Kettlebells for Endurance Athletes: The Hybrid Athlete

I had the pleasure of meeting Joe Vennare at The CrossFit Games this summer. Joe is the co-founder of Hybrid Athlete, an innovative training program that helps prepare individuals for general fitness, endurance events and even obstacle course racing using online resources and developmental work shops.

Hybrid Athlete also offers Kettlebell Cardio and Race Day Domination training programs. This site is a wealth of information; you must check it out.

I know many of my readers are endurance athletes, so this piece by Joe will be beneficial for you and your training!

Kettlebells for Endurance Athletes

Kettlebells are the ideal strength training tool for runners.  Workouts are time efficient, training total body strength, cardiovascular capacity, and flexibility simultaneously.  Unlike typical strength training circuits and stationary exercise machines, the asymmetrical construction of the kettlebell requires core engagement throughout every repetition.  Training the body as a unit, instead of isolated muscle groups will enhance an athlete’s range of motion through forward, backward and lateral pathways. Exercises like the kettlebell swing develop explosive hip drive and improve lower body strength, allowing runners to train harder, longer. For example, a runner who trains with kettlebells will experience improvements in running posture, leg strength, and power output.

In addition to improvements in athletic performance, training with kettlebells will help decrease an athlete’s likelihood of injury.  The training volume associated with running tends to result in overuse injuries, muscular imbalances, and joint fatigue.  Kettlebell workouts improve balance, unilateral strength, and muscular recruitment patterns.  Moreover, it is possible to obtain these benefits with minimal pounding on fatigued connective tissue or ailing tendons.  The unbalanced quality of the kettlebell will also necessitate the absorption and redirection of force, mimicking the transfer of energy exhibited while running.

It is also important to note that the benefits of kettlebell training are not confined to runners or athletes.  Any casual exerciser or fitness seeker can expect to benefit from including kettlebells in their workout routine.  While using only one piece of equipment, to build functional muscle, it is possible to improve body composition in as little as 3, 20 minute workouts per week.

Begin your foray into kettlebell training by mastering the proper athletic or exercise position and perfecting a bodyweight squat.  Proper athletic position is defined as feet shoulder width apart, chest up, shoulders back and down, abs flexed, back arched (not rounded), slight bend in the knees, and weight distributed into the heels.

Next, move onto the kettlebell swing.  It is important to note that the hips, not the arms or upper body, are used to propel the kettlebell through the swing. Power is created by the large muscles of the lower body including the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and core.

Beginning in the squatted athletic position, grasping the kettlebell with long arms, drive from the heels through the ankles, knees, hips and core. While rising out of the athletic position, driving with the hips, the kettlebell rises through the full motion of a swing. This motion is created by the hip drive, not a squat or pulling from the upper body.

After you become comfortable with this movement, consider attempting additional exercises such as the weighted sit-up, kettlebell thruster, or deadlift-high pull.

Once you are ready, give this workout a try:

Joe is also competing in The Search for America’s Next Fitness Star on Fit or Flop. If you have time, give him a vote! He’s sitting in 3rd, let’s take him to #1. (Yes, that’s his real hair.)

Joe Vennare Bio:

Combining an extensive knowledge of innovative training methods, with a background in athletic competition and an engaging personality; Joe serves as the lead presenter for fitness certification seminars, a writer for numerous websites and publications and an ambassador for various fitness brands. As co-creator of the nationally recognized group fitness program Kettlebell Cardio Joe provides training and consulting services for fitness professionals and facilities. When he is not working, Joe is a sponsored multi-sport athlete training for or competing in triathlons, ultra-marathons and obstacle course races.

Professional Certifications & Credentials:
• National Academy of Sports Medicine, Performance Enhancement Specialist
• USA Weight Lifting Sports Performance Coach
• CrossFit Level I Instructor
• Kettlebell Cardio Instructor
• National Strength and Conditioning Association Registered Education Provider
• American Council on Exercise Registered Education Provider


  1. Joe’s a stud.

    I have a friend who is a great runner who has been doing kettle bells 2x/week and she swears by them. Thanks for the primer!

  2. I did kettle bells for the first time last week and their appearance of looking fairly easy is a lie. I may or may not have called to the sweet baby Jesus the entire time.
    Thanks for posting a little more about them…guess I’ll stick with them even if they do make me cry. :)
    Tamara recently posted..Guest Post : My EmilieMy Profile

  3. Great post! I will have to give kettlebells a try. recently posted..Whole 30: 5 Day RecapMy Profile

  4. Wow, what a great resource! I love Joe- and I love that this is tailored to endurance athletes. I’m inspired to try kettlebells!
    Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted..Menu Planning Link Up ChallengeMy Profile

  5. This is great! I had no idea how good kettlebell workouts are for runners, I will be getting myself a kettlebell very soon!
    Missy recently posted..Wonderful WednesdayMy Profile

  6. I have a question about the kettle bell swings. When you get to the top what should happen with your knees? I want lock my knees but my head keeps telling me that is bad, bad, bad. I want to perform the move to get the most out of it, but I dont’ want to hurt myself. Oh, and I love his line, “do work”, makes me snap to attention and get my butt moving.=)

  7. I love KB swings! I have been working on them at CrossFit trying not to squat and really focusing on exploding with my hips! love kettlebells!
    Danielle @ itsaharleyyylife recently posted..Soft Pumpkin Chocolate Chip CookiesMy Profile

  8. You read my mind! I was thinking about buying some kettlebells soon. I really want to start using them!
    Leonor @FoodFaithFitness recently posted..WIAW- Overnight StaycationMy Profile

  9. Awesome! Thanks so much for this! As an endurance athlete this is a hugely valuable post…so great!

  10. Great article. I can’t believe I didn’t find it until now.
    Rick recently posted..C25K Cross-Training Workout – January 25, 2013My Profile


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