Strength training should be an integral part of life.
Not just for us runners but for anyone who wishes to combat the adverse effects of modern-day society.
If you want to have the strength and mobility to perform everyday tasks with ease until old age and want to look better naked, you better be strong.
I admit it, though: I don’t love strength training.
My passion is running, and I am an outdoor gal.
I prefer lonely forests, mud on my clothes, and cool air on my skin, overcrowded gyms with stale air and blasting music that annoys me at best and makes me want to throw my weight against the loudspeakers at worst.
In 2012 I discovered kettlebells, and to say they have revolutionized my training and how I view strength training is an understatement.
Over the years that followed, my desire to become stronger grew, and today I am wholeheartedly supporting the opinion that strength is the master quality of physical fitness.
Moreover, I believe kettlebells are the best strength training tool for runners, and in this article, I will give you my top three reasons why.
Ready? Let’s get started.
1. You Can Take Kettlebells Outside
You hate gyms but don’t have the space to set up a home gym?
Then kettlebell training is the perfect solution. Because kettlebells are so small, you can easily take them outside for training. Even a heavy bell of 20 or 24kg fits easily into a hiking pack.
If you are a runner, you are probably familiar with the benefits of exercising outside.
It helps strengthen your immune system, boosts your vitamin D levels, and helps to keep your hormone levels healthy.
Fancy a challenge?
Why not take your kettlebell for a hike up a hill and do a few sets of swings once you reached the top?
I live in a lowland area and have a few small hills around. I like to walk up the hill and do 100 kettlebell swings. Then I walk down and back up again and do 200 kettlebell swings. I repeat the process, adding 100 swings each round. There is no fixed end, and my fatigue level dictates the endpoint.
Sometimes I want to push it and exert myself.
But since the primary goal of training is to become better and practice the skill, most sessions end as soon as I can not execute the lifts with proper form anymore.
2. Kettlebells Improve Your Athleticism and Simplify Your Training
If you want to improve as a runner and reduce your chances of injury, you need to enhance athleticism.
What does that mean? It means you need to think of yourself as an athlete first and as a runner second.
If you only run, you increase your risk for injury and will never reach your full potential as a runner.
There are several components to athleticism, and various opinions and definitions exist.
The most commonly included components are:
Other qualities, such as power or strength endurance, are combinations of these basic motor abilities.
For example, power is a combination of speed and strength. Mobility is a combination of flexibility and coordination.
Too many runners neglect several parts of the athleticism puzzle.
They might do warm-ups and foam roll or stretch, but all too often, strength workouts and even speed workouts are left out.
The good news is that kettlebells are the best all-around fitness tool and training with them improves your athleticism on various levels.
You can use them to lift heavy and become strong.
You can use them for training explosively and developing power and speed.
You can use them for training endurance.
Compared with other training methods, the significant benefit of kettlebell training is that you train inter-and intramuscular coordination with every lift.
When you focus on the fundamental kettlebell exercises, your core musculature is constantly working. The majority of the smaller stabilizing muscles throughout your body are strengthened with the basic lifts too.
Another advantage of using kettlebells instead of dumbells or barbells is that you can train true ballistic lifts.
Why is this an advantage for runners?
Simple. Running is a ballistic movement. Once you incorporate ballistic exercises in your training regimen, you can improve your muscles’ ability to tolerate concentric contractions and your tendons’ ability to release stored energy.
Kettlebell training also combats the effects of sitting too much.
If you are a weekend-warrior who sits at a desk or behind the wheel for a living, you likely have to put in some work to undo the harmful effects modern living has on your body.
Weak glute and core musculature, tight hip flexors, tight quad musculature, and forward rounded shoulders – to name just a few.
Many runners rely too heavily on their quads and don’t use their glute musculature properly.
Often the muscle recruitment shifts to the front of the body.
However, when you focus on recruiting the backside musculature more, you maintain a better posture.
And a better posture, in turn, leads to more power, faster running, and reduced risk of injury.
How can kettlebell training help?
Many of the best kettlebell lifts train your entire back and core musculature, including your hip flexors.
Last but not least, kettlebell training can improve your mobility, which has excellent carry-over effects on running form and hence performance.
To put a long story short: Because kettlebells are the best all-around fitness tool, using them simplifies your training to an extent other training devices can not.
3. Kettlebells Are A Low Risk, Time-Efficient, And Extremely Affordable Strength Training Tool
Compared to strength training using barbells or dumbbells, kettlebell training carries a lower risk for injuries, especially when it comes to ballistic lifts or training for power.
The kettlebell allows for more individual joint positions and angles than barbells and dumbbells, decreasing strain on your tendons and injury risk.
Kettlebell training also puts less pressure on your spine than barbell training.
Kettlebell training is time-efficient.
Due to the kettlebell’s unique shape, you can design chains or complexes, going seamlessly from one exercise to the next without setting the bell down.
What is the difference between chains and complexes?
When performing a kettlebell chain, you perform one repetition of the exercise and then move on to the next until you have completed all lifts in your chain. Then you do the next round until you have completed as many rounds as you wish.
On the other hand, a kettlebell complex means that you perform all repetitions and sets of one exercise before moving on to the next exercise.
Let’s take a kettlebell workout of one arm swings, cleans, and military press where you plan to do five repetitions of each lift.
A kettlebell chain would look like this:
- 1 Arm Swing: 5 repetitions
- Clean: 5 repetitions
- Military press: 5 repetitions
A kettlebell complex would look like this:
- 1 Arm Swing: 5 repetitions
- Clean: 5 repetitions
- Military press: 5 repetitions
What is better?
That depends on your goals, programming, and skills.
Kettlebell chains are better for improving coordination and proprioception because you constantly change the movement.
Kettlebell chains are also mentally more taxing than complexes, and I found they teach me well to stay focused when fatigued.
Kettlebell complexes are probably better for building muscle due to increased time under tension for the muscles involved in the respective lift.
Either way, when you design your kettlebell program using complexes and chains, you can perform many repetitions and train all your major muscle groups in a very short amount of time. Neither barbells nor dumbbells are well-suited for this style of training.
Last but not least, kettlebell training is very cost-effective compared with barbell or dumbbell training.
Because of the kettlebells’ unique shape, they find space in every home, and you don’t need much space to reserve for them. Hence you can buy some kettlebells and spare yourself the cost of a gym membership. In contrast to barbells or dumbells, a set of 3 kettlebells with different weights will take you far in your training.
There you have it.
These are my top three reasons why kettlebell training and running are a perfect match.
If traditional strength training with barbells and dumbbells bores you to tears, give kettlebell training a try.
You might fall in love with it 😉