In a previous article, I discussed why I felt that heavy kettlebellswings should be utilized for athletic strength & conditioning. I mentioned that heavy KB swings would be a great exercise for improving hip power, acceleration, and speed.
Recent high-quality research has shown this to be true in sprinting, that is, the glutes and hamstrings counteract the hip flexion and knee extension torques induced by gravity, motion, and ground reaction (see abstract HERE). Finally, Lake & Lauder showed in an excellent study that KB swings produced a greater impulse (impulse equals force multiplied by time) compared to squats and jump squats, indicating that they may be superior in some regards (see abstract HERE, see larger review of the study HERE).
The gluteus Maximus exhibits the largest peak muscle activation during kettle bell swings. Hopefully in time a study will emerge will a sufficient sample size, but my guess is that the results will be duplicated as it’s common biomechanical sense to me.
For example, if I do swings with 300 lbs, my range of motion (ROM) is compromised, my power output diminishes drastically, and my hip extensors (glutes and mammies) don’t contract as forcefully. If possible (due to equipment availability), I recommend pyramiding loads for swing sets.
If you perform kettlebellswings with the intention of shaping the glutes and hamstrings, make sure you progress over time and use heavier loading. If you’re a beginner, you’ll likely want to first master the kettle bell dead lift and cable pull-through, then the kettle bell dead lift/swing hybrid (click HERE to see this movement), and then finally move onto swings (click HERE to see videos for KB swing form).
I’ve found that advanced women can hold great kettle bell swing form with 48 kg, and advanced men can hold great form with 92 kg. Using kettle bell exercises to strengthen your hamstrings is an excellent way to reduce injury potential and improve your running times.
If you are a keen runner or use running as part of your sport then dedicating time to a few specific hamstring exercises at home or at the gym is certainly worth your effort. The hamstrings consist of 3 muscles that run from the back of the pelvis to the knee, namely the biceps memoirs long & short head, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus.
The hamstring muscles flex the knee, extend the thigh backwards towards the buttocks and addict the leg. During movement the hamstrings act as your body’s natural brakes and work together with the quadriceps on the front of the thighs.
Due to the sheer size and strength of the quadriceps the hamstrings often find themselves overpowered and injuries can occur. Many sports like cycling are quad dominant and so further increase the muscle imbalances between the front and back of the thighs.
The importance of this kettle bell exercise comes from the ability to hinge at the hips while keeping the back flat. Push your hips backwards and only lean forwards as far as your hamstrings will allow before your lower back starts to round.
The single arm dead lift exercise is especially good to perform with a kettle bell because the handle sits up nice and proud while on the floor. Squeeze your buttocks tight at the top of the movement and don’t lean backwards overextending your lower back.
Possibly the most important kettle bell exercise for runners the single leg dead lift connects the hip to the opposite shoulder via the core muscles. The diagonal core muscle recruitment you achieve through this exercise will develop rotational power needed during running as well as helping to stabilize the hips.
As with the previous two kettle bell exercises for your hamstrings, hinge at the hips with a flat back and keep the shoulders away from your ears. Runners will find this kettle bell exercise helps to open up your hips as well as strengthen the legs.
Keep your chest up throughout the entire exercise and don’t let the kettle bell pull you forwards rounding your back. The kettle bell swing is based on the dead lift movement pattern and so requires a hinging at the hips with a flat back.
At the top of the swing squeeze your buttocks tight and do not lean backwards or overextend your hips. Just by performing the lunge runners will be able to see the importance of this exercise and how it mimics the running movement to a certain degree.
Emphasis should be placed on the depth of the lunge ensuring that the back knee comes as close to the floor as possible. Keep your chest up throughout the entire exercise but try to prevent over extending at the lower back and leaning backwards.
The kettle bell windmill exercise will strengthen your hamstrings, shoulders and core muscles while at the same time improving your flexibility. The kettle bell side lunge is a more advanced exercise for developing leg strength for runners including the hamstrings.
As with many of the exercises listed here the side lunge will help open up the hips which is excellent for preventing future injuries. The deeper you can sit back into the lunge the more muscle activation runners will achieve in your buttocks.
Practice : this is a challenging exercise to do well so start off without a kettle bell and then progress to 3 sets of 8 – 12 reps per side. Due to the overuse of the quad muscles on the front of the thighs the hamstrings are often overpowered leading to common injuries.
Above I have listed 8 kettle bell exercises for runners and the hamstrings starting with the easiest and finishing with the most challenging. In today’s world we spend the majority of our days doing things in front of us with terrible posture.
This overuse of the muscles on the front side of our bodies is called “anterior dominance” and it is plaguing our society. Anterior dominance results in imbalances in our muscles causing us to move and perform at sub-optimal levels.
It will allow you to loosen your tight hips and strengthen your butt so that you’ll develop the rear end of an athlete. It will bulletproof your low back by creating an armored brace around your midsection, and it will get rid of that paunchy gut.
Push your hips back keeping your butt high and bend your knees slightly. Always making sure your shoulders stay above the level of your hips, “hike pass” the kettle bell through your knees by contracting your lats.
When you push your hips back keeping your butt high and your shins vertical, you are hinging. This is good because most people today are hip flexor and quad dominant (your anterior muscles), so learning how to load and use your posterior chain creates a natural balance between front and back that will help in preventing knee and hip issues.
Imagine that you are growing roots through your feet and grab the ground with your entire foot. Getting proper instruction from an expert so that you can MASTER THE KETTLEBELL SWING is the best thing that you can do for your training regardless of your goal.
If you want to build strength, kettlebellswings will forge a grip of steel and will add pounds to your dead lift & squat. If you want to boost your athleticism, kettlebellswings will make you more powerful and add height to your jump and shave seconds off your sprints.
If you want to pack on muscle, swinging a heavy kettle bell will build an intimidating upper back & set of shoulders. And if you want to shed body fat, swings will incinerate blubber like butter melting in an iron pan.
If your mammies are totally screaming at you after a round of swings, give them a little rest before going back at it again. If you think the pain is from a strain -- it's sharp and it's hard to move -- then you should see a doctor and go on full rest.
Mild pain from a regular workout, however, can be helped simply by moving around as much as possible to avoid the muscle becoming stiff. Heat may soothe the pain temporarily, but ice can help keep it numb as well as speed the recovery process.
The added pressure can help alleviate soreness -- plus, it just feels good after a hard workout. Kettlebellswingswork your lower body and arms, so focus on your core and shoulders the next day so your hamstrings have some time to recover after a rigorous workout.
If you're feeling pain every time you dokettlebellswings, you might not be properly supporting your lower body. Then, push your hips forward as you raise the kettle bell up and above your head before resisting it back down to a start position.