I’ve been talking a lot recently about how and why you should include strength training in your running routine, whether your goal is to get fit, lose weight, or run a marathon. Today, I want to share one of my current favorite strength training routines with you. It’s quick, effective, and hits all of the important muscle groups that runners want to train to get strong, prevent injury, and run fast.
Kettlebells had a moment of huge popularity a few years ago and I’ve used them on and off in my fitness routine since then. I love kettlebells! First off, kettlebells are compact and affordable, which makes them an excellent choice for a home gym. I got my kettlebells at Target (affiliate link) a few years ago and they are still as good as new. In college and grad school, when I would frequently drive between St. Louis, Valpo, and Dayton, I would simply pack a kettlebell in my car so I could get in a quick and effective workout while home with my parents for Christmas or visiting Ryan for the weekend.
Kettlebells are also easy to use. While you do want to start with a lighter weight to learn proper form for the moves, many of the kettlebell exercises are straightforward. As long as you are mindful of your posture and careful with the weight, you should be able to easily learn the exercises while staying safe. One piece of advice: since kettlebells are heavy and you will be doing a lot of explosive movements, make sure you are in an area clear of anything fragile and that any kids or pets keep their distance. Otherwise, you can do kettlebell workouts anywhere – I’ve done them plenty of times in the living room!
The kettlebell is a great strength-building tool for anyone, especially runners. Studies have found that kettlebell workouts can actually significantly improve your aerobic fitness. In one study reported by Runner’s World, athletes who used the kettlebell experienced a 6% increase in VO2max. That roughly equates to shaving one minute off of your 5K time!
These kettlebell exercises for runners will strengthen your entire body, especially your glutes, core, and back – all very important muscles in running fast and with good form. Most of the moves activate your entire kinetic chain, particularly your posterior chain, which is essential for building a strong and stable spine. Finally, the awkward shape of the kettlebell forces your to engage your all of your muscles and improve your balance, which will aid runners in fixing muscular imbalances that can frequently lead to injuries.
For this workout, you will need a kettlebell and, if desired, an exercise or yoga mat. Begin with a weight that is light enough to lift with proper form but heavy enough that your muscles feel fatigued during the final few reps. I use the roughly same weight or five pounds heavier for my kettlebell as I do for traditional dumbbell exercises: 12-15 pounds. These five kettlebell exercises for runners will provide you with an effective and enjoyable workout in fifteen minutes – short enough to add to the busiest of runners’ schedules.
Kettlebell Swing: Hold the kettlebell with both hands in front of your body and your feet about shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees, slightly squat, and let the kettlebell lower in between your legs. Engage your glutes and core and use them to explosively swing the kettlebell up to shoulder height and immediately return to start to complete one rep. Your arms will of course move, but most of the work will be done by your glutes and core. (For more guidance, see this guide to the kettlebell swing.)
Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlift with Row: Stand up straight and hold a kettlebell in your right hand. Lift your right leg off the floor, extend your leg as you slowly bend at your hips, and lower the kettlebell towards the floor. Your back should remain flat and straight and your core should be engaged. Pause, and slowly bend your right elbow to raise the kettlebell to your chest, then slowly lower. Return to starting position. This is one rep; complete all the reps on the right side and then repeat for your left side.
Kettlebell Windmill: Stand with your feet wider than hip-width and hold the kettlebell in your right hand. Raise your hand to your right shoulder and then press the weight overhead. This is your starting position. From there, rotate your chest to the right, look up at your right hand, and lower to touch your left foot with your left hand. Your spine should remain straight, your abs engaged, and your right arm extended overhead. This is one rep; complete all reps on the right side and then repeat on the left. (This is a move where you really want to master the form before adding a heavy weight. See this thorough post for all the details on how to properly do the kettlebell windmill.)
Kettlebell Front Squat with Overhead Press: Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and hold the kettlebell in front of your chest with both hands. Keep your back straight, abs engaged, and chest up as you slowly lower your butt down and back into a squat, stopping when your knees are at 90 degree angles. Be careful that your knees stay behind your toes. Press your heels down and engage your glutes to stand back up and then push the kettlebell overhead with both hands. Return to start to complete one rep.
Kettlebell Reverse Rotating Lunge: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold the kettlebell with both hands in front of your chest. Step your right leg back into a lunge with your left leg parallel to the floor. Be careful to keep your front knee behind your toes. Rotate your torso to the left, pause, and then slowly unwind and return to start. Alternate legs as you complete the desired number of reps.
Questions of the Day:
Have you used kettlebells before?
What’s your favorite pieces of equipment for your home gym?