Using kettlebell exercises to strengthen your hamstrings is an excellent way to reduce injury potential and improve your running times.
If you are a keen runner or use running as part of your sport then dedicating time to a few specific hamstring exercises is certainly worth your effort.
Let’s take a look at the hamstring muscles and 8 kettlebell exercises that work into the hamstrings:
Why Should Runners Strengthen the Hamstrings?
The hamstrings consist of 3 muscles that run from the back of the pelvis to the knee, namely the biceps femoris long & short head, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus.
The hamstring muscles flex the knee, extend the thigh backwards towards the buttocks and adduct the leg.
Quick starting, stopping, jumping and side stepping are all hamstring dependant.
During movement the hamstrings act as your body’s natural brakes and work together with the quadriceps on the front of the thighs.
Due to the sheer size and strength of the quadriceps the hamstrings often find themselves overpowered and injuries can occur.
Many sports like cycling are quad dominant and so further increase the muscle imbalances between the front and back of the thighs.
The solution to reducing potential injury is to strengthen the hamstrings and regain a better balance between the quads and the hamstrings.
Let’s look at 8 kettlebell exercises that runners can use to strengthen your hamstrings:
1 Kettlebell Good Morning
The kettlebell good morning is a great exercise to begin strengthening your hamstrings.
The objective of this exercise is not to use a heavy kettlebell but rather to mobilise and warm up the hamstrings.
The importance of this kettlebell exercise comes from the ability to hinge at the hips while keeping the back flat.
Keep your weight back on your heels and mid-foot in order to fully activate the hamstring muscles.
Your knees should not be completely locked out but instead slightly bent.
Push your hips backwards and only lean forwards as far as your hamstrings will allow before your lower back starts to round.
Practice: 1 set of 5 – 10 slow reps with a relatively light kettlebell.
Learn more: How to use kettlebell warm up exercises
Watch the Kettlebell good morning exercise below:
2 Kettlebell Single Arm Deadlift
The kettlebell single arm deadlift is a full body exercise that especially works into the hamstrings and buttock muscles.
As with the good morning exercise the single arm deadlift requires a good hip hinge with a flat back.
Again keeping your weight back on your heels and mid-foot will help to better activate your hamstrings and buttock muscles.
The single arm deadlift exercise is especially good to perform with a kettlebell because the handle sits up nice and proud while on the floor.
Keep your shoulder down throughout the entire exercise and never let your shoulders hunch up around your ears.
Squeeze your buttocks tight at the top of the movement and don’t lean backwards overextending your lower back.
Be sure to lower the kettlebell slowly (2 – 3 seconds) and lift quickly (1 second).
Practice: 5 – 12 reps with as heavy a kettlebell as you can lift with good form.
Discover more: 7 kettlebell deadlift variations
Watch the Kettlebell single arm deadlift exercise below:
3 Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlift
The kettlebell single leg deadlift will really challenge your hamstrings, core and balance.
Possibly the most important kettlebell exercise for runners the single leg deadlift connects the hip to the opposite shoulder via the core muscles.
The diagonal core muscle recruitment you achieve through this exercise will develop rotational power needed during running as well as helping to stabilise the hips.
As with the previous two kettlebell exercises for your hamstrings, hinge at the hips with a flat back and keep the shoulders away from your ears.
Try to prevent the hips from opening up by keeping the back foot toes pointing downwards.
Be prepared for some muscle soreness if this is your first time using this exercise.
Practice: 5 slow reps on each leg
Watch the Kettlebell single leg deadlift exercise below:
4 Kettlebell Bob and Weave
The kettlebell bob and weave is our first side to side exercise but as the hamstrings adduct the legs it is important.
Runners will find this kettlebell exercise helps to open up your hips as well as strengthen the legs.
As with the other exercises keep your back flat and weight back on your heels.
The deeper you can sink into the side lunge position the better but you should start easy until you have warmed up.
Keep your chest up throughout the entire exercise and don’t let the kettlebell pull you forwards rounding your back.
Practice: work up to 20 total repetitions slowly flowing from one side to the other.
Watch the Kettlebell bob and weave exercise below:
5 Kettlebell Swing
The kettlebell swing is a fast and dynamic kettlebell exercise that improves the hamstrings ability to absorb load.
The kettlebell swing is based on the deadlift movement pattern and so requires a hinging at the hips with a flat back.
Beginners should first master the above 4 exercises before progressing to this more advanced exercise.
There are many kettlebell swing variations but ultimately they all challenge the hamstrings in a similar way. The two handed swing is the best variation to begin with.
Use your hips and not your shoulders to drive the kettlebell up to chest height.
At the top of the swing squeeze your buttocks tight and do not lean backwards or overextend your hips.
Practice: Sets of 10 reps is a good place to begin. Try to keep rest periods in between sets to a minimum.
Watch the Kettlebell two handed swing exercise below:
6 Kettlebell Racked Reverse Lunge
The kettlebell racked reverse lunge is an important exercise for runners.
Not only does the lunge strengthen the hamstrings but also opens up the hips.
Just by performing the lunge runners will be able to see the importance of this exercise and how it mimics the running movement to a certain degree.
Emphasis should be placed on the depth of the lunge ensuring that the back knee comes as close to the floor as possible.
Keep your chest up throughout the entire exercise but try to prevent over extending at the lower back and leaning backwards.
If you struggle to hold the kettlebell in the racked position against the arm you can use both hands to hold the kettlebell instead.
The kettlebell reverse lunge is the easiest lunge variation to begin with but once comfortable with the exercise you can progress to the forward lunge too.
Practice: 8 – 12 repetitions on each leg is great place to begin.
Watch the Kettlebell racked reverse lunge exercise below:
7 Kettlebell Windmill
The kettlebell windmill exercise will strengthen your hamstrings, shoulders and core muscles while at the same time improving your flexibility.
The rear leg should be kept straight while the front leg has a slight bend.
Keep your kettlebell arm straight and your focus on the kettlebell.
Your flexibility will dictate the depth you can achieve as you reach down towards the floor.
Beginners should use their front leg as a guide following the leg down as far as their hamstrings will allow before the back leg wants to bend.
Practice: begin by practicing the movement before adding a kettlebell. Work up to 3 sets of 5 reps on each side.
Watch the Kettlebell windmill exercise below:
8 Kettlebell Side Lunge
The kettlebell side lunge is a more advanced exercise for developing leg strength including the hamstrings.
As with many of the exercises listed here the side lunge will help open up the hips which is excellent for preventing future injuries.
The depth of your side lunge will depend on your flexibility, start easy and gradually increase your lunging depth as you warm up.
Keep your weight back on your heels and mid-foot and the one leg as straight as possible.
The deeper you can sit back into the lunge the more muscle activation runners will achieve in your buttocks.
Try to prevent your chest from falling forwards due to the weight of the kettlebell.
Practice: this is a challenging exercise to do well so start off without a kettlebell and then progress to 3 sets of 8 – 12 reps per side.
Watch the Kettlebell side lunge exercise below:
Conclusion to Kettlebell Hamstring Exercises for Runners
The hamstring muscles are very important for stopping, starting, running and jumping.
Due to the overuse of the quad muscles on the front of the thighs the hamstrings are often overpowered leading to common injuries.
Above I have listed 8 kettlebell exercises for the hamstrings starting with the easiest and finishing with the most challenging.
Start by adding 1 – 2 of these hamstring exercises into your existing workout 2 – 3 times per week.
Best of luck.
Have you tried any of these kettlebell exercises for your hamstrings? Let me know below….