July 21, 2021
Training as a runner comes in many more forms than just the act of running itself. To be the best runner that you can be, you need to incorporate other types of training that improve your running and keep injuries at bay. Strength training is essential for building power in the muscles involved in running, which translates into a faster pace and new PRs . Using kettlebells is a highly effective and versatile way of doing this.
Using the right kettlebell exercises can build full-body strength and power, creating a stronger core that will help with balance and stabilization. This also results in better posture, which directly benefits your running form.
Kettlebell workouts offer many benefits for runners and there are a raft of different strength exercises you can do. We’ve chosen the three best kettlebell exercises for runners. We’ll explain how they help and how to do them. Make sure to also watch our videos to check the proper form of the exercises.
The kettlebell windmill especially strengthens and improves the stability of the medial glutes (gluteus medius) which are involved with moving your hips and stabilizing your pelvis. It also lengthens the lateral fascia of the leg, which commonly gets tight in runners and leads to low back and knee pain.
By strengthening the hip muscles, you’ll increase stability upon impact, which helps translate power into your stride while running. This also helps to improve your running mechanics, which will in turn improve the speed and efficiency of your stride.
This video shows proper form. Practice the windmill without a kettlebell to perfect the motion before moving on to the weighted exercise. Try practicing with a shoe on your knuckles, and don’t rush these movements. As with any exercise, you get the maximum benefit when you do it with proper form.
If you're holding the kettlebell overhead in the left hand, you're going to be working the left leg. Note that the supporting leg is straight as we hinge. This lengthens while safely loading those tissues, educating them to be in control while in this lengthened position. This actually applies to all the muscles in your body -- notice how much harder a bicep curl is when your arm is extended? As you curl the weight it gets easier to lift.
A quick tip, train all your muscles (safely ;)) into their extended positions and watch how quickly your mobility AND strength increase!
The overhead walking lunge is another great total-body movement that will help strengthen your leg and core muscles. The movement itself is fairly straightforward, but requires stability and balance.
The overhead walking lunge helps with lengthening and strengthening the leg muscles, while also working the glutes, hamstrings and quads. All of these are important muscles for proper running technique.
Geek Note: The medial glute helps with stability and external rotation of the leg, and the maximal glute can be looked at as the prime driver of hip extension (which happens on every stride). By combining the Windmill (medial glute work) and the lunge (maximal glute work), it’s like a “one-two” punch towards faster running.
The overhead aspect of the exercise helps with thoracic control – your thoracic cage runs from the base of your neck down to your abdomen and is the part of your spine where your ribs are attached. Limited thoracic mobility affects your shoulders, your ability to lift your arms overhead and your posture. This exercise will also work your hips, the powerhouse of your body.
See the video below for the proper form.
If you have trouble stacking your arm over your shoulder, watch this video on wall slides which will help you open up your shoulders and thoracic cage.
Whether you love squats or hate them, the benefits are incredibly valuable for runners. As we all know, squats are king when increasing leg strength. We add a layer by making them explosive to reinforce stride mechanics and add power.
First things first, get a good goblet squat. Check out our video showing proper goblet squat position. The value of the Goblet Squat is in its ability to bring out the ‘baby squat’ in everyone. The baby squat is that perfect squat you see all kids perform before they’ve sat in front of the TV too much.
Note: Once you’ve got a good goblet squat, shallow the range of motion and add speed, as in the next video.
The explosive goblet squat helps to train hip flexibility and mobility, as well as quad and glute strength. It’s great at bringing out the “baby squat” – that super deep squat you see many young kids do. This is important because the more mobile and flexible your hips are, the better condition your knees and back will be in.
Watch the video for proper form.
As with the windmill, practice the goblet squat without a kettlebell to perfect the motion before moving on to the weighted version. Once you get the hang of the form of this exercise, add explosiveness by jumping as quickly as possible. Watch these videos to get a better understanding of the form and the full explosive goblet squat movement.
Regular strength training for runners is important to build strength, power, and stability, which will in turn help improve your running and ward off injuries. Incorporate these three kettlebell exercises for runners into your strength training regime to build your best running body.
Founder & Training Director
Layn has spent his life immersed in the worlds of fitness and physical performance. As an athlete, he’s completed multiple endurance events such as the Texas Bandera 50k Trail Run, Austria’s Ironman 70.3, and the Alaskaman Extreme Ironman. He’s been coaching since 2008 with certifications in USA Weightlifting Level 1, CrossFit Level 1, Strong First L1, and the National Academy of Sports Medicine.