Improve performance and prevent injury.
Walk into any gym and amongst the grunts and clanks of dumbbells and barbells, you’re bound to see someone in the corner swinging around a metal ball. Kettlebells have exploded in popularity across the world, leading fitness enthusiasts to swing, clean, press and lift the bell in different ways for a unique combination of cardio and strength.
Although they can be used for traditional exercises like squats and deadlifts, kettlebells often provide a different dimension to many workout programs. Their unique shape and size forces lifters to produce large amounts of force and control the weight through a large range of motion, building both strength and coordination.
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Kettlebells can offer an awesome workout for nearly anyone, but there are certain benefits to runners. Here are a few kettlebell exercises that have a direct carryover to runners for both improving performance and preventing injury.
The swing is one of the most common kettlebell exercises for a reason. It’s a fantastic way to develop power and strength through the hips, particularly in the glutes and the hamstrings. In a sport like running that features constant pounding with each footfall, a strong backside is important both for performance and injury prevention. The quick, explosive motion of the swing also adds a unique element to your lifting routine.
The vast majority of the power and motion should come from the hips, not from bending the knees. Keep a slight bend in the legs but focus on snapping the hips through to move the kettlebell. Also, don’t pull on the weight with your arms. Your elbows should remain locked out the entire time, with your upper body acting as a method to hold on to the swinging weight.
Kettlebell Push Press
Like the swing, the push press is designed to build power and explosiveness. This time, the focus is on the upper body. Many runners neglect their upper body, preferring to head out on another run or spend all their time building a strong lower half. In reality, the upper body is crucial for form and breathing, two key elements of performance. The push press builds core strength, since it only works one side at a time. It also develops explosive strength in the upper body, which is extremely important for finishing strong during the last quarter mile of a race.
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What makes the push press so special is that it transfers power from the lower body to the upper body and builds coordination. Avoid using solely your upper half to power the weight up. After a slight bend in the hips and knees, explode up and drive the weight overhead for maximum benefit.
Kettlebell Floor To Shelf
Although it may appear that running only requires moving straight forward, there’s actually quite a bit of twisting that goes in the running gait. As such, rotation or twisting motions are crucial for runners. The floor to shelf helps to build strength in the upper body while focusing on the midsection. The movement also requires a unique type of strength, called eccentric strength, where the obliques must slow down the rotation at the top of the exercise to prevent over-rotation and injury. This eccentric strength helps to prevent excess movement during running leaving you with a more efficient running form.
Although the focus of the exercise is on the core and the upper body, the lower body has an important role to play. As you twist towards one side, focus on pivoting the feet and the hips to complete the motion. This helps to emphasize the rotation as well as prevent injury at the ankles and knees.
Kettlebell Turkish Get-Up
Perhaps the most unusual exercise you’ll see in the gym, the Turkish get-up turns something as simple as getting up off the floor into one of the most difficult things you’ll do all day. Participants start lying down on the floor with the kettlebell and proceed to move to a standing position with the weight locked out overhead. Since the movement requires a complex series of twists, lunges, and sit-ups—all with a weight locked out overhead—it strengthens the entire body in one movement.
Don’t let the overwhelming desire to be done with the set force you to move too fast through the different positions. Each part of a Turkish get-up emphasizes a different part of the body. Focus on moving slowly and pausing during the challenging parts of the exercise to gain balance and strength. Also, keep your arm locked out overhead the entire time to get the most benefit.