Simple Weight Programs to Improve Your Running


It’s pretty much a fact now that strength training will improve your running.

Yet, some debate remains. For example, should distance runners, who excel in endurance, lift heavy weights, thereby increasing power? Some sources say yes. Here’s one.

But, generally speaking, weight training is good for runners. Benefits include improved body composition (more muscle, less fat), reduced likelihood of injury (increased joint strength), and improved efficiency in using energy and oxygen (that is, you can decrease the amount of oxygen you need to run at a certain pace, allowing you to increase speed).

So what are some good, not-too-time-consuming strength training strategies for runners? Here are two. And equipment for both is quite economical.

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Kettlebell Strength Training for Runners

Kettlebell workouts build strength and range of motion. Here are three key kettlebell exercises. Try completing 10 reps of each (or any given kettlebell exercise) with perfect form before increasing reps. Good form is king with kettlebells.

Kettlebell Swing

Kettlebell Swing

The swing is the most common kettlebell exercise. It’s a fantastic way to develop power and strength through the hips, particularly in the glutes and the hamstrings. Given the constant pounding your body endures with each footfall while running, a strong backside is important both for performance and injury prevention. The quick, explosive motion of the swing also adds a unique element to your lifting routine.

Form Tips. The vast majority of the power and motion should come from the hips, not from bending the knees. Keep a slight bend in the legs but focus on snapping the hips through to move the kettlebell. Also, don’t pull on the weight with your arms. Your elbows should remain locked out the entire time, with your upper body acting as a method to hold on to the swinging weight. Video link.

Kettlebell Push Press

Kettlebell Push Press

Like the swing, the push press is designed to build power and explosiveness. This time, the focus is on the upper body. For all runners, the upper body is crucial for form and breathing – two key elements of performance. The push press builds core strength, since it only works one side at a time. It also develops explosive strength in the upper body, which is extremely important for finishing strong during the last quarter mile of a race.

Form Tips. The push press transfers power from the lower body to the upper body and builds coordination. Avoid using solely your upper half to power the weight up. After a slight bend in the hips and knees, explode up and drive the weight overhead for maximum benefit.

Kettlebell Floor To Shelf

Kettlebell Floor to Shelf

There’s actually quite a bit of twisting in the running gait. As such, rotation or twisting motions are crucial for runners. The floor to shelf helps to build strength in the upper body while focusing on the midsection. The movement also requires “eccentric strength,” where the obliques must slow down the rotation at the top of the exercise to prevent over-rotation and injury. This eccentric strength helps to prevent excess movement during running, leaving you with a more efficient running form.

Form Tips. Although the focus of the exercise is on the core and the upper body, the lower body has an important role to play. As you twist toward one side, focus on pivoting the feet and the hips to complete the motion. This helps to emphasize the rotation as well as prevent injury at the ankles and knees. Video link.

Suspension “Body Weight” Strength Training for Running

For super-low-cost strength training, harness your own body weight for strength training using HealthStyles’ suspension training systems.

This routine is aimed at lower body and core strength for runners. Developing integrated lower and upper-body strength, especially through your core, will result in a more powerful and efficient stride. Though it may seem a little counter-intuitive, your upper body and core actually play a big part in generating power and maintaining stability while you run.

The routine consists of three TRX exercises for creating core strength, stability and mobility in runners. They are, in a recommended sequence:

TRX Bottom Up Squat: 5-10 reps

This move improves mobility in the hips and ankles while warming up the entire body for any training session. It also teaches how to engage your core and arms to improve your running posture.

Photo by Blake Kasemeier

Photo by Blake Kasemeier

TRX Hamstring Runner: 5 reps on each leg

The Hamstring Runner develops your posterior chain, hamstrings, lower back, and glutes to help correct imbalances not only from front to back, but also from side to side.

Photo by TRX Training

Photo by TRX Training

TRX Chest Press: 5-10 reps

TRX describes this exercise as a “moving plank instead of a chest and arm exercise.” This chest press develops integrated core strength and stability to improve your running posture and arm drive.

Photo by TRX Training

Photo by TRX Training

Five Essential Items Every Runner Should Have


When you ask most runners what they do to stay in shape, they generally reply, “I run.” And although running is certainly a great cardio workout, those runners who rely exclusively on running to stay fit do so to the detriment of their running game. As surprising as it may sound, to improve your running form, endurance, and economy you need to be doing more than just running. Specifically, runners need to incorporate stability exercises and strength training in their routine if they want to truly improve their time on the track and decrease risk of injury.

Towards that end, here are five essential items every runner should have:

1. Stability Ball

Exercise Stability BallThere is absolutely no excuse for you not having a stability ball. When it comes to training your core, it’s hard to beat the big rubber sphere. But, you may say, “I’m a runner. I should focus on my legs, not my core, right?” Wrong.

