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Kettlebell Workout for Runners with 6 Must Know Exercises

By Greg Brookes
Kettlebell Workout for Runners

I often get asked about a kettlebell workout for runners. The ultimate question should not really be 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 forwards.

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.

It is for these reasons that so many people get injured when they start running or progress too quickly.

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.

To see more posts about sports performance workouts and advice, go here.

Here’s a video of my complete hip mobility routine for you to practice:

Quick Kettlebell Workout 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.

Below I have listed 6 strength training exercises that I recommend you use as your workout for running.

1 Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlift

Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlift
An excellent single leg strength exercise for runners and their hamstrings

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 stabilisers 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.

Start with the bodyweight version first before adding a kettlebell to the exercise.

How many repetitions?

Keep the reps slow and deliberate, work up to 5 sets of 5 reps.

2 Kettlebell Forward Lunge

Kettlebell Forward Lunge Exercise
A basic exercise that all runners should feel comfortable performing

Why do it?

Every kettlebell workout for runners should include the Lunge. 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.

Begin with the bodyweight version first until you can perform 20 alternating forward lunges then start adding the kettlebell first held by both hands and then one in each hand.

How many repetitions?

Work up to 20 alternating lunges x 3 sets.

3 Kettlebell Pistol Squat

Kettlebell Pistol Squat Exercise
A more advanced exercise for runners that can be performed without a kettlebell

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 stabilisation 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.

How many repetitions?

Progress to 5 reps x 5 sets on each leg.

4 Kettlebell Farmers Carry

Kettlebell Farmers Carry Exercise
A great core strengthening exercise for runners

Why do it?

An excellent addition to any kettlebell workout for runners is the Farmers Carry, this exercise will strengthen the core muscles that help stabilise the pelvis as you move forwards. Holding a kettlebell just in one hand by your side forces the core muscles to work hard to maintain an upright position.

How many repetitions?

Grab a nice heavy kettlebell and walk as far as possible before switching sides and walking back again. You can increase the demands by walking up and down hills too. Try to keep the body upright throughout and not to favour one side over the other.

I prefer this exercise to the side plank as it feels more practical for running

5 Bird Dog with Rotation

Bird Dog with Rotation Exercise
A powerful core rotational exercise for runners

Why do it?

The bird dog with rotation will help link up those natural cross body sling systems that run from the shoulder to opposite leg via the core muscles. You will also get a lot of glute and back activation too which again will help stabilise the pelvis during movement.

How many repetitions?

Keep the exercise slow and deliberate performing 10 reps on each side for 3 sets.

6 Leg Lowers or Scissors

Leg Lowers or Scissors exercise
A hip stabilisation exercise for preventing lower back issues

Why do it?

A superb exercise for teaching the pelvis to stabilise while the legs are moving. It is vital during this exercise that the core is engaged and the lower back keep nice and flat to the floor.

In theory you should be able to perform this same exercise while standing and engaging the core muscles and swinging the leg forwards and backwards.

How many repetitions?

Work up to 15 leg lowers x 3 sets

Conclusion to this Kettlebell Workout for Runners

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 stabilisation 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.

Have you tried this kettlebell workout for runners? Did it help your running? Let me know below…

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    1. leonardo santini Avatar
      leonardo santini

      GREAT!!! as usual!!! ciao, leo

    2. Stuart Buchan Avatar
      Stuart Buchan

      Great article Greg – will pass onto the wife who is a trail runner. I am sure she will appreciate this.


      PS – you haven’t got a similar one for mountain biking have you?

      1. Greg Brookes Avatar

        Thanks Stuart, I may write one for cycling in the future, let’s see.