3 of the best kettlebell exercises and workout for runners

It’s time to put the kettle on! 

Sorry, but new research has found that kettlebell training significantly boosts aerobic capacity, and improves core strength and dynamic balance. Kettlebell training is a calorie-burner, too, with workouts torching about 20kcals per minute – roughly equivalent to running 6min/mile pace. ‘This simple piece of equipment can develop muscular endurance, strength, power and cardiovascular capacity – all of which contribute to making you a better runner,’ says Phillippa Gillespie-Eyles, Kettlebell instructor at Everyone Active’s leisure centre in Dulwich, London.

She recommends runners incorporate two 30-minute kettlebell sessions a week into their training programme, saying runners will begin to see results within a month. Here are three exercises that everyone can try at home:

1. Swings

Kettlebell swings

This builds strength in the hips – a weak spot for many runners. Aim for two sets of 50 swings, with 1-min rest between each. ‘This fires up the glutes, ham- strings and lower back to boost power,’ says Gillespie-Eyles.’ Aim to get the kettlebell to shoulder level, making sure you squeeze your glutes at the top of the swing. 

2. Squats

Kettlebell squat

Hold the kettlebell in both hands and squat until your elbows touch your knees. Aim for 3 sets of 15 reps (1-min rest between sets). ‘This is great for the quads, hamstrings, glutes, abs and lower back,’ says Gillespie-Eyles. Only go as low as is comfortable; remember to control the movement up and down, don't feel like you have to rush your squats. 

3. Leg pass-throughs

Kettlebell pass through or figure of 8

Pass a kettlebell through your legs, making a sideways ‘8’. Aim for 5 rotations. Repeat 3 times. Gillespie-Eyles says the action ‘moves the body in a different plane of movement to target the lower body, core and shoulders’. It's important to keep a nice straight back here, so chose your weight accordingly. 

Related: 6 kettlebell exercises to help you run stronger

Not sure what weight of kettlebell you need?

Get to the gym and experiment with the above exercises to see what feels right. If after 10 swings you're really struggling, you've gone too heavy and vice-versa, if you finish them with ease then you've gone too light. You want to be able to complete all the sets and all the reps, but for those final reps to be hard work.

If you still need some guidance, our friends at Women's Health are here to help explain (the below applies to both men and women) - 

EXERCISES THAT CALL FOR A LIGHTER WEIGHT: 4 - 12kg

Core specific moves require a lighter weight, especially in the early days. If you try to jackknife or leg raise with a weight that's too heavy, you'll end up recruiting muscles in your back and neck.  Equally, exercises that ask you to raise your arms above your shoulders like tricep extension, shoulder press, and straight-arm pulses will need to be light enough that you can keep your core aligned. 

EXERCISES THAT CALL FOR A MEDIUM WEIGHT: 6 - 14 kg

Full body moves will bring you to a middle ground at the weights rack.  This is because, you can call on your core stabiliser muscles to keep you strong while working lower and upper body together. Think weighted lunges, squats and swings. 

EXERCISES THAT CALL FOR A HEAVY WEIGHT: 10+ kg

Moves that are less explosive and recruit your biggest muscle groups need heavy weights to be effective. Examples are deadlifts and sumo squats – you want to feel the work from the very first rep. 

Read more from WH on kettlebell and weight choice here

Need a kettlebell? Try this PROIRON Cast Iron kettlebell