Kettlebell Workouts For Endurance Athletes 🚴♀️🎽🏃♂️
Everyone wants to be fit and healthy. However, sometimes we don't always know the best ways to go about it. There are so many aspects contribute to a person's physical fitness. One of these aspects that gets a lot of attention for its importance is endurance. Endurance training is given this level of importance because it can help get an athlete into a good physical state to allow for continued work in other aspects of physical health. However, most people aren't getting the most from their workouts because they are ignoring some of the more refined aspects.
Luckily, we’ve found an easy solution.
You may have heard of or even worked with kettlebells before, these are usually iron balls with grips. They have their origin in Russia during the early 18th century (Source).
This form of weight allows for more exercises than most traditional weights, as their handle is designed to allow the ball to be able to be swung and maneuvered more easily compared to your standard dumbbell or barbell. Just looking at them from this design standpoint you can see how they may be useful in increasing performance in some more underlooked areas of physical health. You’ll have probably seen someone swinging a kettlebell at some point, but there’s a lot more to it. Below we will discuss some of the aspects of kettlebell training that can assist in your endurance training, which in many cases is more difficult to figure out than just muscular strength (related article).
Athletes often believe that there are two main types of training, strength, and endurance. This is a vastly too simplified outlook on the way the human body performs. While it is true there is a focus on two main performance factors, how long you can go, endurance, and how hard you can go, strength.
These aspects are broken up even further. Within endurance, there is an entire section of muscular endurance. Muscular endurance is how much endurance you have trained your muscles to have during a workout period. This differs from strength training because the focus isn't on muscle mass. Instead, it focuses on lots of elements like muscle fiber strength and capillary expansion. While typical cardiovascular endurance is also important (lung capacity, arteriole health, etc), the derivative of this, muscular endurance is often overlooked. Still with me here?…
One of the best techniques to add to any exercise regimen you have is to use kettlebells. Kettlebells not only help build general strength (and make you a certified badass), but they also can be used to increase muscular endurance. When combined in a good workout they can even be used to increase general cardiovascular endurance as well, building on a complex cardio workout.
Doing a workout with a high rep amount of kettlebell lifting for just 12 minutes can increase both muscular and cardiovascular endurance (Source). This form of training can be truly beneficial in improving a lot of the overlooked aspects of physical performance, like hand grip (related article) and even flexibility (related article). This type of kettlebell workout can be further refined based on longer duration slower sets for building lung capacity and long-term endurance, or shorter duration, Tabata (Source) or HIIT workouts for improving VO2 max (Source).
Kettlebell swings can move your body in ways it often does not get the chance to. The result of this is what you expect, more well-rounded development of muscle and cardiovascular health concerning those regions. It's like if you had never lifted weights with one arm, but were instead practicing for an arm-wrestling contest. You may be exercising that specific hand, but in the end, you are ignoring the arm which is a huge component.
Why would you neglect any areas of your strength and conditioning? Simple answer: don’t!
Areas of Improvement
Endurance athletes know that there are a couple of areas that are relevant to cover to train successfully. While there is a debate on how to best work on these, the main categories usually are seen to be running economy, VO2 max, and time to exhaustion (related article). Running economy for those who may not know the technical definition is essentially the rate at which the processes in your body can convert that energy and oxygen needed for running at a submaximal pace (Source). Simply put, how fast you can get from 0 to 80. Inside of the running economy itself, there are a few key factors; flexibility of your joints, muscle strength, and cardiovascular ability.
Leg training using kettlebells can build on all of those aspects mentioned. These reps also don't cause excessive muscle building, which also is a component in building your running economy. VO2 max is the amount of oxygen your body can use during a session of intensive exercise. VO2 max can be increased through several traditional cardio-focused workouts. The great part about working on this is that it can be fit into nearly any regimen. You can make a kettlebell workout that has a section of time set aside for just increasing your VO2 max.
As you work on all the above factors you will be inadvertently increasing your time to exhaustion. Kettlebell workouts will promote increased stamina and allow you to train longer while using less energy. It is important to monitor yourself (related article) and budget enough time for recovery. Understanding when to stop is just as important as starting.
Scheduling Your Kettlebell Workouts
You’ll gain more from your workouts when you ensure that you are well diversified and remain consistent in your approach.
On Mondays, you can work out kettlebell swings to hit that less focused on areas of muscle in your body. You can follow this with some additional cardio. On Tuesdays, you can focus on lifting and pure power output. Using kettlebells for this can prevent unnecessary muscle mass as we’ve mentioned before. Studies have found that including more strength training as part of endurance training can further benefit your running economy. Wednesdays can be a break day and the workouts can shift to the lower body and core-focused squats and short lifts. There is a huge variety of types and arrangements of workouts using kettlebells that can benefit any endurance athlete who is serious about pushing their performance.
Beginner Sample Kettlebell Workout
RM = Rep Max
You can use this beginner routine 3 times per week, similar low repetition protocols have proven to be useful for runners (Source) as well as cyclists (Source). Try starting with an 8kg kettlebell or 16kg kettlebell. Don’t be afraid to train hard.
Double kettlebell front squats 5 x 5RM
Kettlebell swings 5 x 5RM
Kettlebell clean and press 5 X 5RM