Triathletes are notorious for neglecting strength training. It can be difficult to incorporate strength training into a schedule packed with swim, bike and run sessions. However, strength training can help triathletes avoid injury and perform at a higher level. For time-crunched triathletes, kettlebell workouts can be the perfect solution.
A kettlebell is a type of free weight which resembles a cannonball with a handle attached. The name comes from the fact that it looks like a teapot without the spout. It’s designed to be held in one or both hands while lifting, swinging, pushing and pulling. They were originally used as counter-weights to measure grains in Russian markets, when vendors started lifting them for fun and fitness.
I’ve revisited this type of training myself since being in lockdown. I’ve been doing online classes using 5kg and 16kg kettlebells.
Kettlebells for Triathletes- what are the benefits?
As triathletes, we move in a linear plane, ie: forward towards the finish line! This means that we repeat the same actions and activate the same muscles. We often move poorly on a lateral plane because the smaller, stabiliser muscles are neglected. Kettlebell training involves moving up, down and side-to-side. Adding these lateral movements will improve strength, overall stability and full body co-ordination.
Kettlebells are extremely versatile, you can train every muscle group using just one piece of equipment. There’s no need to buy lots of different home workout equipment to get a decent workout- the kettlebell does everything a dumbbell or barbell can do, and more! This means it saves money and space in your home.
Kettlebell workouts train multiple facets of fitness in the same session- cardiovascular, strength, mobility, endurance, stability and power. Even just a 20-30 minute session will provide a challenging, full body workout. Training the body as a complete unit is more efficient which is crucial for those short on time.
Challenge your centre of gravity
Unlike using a dumbbell, a kettlebell’s centre of gravity is approximately 6-8 inches away from your hand when gripping the handle. As a result, your centre of gravity will be challenged and your core muscles will fire constantly to support you.
Kettlebells for triathletes also teaches you to keep your hips elevated and forward, which carries across to running form.
Looking for more strength training exercises for triathletes? You might like:
5 Bulgarian Bag exercises to build full body strength
5 Wall Ball exercises to build full body strength
Setting up a home gym
Kettlebells for Triathletes- what are the key exercises?
There are many kettlebell exercises, but the following three are a great starting point for any triathlete:
Swings are one of the best-known kettlebell exercises, and for good reason as they provide a fantastic total body workout. The swing recruits the muscles in the hamstrings, glutes, hips and core to generate the force to lift the kettlebell. This helps to build a strong posterior chain, which is crucial in triathlon. Swings are performed in quick repetitions which brings the heart rate up and burns calories.
The goblet squat is another total-body exercise to build strength and power which will directly improve your triathlon performance. As the kettlebell is held in front of the chest, it’s easier for beginners to master the technique than a barbell back squat. Holding the weight in front of the body encourages you to keep the chest upright, shoulders back and core engaged, instead of slumping forward. At the bottom of the movement, the elbows should touch the insides of the knees which promotes proper knee alignment with the toes.
The push press is an explosive movement to target the entire body, but particularly the shoulders, back and arms. The lower body is used to generate the power, which is driven up through the torso with enough force to lift the kettlebell vertically overhead. Using a kettlebell rather than a barbell lets the shoulder naturally rotate, reducing stress on the joint. There are many variations of the push press to develop the move and make it more challenging, such as half kneeling press, bottoms up press and thrusters.
Kettlebells- what to be aware of
- If kettlebell movements are performed incorrectly, there is a risk of injury (particularly at the lower back). Always get guidance from a qualified trainer if you are unsure of the proper form and technique.
- Master the basics before progressing on to more complicated movements.
- Do not lock out the joints (knees and elbows) while kettlebell training to avoid injury.
- Grip the kettlebell so that is able to move in the hand, but not so loose that it flies across the room!
- Once you’ve mastered kettlebell technique, gradually move onto heavier weights, to avoid plateauing.
Post written in collaboration with Super Soldier Project.
Do you use kettlebells in your training? Have you noticed the benefits?