Advanced Kettlebell Workout for Trail Runners

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The Advanced Kettlebell Workout

I suggest using a 15-40 pound kettlebell. I know that is a larger range, but the weight is not as important as is your form. Focus instead on form, balance and execution of each exercise. Positioning is key to targeting the muscles involved in each movement.

To improve sensory input and proprioception, I suggest you do this workout barefoot. In the video, I’m wearing a minimalist shoe by Vivobarefoot with a sensory insole to stimulate my small nerve fibers on the underside of my foot. The foot is a very important piece of this mechanical puzzle, and it should be trained just like any other muscle in the body.

Do this workout once a week on a non-running workout day, starting with a 5–20-minute warm up jog. The workout is designed to be performed continuously, one exercise after the other, for 3–5 total rounds.

Exercise 1) Staggered Stance Single Arm Kettlebell Swing 

Kettlebell swing between legs.
Photo: Jon-Erik Kawamoto

Set-up: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Slide your right foot back so the toes line up with your left heel. Lift your right heel off the floor and turn your right leg out to roughly 45-degrees. Grab the kettlebell with your left hand. Bend your knees and push your hips back to prepare for the first rep. Ensure your back is neutral and that your right arm is positioned behind you.

Action: Swing the kettlebell in between your legs then stand explosively to swing the kettlebell up. Swing your right arm forward during this motion. Stand tall and squeeze your left glute and quad to finish the swing. The kettlebell should swing to chest height. Let the kettlebell float down before bending through the knees and hips to receive the bell between your legs. This is one rep.

What you should feel: Tension in the left hamstring at the bottom of the swing and muscle contraction in the left glute and left quad at the top of the swing.

Do: 3–5 sets of 10 reps per stance

Exercise 2) Reverse Crunch Single Leg Lower

Man doing reverse crunch with a kettlebell.
Photo: Jon-Erik Kawamoto

Set-up: Lie on your back with your kettlebell placed above your head. Hold the handles of the bell and bring your knees to your stomach. Flex your ankles to bring your toes towards your shins.

Action: Lift your hips off the ground as if rounding your back towards to your pelvis. Use the kettlebell as an anchor. A heavier bell will act as a better anchor. Keep your hips in the air while reaching one leg away from you. Return the leg to your torso and switch sides.

What you should feel: A constant contraction in the anterior core muscles (lower front of your torso) that increases in intensity when your leg moves away from your torso. You should not feel any “work” or fatigue in your low or mid back.

Do: 3-5 sets of 10 reps per leg

Exercise 3) Single Leg Hamstring Bridge

Man doing single leg hamstring bridge, with a kettlebell.
Photo: Jon-Erik Kawamoto

Set-up: Lie on your back with the kettlebell placed near your feet. Place your right forefoot on top of the bell with your right knee slightly bent. Dig your left elbow into the floor, bring your left knee toward your torso, round your low back slightly and reach for the ceiling with your right arm.

Action: Press your right forefoot into the kettlebell to lift your hips in the air 2–3”. Hold this position for the recommended time. Continue to dig your left elbow into the floor during each hold.

What you should fee: A strong muscle contraction in the mid to lower left hamstring, upper left calf and both muscles going into the back of the knee.

Do: 3–5 sets of 5 x 10-second holds per leg

Exercise 4) Reverse Straight Leg Lunge to Knee Drive

Reverse kettlebell lunge. A man stands with kettlebell in hand with one leg standing on ground, the other with knee raised up to waist.
Photo: Jon-Erik Kawamoto

Set-up: Stand with your feet hip-width apart with the kettlebell in your right hand.

Action: Take a small step back with your right foot. Bend your right knee and push your hips back to bow forward. Keep your left leg straight. Both feet should be flat on the floor and your back should be neutral. Stand as you bring your right foot forward, finishing with your right knee held high in front of your torso. Return your right foot to the ground. That is one rep.

What you should feel: A strong muscular contraction in the lower left hamstring and upper left calf at the bottom of the exercise and a strong hip flexor contraction on your right side at the top of the exercise.

Do: 3–5 sets of 10 reps per leg

Exercise 5) Diagonal Reach Kettlebell Deadlift

Man crossing right leg over in back while balancing on left leg with kettlebell.
Photo: Jon-Erik Kawamoto

Set-Up: Stand with your feet hip-width apart with your kettlebell placed on the floor beside your right leg.

Action: Lift your right leg and reach it backward and diagonally to the left. Bend your left knee and left hip to be able to grip the kettlebell in your right hand. Stand while returning your right leg to the hip width apart stance. Repeat this sequence to return the kettlebell to the floor. When the bottom of the bell just touches the floor, complete the next rep.

What you should feel: Tension and muscle stretch in your left hip musculature at the bottom of the rep with a strong contraction in your left quad, which is taking your weight.

Do: 3–5 sets of 10 reps per leg

Jon-Erik Kawamoto, MSc, CK, CSCS is a Certified Kinesiologist, Strength Coach and co-owner of JKConditioning, a small group personalized training, nutrition and run coaching company in St. John’s, NL, Canada. Jon is a runner and regular contributor to PodiumRunner.

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