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Kettlebells or Medicine Balls When Strength Training for a Marathon?

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Dear Fun and Fit: I’ve been looking to ramp up my training to complete my first marathon next spring. I really need to get on a better plan for strength training. I will be doing a lot of training over the winter months on the east coast where it is often yucky. It would be nice to be able to fall back on a strength training/treadmill run if needed.
Would a kettlebell be a good idea or would I be better off with a medicine ball? Which would be more diverse for training? I’d want to start out with something not too big that would cause injury either. Suggestions on weight? Amy, Mount Joy, PA

Um, I think I just found my workout buddy

Alexandra: For diversity, both kettlebell workouts and medicine balls are good. Kettlebells offer both cardio AND strength benefits, while the medicine balls address strength. Having said that, I would suggest the medicine ball first unless you have someone certified in kettlebells to teach you. Kettlebells are deceptively difficult to do right. You have to hold and swing them properly to avoid getting hurt. Our post “Kettlebell Workouts: Yes or No” will give you something to think and clink on.

(For more great advice on taking advantage of what these iron balls with handles offer, listen to our radio interview of Kettlebell Bombshell, Lisa Balash: Kettlebells for Fitness, Weight Loss, and Strength.)

Kettlebell Bombshell, Lisa Balash

Either way, you want to start light: 5 – 7 pounds for the kettlebells, and 8 – 12 pounds for the medicine ball.

Kymberly: Ring My Bell, Ball, Bell What the H*ll? All this talk about bells and balls makes me want to sing, roll, and loll! (Dare you to click the link, hear Anita Ward sing Ring My Bell and NOT have the song stuck in your head). Nooooooo, make it stop!

Oh, can you show me that medicine ball move one more time?

Before going disco on you, allow me to work a different move. Why not get into group fitness strength training classes instead? Whether you use free weights, resistance bands or resistance tubing, barbells, body weight, actual kettlebells or medicine balls, you will have a lower chance of injury in a class taught by a fitness pro. You’ll increase your fundamental strength, allowing you to progress further with your marathon training. And you will get guidance, a range of options, and feedback within a class, all of which minimize injury risk. Tackle kettlebells only with a qualified, well-trained leader (trainer or group instructor) as risk with them is higher than with other resistance equipment. You can then take what you learn in the strength training class out onto the floor and apply it to your solo resistance training program.

Stability ball balancing with Kymberly and Alexandra

Ballsy moves ahead!

Ding! And they’re off!! Is that the starting bell for your inaugural marathon? Have a ball with it!

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Photo credits: Man on beach  ~ggvic~, Medicine ball man aramo


About Fun and Fit

Get practical exercise advice, your fitness questions answered, and cutting edge health edu-tainment that is accessible and doable from long time fitness experts, Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA. We have taught on land, sea, and airwaves for 3 decades on 4 continents. From writing to speaking, emceeing to hosting a radio show, reviewing products to teaching classes, we believe that little steps turn into big paths. Move a little more than the day before. FitFluential Ambassadors and award-winners both online and off.

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9 Responses to Kettlebells or Medicine Balls When Strength Training for a Marathon?

  1. Miz November 27, 2012 at 1:41 am #

    I am smittttted with both.
    and vote for you? ANYTIME.
    Miz recently posted..Not all VAMPIRES vanish with Halloween.My Profile

  2. Angela @ Happy Fit Mama November 27, 2012 at 3:18 am #

    I say ball BUT I think body weight exercises are just as effective. No equipment needed!
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama recently posted..10 Cold Weather Running TipsMy Profile

  3. Amy Good (splintergirl) November 27, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

    hey…got to vote again.

    Thanks for the answer. I’d love to join a class but find it cost prohibitive. We did, however, find a medicine ball that comes with a training DVD, so I like that idea. Now, to lay out the rest of the plan. You ladies rock!….ring and roll :)

  4. Tamara November 27, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

    I like the ball today, especially the UGI ball! Kettle bells are also hard to teach to people without a good sense of their body…

    Voted! Can I vote again today? We shall see…
    Tamara recently posted..Holiday stress and weight gainMy Profile

  5. Jody - Fit at 55 November 27, 2012 at 4:06 pm #

    Great advice & I love the advice to learn from a pro, learn the strength training first to avoid injury & get that fundamental strength! Yes, kettlebells are deceptive! :)
    Jody – Fit at 55 recently posted..Gratitude Monday & Thanksgiving WeekendMy Profile

  6. Tina @ Best Body Fitness November 27, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

    I love the advice for these! And I’m with Angela on bodyweight exercises being GREAT options too. so many good ones for runners to do.
    Tina @ Best Body Fitness recently posted..#RnRNOLA Training: Week 3My Profile

  7. steel home ramps January 6, 2015 at 10:58 pm #

    That is nice. But be careful when lifting them heavy balls or too much bending.


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