Running may be mostly about cardiovascular endurance or stamina, but that said, you do need strong legs. After all, the stronger your leg muscles are, the faster and further you can go. Having strong calves, glutes, hamstrings, and quads is essential to your success as a runner.
In terms of increasing leg strength, one of the best tools at your disposal is the kettlebell. Yes, the kettlebell is a type of weight that runners can use to build leg strength. Today, we want to take a closer look at some of the best kettlebell workouts for runners out there. Let’s get to it and build some strong legs!
Best Kettlebell Workouts for Runners
1. The Kettlebell Squat – Three Versions!
Seeing as we are talking about your legs, it only makes sense to start with some squats. Now, there are actually three different kettlebell squat variations we want to take a look at. Each of these is slightly more difficult than the last, with each working out more muscles.
As a beginner, we recommend using a moderate weight for this, something around 20 pounds. Depending on your fitness level, you will aim to do around three sets of 10 reps of each exercise. Let’s take a look at the first kettlebell squat.
The Basic Kettlebell Squat
Here we have the beginner version of the kettlebell squat. Start with this one and see how it goes.
- Stand with your feet at roughly shoulder width apart.
- Hold your kettlebell in front of you with both hands, so that it is at the center of your body, at hip level.
- Lower yourself into the squat position, push your rear out, and hold for one or two seconds.
- Use your knees and hips to thrust upwards, and repeat.
The Kettlebell Goblet Squat
If you want to up the difficulty level, the kettlebell goblet squat is a good option. This variation sees you holding the kettlebell with both arms at chest height, and also slightly out in front of you.
This not only exercises your legs but also puts your shoulders, upper back, and core to the test too. Due to the higher center of gravity, it also increases the difficulty for your legs, as you need more power to balance.
You might want to start with a fairly light weight to see if your shoulders can take the punishment. For this exercise, you are going to follow the same instructions as above. The only difference is that you hold the kettlebell at chest height, ensuring that you are not supporting it on your body.
The Kettlebell Squat & Shoulder Press
If the first two were the beginner and intermediate versions, here we have the pro version of the kettlebell squat. This particular exercise is very difficult. Yes, it works your legs by squatting, but it also tests your core, back, and shoulder strength.
Here, you are going to do a normal goblet squat but once you get into the upward position, you’re going to press the kettlebell above your head.
As you can probably tell, your back and shoulders are going to feel the burn on this one. Of course, due to the super high center of gravity, you’re going to need all the leg power you can muster for balance.
An alternate version here is to use two small kettlebells, one in each hand. You can hold them in a rack position, so they rest on the back of your shoulders. Then, when you get into the standing position during the squat, press both above your head.
2. The Kettlebell Walk
Here we have a very simple kettlebell exercise that is perfect for runners. This is especially the case for beginners who need to start building some leg strength from the ground up. Yes, this exercise is as simple as it sounds.
For the kettlebell walk, get two kettlebells of equal weight, hold them at your sides, and walk. You can start by walking for one minute at a time, and repeating this anywhere for three to five sets.
As you advance, you can increase the kettlebell weight, as well as the amount of reps and sets you do. If you really want to increase the difficulty, you can always break out a power walk or even a light jog.
It may sound super easy, but here you are essentially doing a weighted walk. It takes a lot of leg power, both in the upper and lower legs, to walk around while holding kettlebells. For this exercise, you can use a good deal of weight too, with many people using 25 or 30-pound kettlebells.
3. Kettlebell Lunges
As a runner looking to build leg strength, kettlebell lunges are perhaps some of the best possible exercises around. Kettlebell lunges are fantastic for training the quads. They also do a decent job at training your hamstrings and glutes. Your upper legs are certainly going to feel the burn from this one.
As a beginner, you can start with 10 or 15-pound kettlebells. Here, you are also going to need two kettlebells, one in each hand. Of course, this does depend on your current strength level. In terms of reps, we recommend starting with 10 and doing anywhere from four to six sets. Here is how to perform a kettlebell lunge.
- Start with your feet at hip width apart, just a normal standing position.
- Hold one kettlebell in each hand, at your sides.
- You are now going to do a lunge. So, with whatever leg you choose, take a big step forward.
- When you touch your foot down after having taken the step, you want to lower yourself down as far as you can. You are going to feel it in the quad of the leg you are stepping with.
- Lower yourself until the knee of your stationary leg that hasn’t moved is just about to touch the ground.
- Just before that knee touches the ground, you are going to raise yourself back up and then take a big step with that leg, repeating the same process on the other side.
4. The Single Handed Romanian Kettlebell Deadlift
Here we have a fantastic kettlebell exercise for runners. In terms of running, this one is great for both the hamstrings and the glutes. The single handed Romanian kettlebell deadlift also trains the obliques, core, forearms, and traps too.
This is an especially good exercise for beginners. It not only helps to train overall strength, but it’s also fantastic for training balance. For a beginner, we recommend starting with between three and five sets of five to 10 reps per leg. Here is how to do the single handed Romanian kettlebell deadlift:
- Hold your kettlebell in one hand, holding it in front of you, slightly to the side of the hand you are holding it with.
- You are now going to raise your leg, the leg on the same side as you are holding the kettlebell.
- Keep the leg that you are standing on slightly bent at the knee. At the same time, extend your other leg so that it is extended straight out behind you.
- You are now going to lower the kettlebell towards the ground. The aim here is to get your chest as parallel to the ground as you can.
- Raise the kettlebell and yourself back up to the starting position.
5. The Kettlebell Calf Raise
Something that many people seem to forget about are the calves. For runners, having strong lower legs is just as important as having strong upper legs. This is of course where the kettlebell calf raise comes into play.
This is a very versatile exercise because besides kettlebells, you really don’t need anything else. It’s a fantastic exercise not only for calf strength, but for developing balance too.
As a beginner, we recommend starting with 10 or 15-pound kettlebells. At first, you will aim to do three sets of 10 reps. You can then increase the weight, reps, and sets as you go.
Remember that you do need two kettlebells for this. As the name of this exercise implies, it’s all about the calves and here is how to do it:
- Just stand with your feet fairly close together.
- Hold the kettlebell in front of you with both hands, at waist height.
- Now just raise yourself up onto your tip toes, using all of the strength in your calves that you can muster.
You may also increase the difficulty level by using a platform. To make this exercise harder, stand on an exercise platform with your toes while letting your heels hang down off the back. Starting with your heels lowered will drastically increase the difficult level of this kettlebell calf raise exercise.
Best Kettlebell Workouts for Runners – Final Thoughts
As you can see, there are plenty of great kettlebell workouts for runners and we haven’t even exhausted the list. Remember folks: strong legs make for better runners!