Disclaimer: I was sent a Rep Fitness kettlebell in exchange for a fair review. All opinions expressed are my own.
The kettlebell has long been one of my favorite strength training tools. It’s versatile, fun, and provides an effective strength workout. When I’ve included kettlebells in my strength training program, I notice that I feel stronger when running hills or fast workouts.
Should you include kettlebells in your training? In this post, I want to examine the benefits of kettlebells for runners, review a kettlebell I recently tried, and share some of my favorite kettlebell workouts.
How Runners Can Benefit from Kettlebells
Kettlebells are an effective tool for strength and conditioning. This simple piece of equipment can develop muscular endurance, strength, power, and cardiovascular capacity – all of which contribute to making you a better runner.
Kettlebells differ from dumbbells because of their unique shape and size. A kettlebell loads differently than a dumbbell and you have to work harder to balance the weight. Personally, I prefer the shape of the kettlebell for loading exercises such as single leg deadlifts or lunges – the bell shape feels more comfortable yet also more challenging.
A 2015 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found that female athletes who completed a 4-week kettlebell strength training program experienced an average VO2max improvement of 6%. Your VO2max is one of the factors that affect how fast you run – meaning that kettlebell training could help you run faster.
Kettlebells are often used in explosive movements, such as the kettlebell swing. These explosive movements can help improve your running by improving your power, strength, and even running form. For example, the kettlebell swing develops power in your hips and glutes – power which you can use when running, especially when running fast or on hilly terrain. The kettlebell swing also strengthens the posterior chain, which in turn improves your running form.
The unique shape of the kettlebell requires you to work harder to stabilize the weight, thus improving your stability. The stability training will also improve core strength. Many kettlebell exercises unilaterally strengthen the body – such as lunges and single leg deadlifts – which can decrease the risk of injury due to muscle imbalance.
One benefit of kettlebells for runners is the efficiency. I can do a well-rounded strength training session that targets all the major muscles in just 15 minutes using the kettlebell. When training for a long distance race, I don’t exactly want to spend hours strength training – nor do I have the energy. A quick routine of kettlebell swings, single leg deadlifts, lunges, and shoulder press provides an effective strength workout in a short amount of time – and possibly even from the comfort of one’s own home gym.
A kettlebell workout cannot replace your runs, particularly if you are training for a race. Nor is the kettlebell a magic bullet that offers exceptional gains beyond what any other strength training can. If you prefer dumbbells or barbells over the kettlebell, then you should stick with those. But what a kettlebell does offer is a way to incorporate power-building exercises into your routine, especially when you do not have access to barbell weights.
Rep Fitness Kettlebell Review
Rep Fitness, a Denver-based company specializing in home gym equipment, sent me a 12 kg (26 pound) kettlebell to review.
- Price: Kettlebells can be expensive! The options available on Rep Fitness’ website are affordable without sacrificing quality. (The 26 lb. kettlebell costs $30 USD plus shipping).
- Aesthetic: My other kettlebell has chipping paint. The finish on these is smooth and durable – there’s no cheap paint to chip.
- Grip: The matte black coating does not slip in sweaty hands, but it also is smooth enough that my hands aren’t torn up after a strength training session. I did not feel nervous about wielding this bell and I even found it more comfortable to hold in a rack position than other kettlebells.
- Quality: Rep Fitness kettlebells are cast using a single-cast gravity method, which translates to high quality. The weight is completely flat on the bottom, easy to grip, and very well made.
- Customer Service: The customer service people at Rep Fitness were friendly and very quick to respond to emails. I received my kettlebell just a few days after ordering and it was securely wrapped.
I am genuinely impressed with the quality, comfort, and durability of the Rep Fitness kettlebell and would purchase from them again.
Kettlebell Workouts for Runners
You can use the kettlebell to load basic movements: single leg deadlifts, lunges, squats, shoulder presses, rows, and more. In addition to using the kettlebell as you would a barbell or dumbbell, you can also perform specific movements such as kettlebell swings, halos, Turkish get-ups, and windmills.
Try one of these kettlebell workouts:
The Only Kettlebell Routine You’ll Ever Need from Outside Magazine
5 Kettlebell Exercises for Runners
20 Minute Kettlebell Workout for Runners
Kettlebell Core Exercises from Women’s Running
4 Key Kettlebell Exercises for Runners from Competitor
Always practice good form when using a kettlebell. If in doubt, consult a strength and conditioning coach or personal training for guidance or watch tutorials from certified trainers (such as this video on how to do a kettlebell swing). When doing kettlebell workouts, be sure the area is clear of any fragile objects, pets, or small children.
Rep Fitness sells all types of home gym equipment, from slam balls and plyo boxes to battle ropes and barbells. You can view their selection on their website here: https://www.repfitness.com/.
Do you use kettlebells in your training?