As great as running is, relying on it exclusively for your fitness can lead to serious muscle imbalances and reduced flexibility. A stability ball can help address these problems by adding some instability to your training. As your body attempts to balance on the ball, it’s forced to call upon groups of core muscles working in unison. Trying to keep your balance requires far more muscle groups than sit-ups and crunches, working the front and side abdominals in combination to provide exactly the kind of core strengthening that will improve your running. A strong core is vital to stabilizing your upper body, which will allow you to maintain proper running form even when you’re fatigued.

Check out our selection of stability balls.

For some ideas of exercises to do with your stability ball, here’s a great article from Active.

2. Foam Roller

Foam RollersYou may have seen these in your local gym and wondered just what the heck they’re used for. When used correctly, foam rollers can release tension and tightness between your muscles and the fascia (the thin sheath of fibrous tissue surrounding the muscles) that result from the repetitive motions you use when running. A combination of foam rolling and dynamic stretching will help ease tension, improve flexibility and range of motion, and seriously decrease risk of injury. Indeed, using a foam roller correctly can provide benefits similar to those you’d enjoy from a deep-tissue massage. If you’re serious about running, then it’s time to invest in a couple foam rollers.

Check out our selection of foam rollers.

And here’s a great eight-part video series from Runner’s World on how to efficiently use your foam roller.

3. Kettlebells

KettlebellsAs we mentioned earlier, runners who fail to incorporate strength training into their workout regimen are not only missing out on improving their running time, endurance, and form, they’re also missing out on a prime method of decreasing risk of injury. Most runners avoid the weight room out of a fear of getting too big and bulky. However, maintaining a strength program is absolutely essential to improving your running efficiency. For example, getting rid of rounded shoulders can help increase the amount of air your lungs take in and out, while strengthening your glutes will provide more power for when you push off the ground.

Thanks to their distinct shape, kettlebells are an especially helpful tool for runners working on their strength training. Ballistic movements like swings and snatches will help improve your power and explosiveness. The shape and size of kettlebells compel you to use a lot of force, core strength, and coordinated movement, all of which increases overall body strength.

Check out our selection of kettlebells.

Here’s a nice article from about four key kettlebell exercises for runners to get you started.

4. Powerblock Dumbbells

Powerblock Sport Adjustable DumbbellsAnother key tool for a runner’s strength training regimen are dumbells. Most any dumbbells will do, but we like the Powerblock dumbbells best thanks to their convenient storage and easy-to-increase weight increments.

Again, most runners are hesitant about anything that even smells like weight-lifting out of fear of getting too big. But as mentioned before, strength training for runners is not about getting big but about targeting those muscle groups that running, alone, doesn’t hit, but which are essential to improving your running ability. You want to increase your strength to the point at which your body can handle running without injury. With Powerblock dumbbells, you can focus on increasing your strength and stamina without cluttering up the room.

Check out our selection of Powerblock dumbbells.

Here’s a quick video that shows a great dumbbell core circuit workout for runners.

5. TRX Home Suspension Training Kit

TRX Home Suspension Training KitWhen it comes to an all-in-one system that allows you to work on your balance, strength-training, flexibility, and endurance, the TRX Home Suspension Training Kit is simply the best. Originally invented by a US Navy SEAL to help him exercise without gym equipment, the TRX uses your own bodyweight to deliver a powerful workout that can strengthen key areas needed to increase running acceleration, top speed, and overall running control. It’s simple to set up, easy to increase or decrease difficulty, and works equally well indoors or out.

What makes the TRX kit especially great is that it constitutes a full-body workout using only your body weight and gravity, a fact that will assuage most runners’ fears of getting too bulky from pumping iron. From basic squats and pushups to jumps, twists, one-legged lifts, and more, the TRX system is extremely versatile and, no matter what exercise you do, will engage your core stabilizers so you can build strength, balance, agility, and power all at once.

Order your own TRX Home Suspension Training Kit today.

Here’s a great video to get started improving knee drive and posture with the TRX kit.


Krazy about Kettlebells


Maybe it is 4-Hour Body becoming a bestseller, touting the benefits of kettlebell workouts. Kettlebells are becoming the new staples in gyms, right along with dumbbells and plates. While this surge of popular interest has been unprecedented, kettlebells have been around a while.

The modern version seems to have originated 350 years ago in Russia as counterweights to measure goods. Since they were fun to swing around, they became weight-lifting tools and finally, modern kettlebell-lifting became Soviet Union’s national sport, in 1948 more help.

However, many cultures around the world have used weights with handles since long ago: Shaolin monks with stone padlocks, Scottish tribes in their hurling contests, Indians with their ishi sashi clubs. These early predecessors and kettlebells work to extend the center of balance, allowing the users to mimic many real-world activities involving swinging, like shoveling, farm work, picking up your child, etc.

