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The Benefits of Kettlebell Workouts You Might Not Know (+8 Exercises You Should Try!)

The Benefits of Kettlebell Workouts You Might Not Know (+8 Exercises You Should Try!)

Ever get tired of doing endless cardio? Don’t want to build too much muscle lifting heavy weights? Believe it or not, there’s a perfect happy medium and it’s called the kettlebell. Research is starting to find that a combination of weight training and high intensity cardio puts our bodies in fat melting mode while also adding healthy muscle tone which can be accomplished using kettlebell exercises.

How Kettlebells Are Different from Dumbbells

The kettlebell first originated in 18th century Russia and is a ball of cast iron with “horns” that shape into a handle. The handle is what is used the most, but the horns are useful when different holds are needed, like during squats for example. So what’s special about a kettlebell compared to dumbbells and other weight training tools? A kettlebell’s weight is not distributed evenly like it is with dumbbells. This creates the need to counterbalance and stabilize your body during kettlebell exercises, which are amazing for core strength, balance, and coordination.

    What’s even more interesting is that a 2013 study[1] done by the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse over a period of eight weeks showed that athletes (with experience in strength training) not only had their strength improve, but core strength jumped by 70%. Also, aerobic ability increased 13.8% and balance improved by leaps and bounds. This is not only valuable for the everyday Average Joe, but also for people who may lack balance and strength, like older adults and the physically challenged.

    Benefits of Kettlebell Exercises

    There are tons of awesome benefits that come from doing kettlebell exercises. Kettlebells are known to improve overall strength, core power, balance, flexibility, and coordination while also melting fat and sculpting healthy and lean muscles. Because a kettle bell has an off-set center of gravity, usually about 6 to 8 inches away from your grip on the handle, it is harder to control. So, any kettlebell exercises are going to require strict and controlled form and body mechanics.

    Here are a few other benefits of including kettlebell exercises into your fitness routine:

    • Combines Strength and Cardio – Perform ballistic exercises that combine strength, cardio, and flexibility training.
    • Improves Functional Strength – Targets multiple muscle groups that help with everyday tasks and daily life.
    • Compact and Portable – Only need one or two to train you entire body and are easy to store away.
    • Fun and Versatile Workouts – Kettlebell exercises offer a wide range of movements that target every muscle group for a total body workout.

    Time to Experience How It’s Like to Exercise with a Kettlebell

    Are you ready to give it a go? You won’t be disappointed! First a kettlebell and then get to work. Below are some of the biggest and most important moves in kettlebell training that will target your entire body. Let’s go!

    1. Russian Kettlebell Swing

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      via Real Simple

      Targets: Shoulders, back, hips, glutes, legs, core, arms, shoulders

      The Move: Stand up tall with your feet a little wider than hip width apart. Pick up the kettlebell by the handle with both hands, palms facing your body. Now, keeping your knees slightly bent, drive your hips backwards, dropping the kettlebell between your legs. With an explosive motion, drive your hips forwards swinging the kettlebell in front of your body while also keeping your glutes and core tight. Keep this swinging motion going for a total of 12 to 15 reps, and remember to use your hips, not your arms to swing the bell.[2]

      2. Kettlebell Goblet Squat

        via MyFitnessPal

        Targets: Legs, glutes, back, core

        The Move: Hold the sides of the kettlebell handle (the horns) in both hands directly in front of your chest. With your feet hip width apart, bend into a squat keeping your knees behind your toes and weight on your heels. Once your legs are parallel to the ground, drive upwards with your heels into a standing position. Repeat for a total of 12-15 reps![3]

        3. Kettlebell Lunge Press

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          via Greatist

          Targets: Shoulders, back, arms, abs, glutes, legs, core

          The Move: Stand up straight with the handle of the kettlebell held by both hands in front of your body. Step forward into a lunge with your left leg while simultaneously raising the kettlebell with the right arm towards the ceiling. Feel the burn everywhere! Return your legs to standing while lowering the kettlebell back to your chest. Aim for 12-15 reps per leg…ouch!9[4]

          4. Kettlebell Sumo Upright Row

            Targets: Back, legs, shoulders, arms, core

            The Move: Start with your feet a little wider than hip width apart and the kettlebell on the ground between your feet. Lower down into a squat to pick the kettlebell up by the handle with both hands (knuckles towards the floor). Push up through your heels to standing while raising the kettlebell up to your chin using your arms and shoulders. Lower back down to start and repeat for 12-15 reps.[5]

            5. Kettlebell Russian Twist

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              via Trimmed & Toned

              Targets: Abs, obliques

              The Move: Sit on the floor with your feet in front of you. Hold the kettlebell to your chest, and raise your feet off the floor (and keep them in the air!) Start by twisting from side to side, and if your ambitious, tapping the kettlebell on the floor on each side of your hips. Your abs will be on fire after about five of these! Keep going for a target of 15-20 reps.[6]

