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Kettlebells form an essential part of my training as an ultrarunner with a plethora of benefits. Kettlebell workouts can be done quickly compared to other workouts, with minimal space and equipment. They provide a full body workout utilising hundreds of muscles, burning more calories and increasing your metabolic rate. Your heart and lungs are taxed providing a great cardiovascular workout whilst at the same time weight training reducing the need for separate weights and cardiovascular workouts. They are also great for beginners or more advanced people with multiple progressions of exercises.
Ultrarunners require strong legs and core muscles that support the runner for several hours right through to several days or multi day events. As predominantly a multistage racer I can carry up to 10kg on my back starting a race over a variety of terrain. I have raced in the mountains, the Arctic and the jungle all with their unique terrain and environment. It is essential to have great conditioning to avoid injury from large loads traveling through the body and overuse injuries. Any weaknesses are also amplified.
Strong legs and core are essential for maintaining form and posture which in turn aids efficiency and reduces risk of energy. The hips are crucial to this and form the posterior kinetic chain. This can be thought of as the combination of the muscles and joints from your lower legs, core and shoulders. Often an area within the posterior kinetic chain is weak such as the hamstrings or glutes and can cause injury. Modern day lifestyles amplify this with long periods sat down causing hip flexors to become tight and core muscles to weaken.
Kettlebell exercises for Ultra Marathon Training
Single Leg Deadlift
Kettlebells can form part of a great workout to improve a runner’s posterior kinetic chain. Compound exercises are essentially exercises that target multiple muscles at once creating a greater stimulus. These are easily performed with a kettlebell and can be performed in a variety of ways. Running in it’s purest form is a one legged exercise and this is why I favour performing kettlebell exercises on one leg in the majority of cases. It addresses any weaknesses between each side of the body and also aids balance which is essential, particularly when running on varied terrain.
In summary the kettlebell is a very versatile, simple and effective form of workout allowing a time efficient total body workout. Benefits include higher calorie burning due to increased metabolic demands which in turn aid fat loss, building lean muscle, sport specific functional exercise, decreasing injury risk and improving sports performance. In reality the humble kettlebell can be used by nearly anyone to target their specific goals or needs.