Today, the US Secret Service, FBI Counter Assault team, and many military training programs around the world use the holistic, explosive exercises that high-repetition ballistic kettlebell workouts provide. The benefits of this workout includes a full-body conditioning, anaerobic and aerobic exercise improving mobility, range of motion, and strength, particularly in lower back, legs and shoulders.

Give the Gift of Fitness!


Are you looking for ideas for unique Christmas gifts?

HealthStyles Exercise Equipment has some great gifts for fitness enthusiasts in all price ranges!

Whether your gift is for an avid runner, a Cross-Fit or P90X junkie, or a friend or loved on who is trying to firm up or lose weight, here are just a few of the many possible gifts you can put under the tree for those important people in your life.

Kettlebells – The Latest Craze in Strength Training


If you haven’t yet heard of kettlebells in relation to strength training, you may have been a bit out of touch with what is happening in fitness training recently. Kettlebell training as a way to lose weight and gain strength has literally exploded over the past few years.

Continue reading

Basic Kettlebell Circuit Video


Here is a great demonstration of a basic kettlebell circuit. This circuit can be used as a strength workout or a cardio conditioning workout. Simply change the weight of the kettlebell to reduce the load and decrease rest time to focus on cardio conditioning.

Click here to shop for kettlebells online or visit your local HealthStyles retail store.

American Council on Exercise (ACE) Study Reveals Kettlebells Provide Powerful Workout in Short Amount of Time


SAN DIEGO (Feb 9, 2010) — The American Council on Exercise (ACE), America’s leading authority on fitness and one of the largest fitness certification, education and training organizations in the world, today announced key findings from an exclusive study on the benefits of kettlebell workouts conducted with the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, through its exercise and health program. Results concluded that kettlebells provide a much higher-intensity workout than standard weight-training routines and offer superior results in a short amount of time.

“The use of kettlebells has grown immensely over the past few years, as they can offer a great bang for your buck when it comes to time spent exercising and quality of results,” says ACE’s Chief Science Officer Cedric X. Bryant, Ph.D. “A person can easily burn several hundred calories in a brief period of time using these iron orbs, which makes them appealing to those looking for time-efficient results. Kettlebell-themed workouts and kettlebell-only gyms are popping up everywhere in order to cater to the high demand of this growing fitness trend.”

The study tested men and women between the ages of 29-46 years old and was led by John Porcari, Ph.D., and Chad Schnettler, M.S., both research experts at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse Exercise and Health Program. After establishing a baseline, the subjects continuously performed kettlebell snatches, quick lifts over the head, to a certain rhythm during a 20-minute period. After carefully measuring oxygen consumption and blood lactate, this study confirmed the average study participant burned approximately 20 calories per minute during a typical kettlebell workout. This equates to an astounding 400 calories during a 20-minute workout. In terms of calorie burning, these results are equivalent to running a six-minute mile pace, or cross-country skiing uphill at a fast pace.

Researchers credit the brisk calorie burning to the fact that the kettlebell snatch workout is a total-body movement performed in an interval-training fashion. Study participants were observed to achieve exercise heart rate that ranged from approximately 86 to 99 percent of maximum heart rate and 67 to 91 percent of maximum oxygen uptake, suggesting that the use of kettlebells provides a much higher-intensity workout than standard weightlifting.

“Overall, kettlebell use can produce remarkable results, which is what virtually all fitness enthusiasts look to get from their workouts,” Bryant continues. “Kettlebells not only offer resistance training benefits, they also will ultimately help people burn calories, lose weight, and enhance their functional performance capabilities.”

A complete summary of the study can be found on ACE’s newly created “Get Fit” Web site, designed to inform, inspire, educate and motivate people to become fit and lead a healthier, more active lifestyle, located at Right click this link and choose “Save Target As” to download a PDF copy of the full research study.

About American Council on Exercise The American Council on Exercise (ACE), America’s premier certification, education and training organization, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the benefits of physical activity and protecting consumers against unsafe and ineffective fitness products and instruction. ACE sponsors university-based exercise science research and is the world’s largest nonprofit fitness certifying organization. For more information on ACE and its programs, call (800) 825-3636 or log onto the ACE Web site at

Fitness Accessories Expand Your Workout Routine


The use of fitness accessories to expand and enhance your cardiovascular and strength routines have never been more popular than they are today as is obvious by the number of equipment manufacturers that are getting into the fitness accessory game. Life Fitness, one of the major cardiovascular equipment manufacturers, is set to roll out Body Shape Kits this fall, which combine many of the most popular accessories sold by HealthStyles Exercise Equipment, into one all inclusive kit. Octane Fitness will combine an elliptical workout with stretch bands in the programming and design of their new ellipticals to be introduced later this Fall, to create circuit training workouts that add strength training to the traditional cardio workout. Continue reading