and safer option compared to barbell squats. They work similar muscles and stand as the epitome of the adage, “Work smarter, not harder.”

Kettlebell Squats Vs. Barbell Squats—The Decision

Although kettlebell squats seem to go the distance, they do score lower in impact on effective aggression. The muscles they hit aren’t as battered as they would be with barbell squats.

If you choose to forego your spine, barbell squats done raw (free weights and outside of the cradle of the Smith machine; barebone rack) force you to balance more and engage more abdominal muscles (including those scandalous obliques).

The decision may not be unanimous, but the ranking of the points is well worth considering:

Kettlebell Squat AdvantagesBarbell Squat Advantages
Kettlebell squats don’t require any more equipment than the kettlebell itself, making them more accessible.  This pinnacle of Chad-Dom hits different. Requires more stabilization, therefore, engages more abdominal muscles.
Routines incorporating kettlebells are considerably safer than their equipment-heavy counterparts (not the straw that broke the camel’s back).  Barbell squats are conducive to progressive overload. If you can lift ‘em, you can stack ‘em.
Kettlebells allow for higher repetitions, ideal for burning fat while building lean muscle.  Bread-and-butter of balanced body composition.
This exercise is diverse and has many fun and engaging variations for all fitness levels and goals.  Mastered form pays dividends in both strength increase and muscle building.
Useful for rehabilitation and encouraging proper posture.  Scientifically proven benefits.
Proper form is less tricky to master and execute correctly.   

While both these necessary routines bring compelling points to the ring, they do have their own pitfalls.

Kettlebell Squat DisadvantagesBarbell Squat Disadvantages
Kettlebell squats are limited in the resistance they offer, a big damper on progressive overload.  Barbell squats require a fair amount of professional equipment.
If done dynamically or without proper form, the exercise does pose its own risk of injury.This bad boy workout is easy to mess up and can have long-lasting effects on your lower back (the straw that broke the camel’s back).  
Exercise lacks the scientific credibility of its opponent due to the limited number of studies conducted.This workout demands respect and a gym partner for extra security unless you are a mad lad.  
 Bad form reinforces and exaggerates bad posture.  

It’s clear to discern that kettlebell squats are a formidable match to barbell squats. The empirical evidence is even enticing to state that Kettlebell squats are better than barbell squats.

If pressed to choose one as supreme (for back problem reasons or a partnerless existence), kettlebell squats just run away with the show solely because you will be walking upright, diced, and happy well into your silver years. However, one might never quite compete as a strongman.


While kettlebell squats are multitalented and just a better pick for most people, they are most effective as part of a balanced workout roster. If you can master good form and posture on the barbell squat, kettlebell squats are a great addition. Otherwise, rest assured that they can be their dance if you supplement their limitations with other friendly leg routines.


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