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Incorporating kettlebell strength training into your routine can be a game-changer for runners and triathletes, offering benefits that extend beyond the road or trail. By dedicating just one or two sessions a week to resistance training, you can fortify joints, muscles and bones, reducing the risk of injuries, improving posture and building a robust core. You’ll especially enhance overall running performance, gait and muscular endurance, regardless of your preferred running terrain.

Key areas for runners to focus on during strength training include core muscles, hip flexors, glutes (especially for quad-dominant athletes – read, triathletes thanks to all the cycling), quads, hamstrings and calf muscles. Loading these muscle groups leads to more powerful legs, translating to improved running and cycling economy, speed and form, while also providing a shield against injuries.

Here are four highly effective kettlebell exercises tailored for runners to get you started.

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Kettlebell lateral lunges

The kettlebell lateral lunge enhances agility, targeting key muscle groups like the gluteus medius, adductors, and hips for improved overall performance and stability.

Start with feet hip-width apart and grab your kettlebell—hold it with both hands in front of your body and against your chest.

Keep your back flat, spine neutral, and engage your core. Step to your left and lower into a side lunge position.

With your chest lifted, lower your bum toward the ground, then push through your left leg to return to standing.

Repeat on the opposite leg. Try for two sets of five-10 lunges on each side to get started; increase reps and sets as you get stronger and gain confidence.

Kettlebell goblet squats

This dynamic kettlebell exercise strengthens a runner’s quads, hamstrings, and core, promoting enhanced leg power, running economy and form.

Hold the kettlebell at the center of your chest by the horns.

Perform a squat, keeping your elbows slightly lifted and the kettlebell at your chest.

Engage your core, maintain a neutral spine, and press down with your little and big toes and heels.

Pause at the bottom of the squat, then drive up to stand. Aim for two sets of 10 squats.

Romanian deadlift

The Romanian deadlift hones a runner’s posterior chain, targeting the lower back, glutes and hamstrings, fostering improved stability and the strength crucial for a resilient and efficient running stride.

Hold a kettlebell in your right hand with feet hip-width apart. Softly bend your left knee and lock it into position.

Hinge forward with your stomach braced, sending your right leg behind you.

Lower your chest parallel to the floor, placing the kettlebell just in front of you.

Pause, then pull the kettlebell upward as you return to standing. Switch sides and repeat. Aim for five to 10 reps on each side to start.

Kettlebell swing

The kettlebell swing is a dynamic full-body exercise that hones hip flexors and fortifies the core, contributing to enhanced running power and overall athletic performance.

Position the kettlebell between your feet, keeping a shoulder-width foot stance.

Engage your core, hinge at the hips and grip the kettlebell with both hands. Swing the kettlebell back between your legs, then drive it upward to shoulder height, using a hip thrust motion. (Do not use your back muscles to raise the bell!)

Let the bell swing back down naturally between your leg; do not try to control its descent! Try three sets of 10 swings, recovering for 30 seconds to one minute after each set.

Focus on form and intensity when you integrate these kettlebell exercises into your routine, make sure to tailor the weight of your kettlebell to your fitness level. Use the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale for optimal results—aim for a 6-8, so that the last few reps feel challenging but you’re still able to complete than maintaining good form.

This story originally appeared on runningmagazine.ca

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