The best Kettlebell Workouts for Runners

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“The doctor of the future will give no medicine; instead he will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, nutrition and the cause and prevention of disease.”

One of the key components of taking part in a long running event such as an Ultra Marathon is strength. One of the best ways to be strong is to do Strength Training. In my opinion, one of the best ways to do strength training is with that cannon ball with a handle we call a kettlebell. Here’s why.

What is a Kettlebell?

So first things first, what the hell is a kettlebell ? Well effectively they are what I stated above – a cannonball with a handle. They are primarily used to perform ballistic exercises that combine cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training.

 

There are two basic types of kettlebell and they are the cast-iron classic, also known as the fitness kettlebell, and the steel competition, or Girya sport kettlebell. The cast-iron classic is less expensive because it’s easier to make. The classic is ideal for general fitness. It is available in moulds of various sizes. The heavier the kettlebell, the larger both the ball and the handle are.

 

 

 

 

The competition kettlebell is the same size no matter what the weight and are generally colour coded to define the weight.

If you are serious about kettlebell training, then you should consider paying a little extra for a competition style kettlebell.

If it is your intention to train with kettlebells for general fitness, strength, power and fat loss, then the less expensive cast-iron bell will get the job done effectively.

Kettlebells also come in a vinyl coated and plastic format. I seriously wouldn’t bother with any of those as the shape is a little off and the plastic are well, just plastic.

What are the kettlebells good for?

Anything! Seriously, Strength, Conditioning, Power, Fat Loss and general Fitness.

They are a do anywhere exercise tool and are a damn site cheaper than your monthly Gym subscription over a 12 month period. In a lot of ways they are far better than barbells and dumbbells too as they are fairly easy to learn the exercises. They also incorporate those stabilizer muscles a damn site better too.

What weights should I use?

Generally a Female would start at 6 – 8kg and work up through the weights to 12 – 16kg as experienced is gained.

Typically a Male would start at 12 -16kg and work up through 20 – 24kg as experience is gained.

The key thing here is to not go too heavy too soon. The kettlebell may seem light but that’s fine, get used to the exercises and do it safely. It’s not a race – stay injury free.

So what type of Workouts should a runner be doing?

Well Strength Training is a start as it is this training that is going to be the most useful at the end of a long race when your body is starting to hurt.

There is also Conditioning training which involves s a high-intensity endurance workout using circuit training followed by short periods of rest. This type of Kettlebell workout will increase work capacity as well as conditioning.

Fat Loss training – Your pretty much going to lose fat doing any Kettlebell workout believe me. Ensure your Nutrition is right and the fat will melt away.

So tell me about the Workouts!

Ok, so I guess if your reading this article you want to get down to the good stuff and learn a few good workouts. So below I will outline one for each type of training. I’ll also put some links to videos of each of the exercises that will be used.

Learn this early. The SWING is KING. 

If you were looking for a single exercise to care for the human frame you’d probably look for an exercise that helped us regain our posture from one of sitting hunched over to one that was upright, extended, and open. You’d probably also look for an exercise that worked the posterior chain to overcome all the negative effects of sitting and, if you could find one exercise that could do both of those, you’d probably also wonder if you could find one super exercise that could strengthen your heart and help you lose weight, too. It’s called the kettlebell swing.

Full Body Focus Strength and Conditioning

Choose a size kettlebell that ensures you can perform each exercise with perfect form, yet is challenging. If you find the rep range suggested is much too easy then make sure to use a heavier kettlebell next time. Do not go to failure! Focus on working 75-80% of your maximal efforts with this workout.

A1. Turkish Get Up, 2 per side

A2. 1 Arm Swing, 10 per side

Rest for a few seconds and repeat 2-3 times

B1. Push-Up, 5-8 reps

B2. Goblet Squat, 5-6 reps

B3. 1 Arm Row, 5-6 reps per side or Pull-Ups, 4-6 reps

B4. Snatch, 10 per side

Rest for a few seconds and repeat 2-3 times

Conditioning Focus

Pick a kettlebell that feels “easy” so you can maintain perfect form. Set your timer or Gymboss for 15 seconds. You will spend 30 seconds on each exercise. Some of the exercises will require you to do 15 seconds per side. Take a full 30 second rest in between each exercise.

A1. Push Press, 15 sec per side

A2. 2 Handed Swing, 30 sec

A3. Jump Squats, 30 sec

A4. High Pulls, 15 sec per side

Rest 30-60 seconds and repeat for 2-3 rounds

B1. 1 Arm Swings or Snatch, 15 sec per side – As above

B2. Burpees (Push-up optional), 30 seconds

B3. Double Farmer’s Walk, 30 seconds

Rest 30-60 seconds and repeat for 2-3 rounds

Strength Focus

Generally when focusing on strength you still want to approach the workout as practice. Therefore using a heavy enough bell that allows you to have perfect reps should be your goal.

