We often get asked about kettlebell strength training exercises for runners. The ultimate question is not really about kettlebells but more about what exercises would be best to help improve running performance and prevent potential running injuries.
The Challenges of Running
Running is a tough exercise and although it comes natural when we are kids as we get older it becomes a lot more challenging.
When you run your full body weight goes through one leg as you make impact with the ground, essentially making 100’s or 1000’s of single leg hops as you move forward.
Force absorption is key here because as the foot impacts the floor the body needs to disperse the force up from the foot, to the knee, into the hip, core muscles and so on.
Any joint misalignment, muscle imbalances or weaknesses will be magnified as you continue to make impact with the ground over and over and over again.
Now for the bad news, most people have joint misalignments, have muscle weaknesses at the hips and core and carry too much weight.
So what is the solution? Avoid running?
For some people who carry too much weight or have bad alignment or stability issues then yes I recommend you strengthen your body first before hitting the running track.
Here’s how to prepare yourself for a healthier running experience:
Mobility Exercises for Runners
A lack of hip mobility will result in excessive forced mobility at the lumbar spine and even the knees so ensuring that the hips move as they should is vital for runners.
Hip mobility exercises are excellent because not only will they help improve your joints health but can also serve as an excellent warm-up before your run.
Strength Training Exercises for Runners
There are two areas that deserve the majority of your attention, the glutes because they control the alignment and strength of the upper leg and the core muscles because they control the stability and alignment of the pelvis. There are of course many other muscles at play here but they feed into the movement patterns we are aiming to strengthen.
As running is fundamentally a single leg exercise, focus should be on single leg training.
Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlift
Why do it?
The single leg deadlift heavily activates the glutes and hamstrings while at the same time teaching good core and hip stability.
If your knees cave inwards when you run then this is a possible sign of weak glutes and a strengthening of these muscles will help correct a misalignment that may result in knee issues.
Also, excessive pronation of the feet (caving of the arch inwards) may not require fancy running shoes with built up arches but rather just a strengthening of the hip stabilizers to improve leg alignment.
Finally, the single leg deadlift will strengthen the Hamstrings which are your body’s natural brakes so excellent for controlling speed while running.
Kettlebell Forward Lunge
Why do it?
Running involves a series of shallow lunges and by developing the full lunge exercise you condition the glutes and quads even further. Lunges can be performed slowly and therefore more controlled than running so focus can be placed on great technique and keeping the foot, knees and hips in alignment.
Kettlebell Pistol Squat
Why do it?
The pistol squat is the ultimate single leg strength building exercise. If you maintain good technique and progress the exercise slowly it forces excellent hip stabilization as well as strengthening the quads and hamstrings.
Practice first without any weight by holding onto a TRX or rope or bands secured in front of you. You can also try sitting and standing with one leg back onto a chair, bench or sofa.
Kettlebell Farmers Carry
Why do it?
The Farmers Carry with strengthen the core muscles that help stabilize the pelvis as you move forward. Holding a kettlebell just in one hand by your side forces the core muscles to work hard to maintain an upright position.
Running is a challenging exercise that requires very good hip and core strength as well as joint alignment and mobility. When you run you are really performing a series of single leg hops with the full force of your body driving through your joints from the foot upwards.
In order to help prevent injuries while running the glutes and core muscles should be strengthened first using a series of single leg exercises and core stabilization movements.
Once the body is strong and mobile then the best training for running is running together with a steady maintenance program of strength building exercises.