While back muscles don’t get the same attention as the hamstrings or half the glory of the glutes—both crucial groups of muscles when it comes to running—the muscles in the back are essential to good posture and strong form.
That’s why Yusuf Jeffers, certified personal trainer and running coach, designed this kettlebell pull workout that targets the entire back while engaging the rest of the body, including those hamstrings and glutes, along with the core. (Don’t worry, if you don’t have a kettlebell, you can also use dumbbells for this workout.)
The Benefits of a Pull Workout for Runners
Jeffers explains that like most pull workouts, this one “recruits the lats, traps, rhomboids, delts, biceps, and deeper spinal intrinsic musculature. These all help with maintaining great posture while running, which leads to efficiency of movement and running longer, further, stronger, and faster.” That’s a lot of muscle recruitment and benefits for one simple workout!
That’s a lot of muscle recruitment and benefits for one simple workout!
The six exercises in the circuit, almost all of which are performed from a standing position, strengthen the back muscles without isolating them—and that’s intentional. “Even though this is mainly a back-focused workout, lower body and core are still involved in all of these movements,” Jeffers says. “This can be beneficial in keeping similar integration patterns of how we use muscles when running.”
While this pull workout is designed to be a traditional strength workout—that means moving with control and a slow tempo, as well as taking rest breaks as you need them—you can opt to introduce a conditioning element by performing each movement for 30 to 60 seconds with minimal rest in between exercises.
1. Alternating Single-Arm Bent-Over Row
Stand with feet hip-width apart, kettlebell placed between feet (handle in vertical position). Bend knees slightly, hinge at hips by sending butt straight back, and lower torso until it’s nearly parallel to the floor. Make sure back is flat, shoulders down, and core engaged. With palm facing in, reach for kettlebell with right hand and pull weight up to ribcage, keeping elbow close to torso. Lower kettlebell and repeat with left arm. Continue alternating. Do 10 reps on each side.
2. Bent-Over Row to March
Stand with feet hip-width apart, use both hands to hold a kettlebell directly in front of chest. Bend knees slightly, hinge at hips by sending butt straight back, and lower torso until it’s nearly parallel to the floor. Make sure back is flat, shoulders down, and core engaged. Extend both arms to lower kettlebell toward the floor, then pull it up to chest, keeping elbows close to torso. Drive feet into floor and extend hips to stand back up. Lift right knee to hip height, then immediately lower right foot and lift left knee to hip height. That’s one rep. Do 12 reps, performing a hinge, row, and a march on each side.