Bored in the weight room? Give kettlebells a try. The rotund weights provide a wealth of fitness benefits, including those specific to triathletes.
“Kettlebells are ideal for combining strength and aerobic conditioning,” says IKSFA Competition Kettlebell Coach and USAT Coach Bill Garelick. “Kettlebell training can be very anaerobic or more aerobic, depending on the weight of the kettlebell and the strength of the client.”
For the triathlete, who usually moves in a linear plane, kettlebells provide a dynamic workout that can correct imbalances, add strength, increase coordination, and prevent injury. Additionally, kettlebell motions increase the mobility of the hip flexors, hamstrings, and lower back, says Garelick.
“Since triathletes, runners and cyclists are notoriously tight and lacking mobility in the hips and hamstrings, working with kettlebells trains the athlete to have a very neutral hip position, allowing additional mobility and flexibility,” Garelick says.
For the time-crunched triathlete, heavy leg work with kettlebells can be a good substitute for “brick” training if combined with running. Injured triathletes may also utilize a kettlebell workout to strengthen and rehabilitate shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles.
Garelick encourages those new to the exercise to simply practice with the kettlebells slowly and smoothly, paying specific attention to form.
“Experiment with them and think about ways to make the kettlebells feel ‘lighter,’” he said. “You can do this by aligning you skeletal system better, increasing the mobility in your joints, and better breathing regulation to generate as much power and strength as possible while conserving your energy.”
Change up your weight routine by adding Garelick’s favorite kettlebell exercises for triathletes:
Rack two kettlebells (for those unfamiliar with “rack” position, multiple tutorials can be found by searching online). Lower yourself into a squat position, then return to standing. Perform as many repetitions as you safely can in one minute. In addition to strengthening the muscles for cycling and running, the exercise also reinforces good form. Because the weight is in front, the body is forced to go down in alignment with a straighter back, says Garelick.
Holding one bell pressed overhead, lower yourself into a lunge position. Brace one arm on the floor, rotate your legs, and lay on your back. Reverse the steps until you are standing with the bell pressed overhead. This full-body movement incorporates strength, balance, and coordination.
Rack two kettlebells. Begin by extending the arms skyward (a “jerk” movement), lifting the kettlebells overhead. Return to the rack position, swing them between your legs and return to the rack position. Do as many repetitions as you safely can in one minute without stopping. As you become more familiar with the movement, gradually increase the amount of time to 10 minutes of continuous repetitions.
Rack two kettlebells. Jerk them overhead, then return to the rack position. Do as many repetitions as you safely can in one minute. Rest for one minute, then snatch (fluidly moving from swinging between the legs to lifting the bell above your head) one kettlebell for one minute, exchanging arms halfway through. As you become more familiar with the movements, gradually increase the amount of time to 10 minutes per movement.