A1. Single Leg Dead Lift (Double Bells), 5 each side

A2. Clean and Press, 3-5 per side

A3. Renegade Rows, 5 per side

A4. Double Swings, 8 reps

Take roughly a 20-60 second rest in between each exercise so you can feel fresh before beginning the next exercise. Repeat this section for 3-5 rounds.

B1. Pull-ups or 1 Arm Row, 3-5 – As above

B2. Single Leg Box Squats, 3-5 per side

B3. Double Cleans, 8 reps

Take roughly 20-60 second rest in between each exercise so you can feel fresh before beginning the next exercise. Repeat this section for 3-5 rounds.

Integrating Strength and Conditioning Workouts With Your Running

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: Workout 1: Full Body Focus Strength and Conditioning

Wednesday: Run

Thursday: Run or Rest

Friday: Workout 2: Conditioning Focus

Saturday: Workout 3: Strength Focus + Short Run

Sunday: Long Run

I hope you enjoy these workouts. Give them a try and let me know how you get on. If it feels like it is too much, listen to your body and ease off. I look forward to hearing about your progress!

 

10 comments

  1. Mark

    I’ve struggled with kettle bells. Reading this It occurs to me the one I have is probably too heavy for starting out.

    Thanks

    1. Hi Darrel,
      yes it can be difficult to understand what size kettlebell to use when starting out. Of course with different exercises there may be lighter of heavier weight’s that work best. I would look at a range of 12 – 16kg to start off and if that still doesn’t feel right then go lighter. Safety and correct form are the most important aspects to avoid injury.

      Cheers.

  2. Seriously, no joke, the kettle bell is my favorite piece of exercise equipment!
    I always try and show people at the gym how to use them properly, because the swing IS king. It’s amazing how many guys are super strong but really struggle with this workout. Just yesterday I hit a new weight max for getting the kettle bell overhead consistently for 5 swings. 20KG! I did 3 sets of those and I was super pumped. Its amazing how those exercises increase your strength.

    1. Hi Nicole, wow that is amazing! 20kg! Well done to you.
      I’m with you on the strong guys struggling. I think people have this theory that something that is only 16 – 20kg is too light and will be easy to use. How wrong they are!!!!
      Keep up the great work and well done on trying to show people how to use them correctly.

    1. Hi Miguel, it could be a case that your lower back is weak.

      It is always important in your training to master the proper techniques, and have mobility before stability and strength because mobility is the foundation for stabilization and strength to exist.
      Remember, the body is good at compensating and overcoming imbalances. When it comes to your back being an ideal system, your low back; the lumbar spine should be stable, and your upper back; the thoracic spine should be mobile.
      If there is a lack of integrity anywhere along this system such as immobility in the thoracic spine, the compensation can cause a hypermobile (and weak) low back. This instability can cause lower back pain and load bearing overhead might hurt you.
      To fix this, work in some thoracic spine mobility every day and strengthen your low back. For back strength focus regularly on overall strength training with Barbell squats, Deadlifts, good mornings, and back extensions.
      These strength exercises are also great for increasing range of motion and symmetry. By the way, proper kettlebell lifting technique – swings and jerks – will strengthen and align your spine.
      As with everything though, if you have any concerns, always consult your doctor prior to undertaking any vigorous exercise.

  3. I have never heard of kettle bell. This is new for me. The workout looks very interesting and easy to do. I like your easy to follow instructions. I have bookmarked your post. I love new ways of getting fit. I will be checking out your site more frequently. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Hi there, so glad you found the post interesting and easy to follow. Thank you also for bookmarking the post.
      I hope you get on well with trying out the new exercises – just remember, go very light to start with until you have the exercises being done with correct form. Some are basic but should be treated with respect so not to have any injuries.
      Good luck and thank you.

  4. Many of the runners I’ve known through the years abhor any weight training or strength conditioning. They think of running as the one and only answer, which, as we all know, it’s not – because if something gets torn or injured, there is generally not enough muscle mass to support the body to a speedy recovery. I like that you’ve suggested specific kettlebell weights and workouts to motivate runners to do this!

    1. Thank you Penelope. You are right, I think a lot of runners just thought running was the answer. I think with the explosion of sports science and obviously the internet, people are becoming far more aware of what works better. I think so many other sports have gone the same way also.

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