              6. Single-Arm Kettlebell Press

                via Bodybuilding.com

                Targets: Chest, arms, core

                The Move: Lie flat on the ground with your knees bent (best for back support). Grab the kettlebell by the handle in one hand with your palm facing your body. Slowly push the kettlebell towards the ceiling while rotating that hand to face towards your feet. Return to starting position and aim for 12-15 reps per arm.[7]

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                7. Single-Arm Kettlebell Split Jerk

                  via Bodybuilding.com

                  Targets: Shoulders, chest, back, legs, core

                  The Move: Start this advanced move by cleaning the kettlebell to your shoulder ending with your palms facing the front.[8] Then, bend your knees slightly and explode the kettlebell upwards over your head into a split jerk position.[9] Balance your arm and body before any further movement! Return to standing position while the kettlebell stays over your head. Carefully, without hitting yourself in the head (yeah, it happens) lower the kettlebell towards starting position. Repeat and aim for 4-6 reps per side.

                  8. Single-Arm Kettlebell Snatch

                    via Greatist

                    Targets: Shoulders, chest, back, core

                    The Move: Start with your kettlebell on the floor between your feet, which should be hip width apart. Grasp the handle, and explode up off of your toes pulling on the kettlebell until it is level with your chest (elbow should be tucked in). At this point, push the bell up over your head to complete this move. Steady yourself before lowering back down to starting position. Repeat for 4-6 reps.[10]

                    Don’t Forget to Warm up and Stretch Before Trying the Kettlebell Exercises!

                    Make sure you are warming up and stretching before using some of these explosive and bigger moves, as you don’t want to injure yourself. Always watch a video to help with proper body mechanics and to perfect each move in order to get the best out of these kettlebell exercises. And of course, enjoy the crap out of this fun and versatile workout method!

                    Reference

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                    Amanda Light

                    Wife, Mom, Writer

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                    Published on August 16, 2019

                    15 Strength Training Exercises Specifically for Runners

                    15 Strength Training Exercises Specifically for Runners

                    When you choose the right exercises, and make strength training a priority, it will have a great payoff to improve your running. Studies have shown incorporating a strength training program to your running routine improves running economy.[1]

                    Here are 15 strength training exercises specifically for runners.

                    1. Planks

                    The plank is a very important core exercise that will help give you more control and balance while running. Having a strong core will also keep you more stable and in control if you have to navigate uneven surfaces.

                    The plank is a simple exercise and involved balancing on your forearms and the tips of your toes, so that your back is “straight as a plank”. You want to focus on keeping your abs tight and imagine sucking your belly button up into your spine to have them properly engaged.

                    Aim for 30 to 45 seconds for a few rounds. Ultimately, you want to hold them as long as you can with proper form – so every time you perform a plank you want to go a little longer than previous ones.

                    2. Side Planks

                    The same concept is applied but you are now engaging your core in a different manner and engaging your oblique muscles too. This time, you are going to lie on your side with your legs stacked on top of each other.

                    You will lean on your right forearm and lift your hips off the ground keeping your head lined up with your torso and ankles. Keep your other hand on your hip to help ,and control balance, and focus on not moving or swaying. Keep your abs tight to engage them and hold for 30-45 seconds, or longer if you can.

                    3. Clamshells

                    For this exercise, you are going to need a simple resistance band. Start with the band wrapped around both legs just below the knee. Your starting position will be on the ground lying on your side with your top hip and shoulder pointing towards the ceiling. Your hips will be on the ground, keep your back straight and your feet together, and lift up with your top knee as far as you can with the resistance.

                    Pause for a second at the top and lower back down under control. You can do 10 reps on this side before switching over and doing another 10 reps and aim for 2 to 3 sets.

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                    Clamshells are going to help strengthen your abductor muscles giving you stronger hips and more stability while running.

                    4. Single-Leg Bridge

                    You will start lying on your back with your feet on the ground, shoulder-width apart with knees bent. You will straighten out one leg so it’s out in front of you in the air and lift your body up by pushing with the leg on the ground.

                    You want to flex your abs and glutes while pushing upward and try to keep your hips level throughout the motion before returning to the ground. You can also hold your body in the upright position for 5-10 seconds before returning to the ground to get more engagement before switching over to the other leg.

                    The single-leg bridge will help strengthen your glutes which are crucial for running power and stride strength.

                    5. Standing Calf Raises

                    This is a simple exercise but one that is very important for strengthening the calves. The stronger they are, the less fatigue you will experience during running. You will need to find an elevated step or platform for this exercise.

                    Stand on the platform with your heels hanging off the edge. Find something stable to hold on to for balance and start by lower your heels down until you feel a stretch in the back of your calves. Then, stand upwards like you are trying to see over a fence. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

                    6. Arch Lifting

                    You will start out standing with your feet directly under your hips, and this is best done without shoes. You will rotate the arch of your foot upward while keeping your toes and heels in contact with the ground.

                    Don’t let your toes tighten and you want to hold for a few seconds at the top before returning to the ground. You can do 3 sets of 10 repetitions and this is going to help strengthen the arches of your feet.

                    The stronger your arches are the better it is to keep your running stride strong and prevent less fatigue in the feet.

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                    7. Half-Kneel Hip Flexor Stretch

                    Strong hips are paramount for running and the hip flexors can easily become strained and overused. This exercise will help to strengthen them and provide more power and stability while running. You will start kneeling with one foot forward and the other knee bent underneath the hip.

                    Keep your abs tight, your back straight, and shift your body weight forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your hips. Hold this for 20 to 30 seconds before switching over to the other leg.

                    8. Alternating Lunges

                    These are going to develop power and strength in your quads and glutes to help give you a more powerful stride. You will start standing with your hands on your hips looking straight out in front of you.

                    Step forward with your right leg and lower down just before your opposite knee touches the ground. Then, push through your heel to return to the standing position before performing the lunge with your left leg. Alternate between the right and left leg so that each one has done 10 reps and you can perform 3 sets of this.

                    9. Jump Squats

                    These can be done just with your bodyweight and help to develop explosive power in the lower body. The jump squat is handy for when you have to run hills and need more power for harder stretches of your run.

                    The best way is to start in a squat position with your feet shoulder-width apart. You will drive through the heels of your feet and explode upwards. As your bodyweight brings you back to the ground, control your weight as you go back into the squat position to fully engage the muscles.

                    Make sure not to let your knees move inwards and keep your abs tight, your head up, and your chest out. Aim for 3 sets of 10 reps.

                    10. Skater Hops

                    This will help to build leg and core strength, along with improving balance. You will start standing upright but then bending the knees slight like you’re about to sit down. You will then drive off your right foot, jumping a few feet out to the left.

                    You will land on your left foot while your right foot swings behind your left leg. Then, drive off the left foot using the momentum of your right foot swinging back to land back on it. You will keep doing these side hops for ten times each leg and the motion should look like a speed skater shifting side to side.

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                    11. Bulgarian Split Squat

                    This will be similar to the lunges but, will really ramp up the resistance for the quads and is a great strength training exercise for runners. You are going to need an elevated surface or bench to stand in front of. The starting position will be standing upright with your head up and hands on your hips.

                    Start with your right foot behind you supported by the bench. You will start by lowering your hips to drops your left leg down to around a 90-degree angle, stopping just before your right knee hits the ground.

                    Next, push up through the heel until you are back at the starting position and perform ten reps, under control, before you switch over to the right leg. Perform 3 sets of this.

                    To make this even tougher, you can hold dumbbells in your hands hanging at your sides.

                    12. Arabesque

                    These will help in activating and controlling your hips. You will start off by standing on one leg, hands on your hips, and making sure your hips are level and balanced. You can then put your arms out to the side to give you more balance.

                    Start by tipping your torso forward as your non-weight-bearing leg extends out behind you. You can slightly bend your knee to help with control and you want to have your back and extended leg as level as possible. You should end up basically parallel to the floor with your shoulder, hip, and ankle should be in a straight line.

                    When you’ve gone as far forward as you can, return to the starting position and perform 8 repetitions before switching to the other leg.

                    Perform 2 to 3 sets. These are all about quality over quantity so if you can only do 4 or 5, that’s fine.

                    13. Hip Bridge

                    This is another great exercise to target the glutes which are the source of your running power. Start by lying on the ground with your feet flat on the ground and your knees bent. Squeeze your glutes and then lift your hips up towards the ceiling.

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                    Your hips, knees, and shoulders should be in a straight line. Hold at the top for a second and then lower back down under control. Perform this 12 times and then, you can do 3 sets. If these get easier, you can hold a weight across your stomach for more resistance.

                    14. Push-Ups

                    A classic exercise, and for good reason. As much as you want to focus your strength training on the lower body, you can’t neglect your upper body. Your arms are helping drive and propel you while running and a strong upper body helps with your overall balance and stability.

                    You can start laying facedown on the ground with your palms facing downwards and elbows tucked into your sides. Focus on pushing through the heel of your palms upward, stopping just before your elbows lock out. Lower back down under control and stop just before your chest touches the ground.

                    Focus on keeping the elbows tucked into your side and avoid having them flail outwards. You can perform 10 reps for 3 sets of these.

                    15. Squat to Overhead Press

                    This is a full-body motion that works a majority of muscles, builds power, explosiveness, and coordination. You will need two dumbbells and you will start standing, feet shoulder-width apart, with the dumbbells, held up by your shoulders – palms facing forward.

                    Send your hips back and lower down into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. As you stand up, press the dumbbells overhead and return them to the starting position. Go for 10 reps and three sets.

                    The Bottom Line

                    As much as you’d like to, you can’t be running all the time. It can lead to overuse, injuries and burnout. The perfect way to offset this is with strength training, making sure you perform your training with proper form and technique, avoiding mistakes which can lead to injury.

                    There are many other strength exercises such as the deadlift, which works the back and leg muscles which are vital for running economy improvement and injury prevention.[2] These exercises will make you a more efficient and resilient runner allowing you to improve your distances and times.

                    Even if you’ve been against strength training for runners, you can see now how it’s necessary in order to improve your overall running ability and performance.

                    Featured photo credit: Stage 7 Photography via unsplash.com

                    Reference

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