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A Stronger Upper Body for Better Running

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Runners know that running requires powerful legs and other lower body muscles. But are you giving your body what you need in your upper body to be the strongest runner you can be?

Upper body strength is just as important and often neglected.

This is why we have put together upper body workouts for runners.

Should Runners Train Arms?

The upper body plays an important role in our everyday activities. We would not be able to perform tasks such as reaching, pushing, lifting, pulling, and grasping objects without sufficient upper body strength.

When we walk, our arms help to propel us forward. The arm swing is what aids in controlling the vertical force developed by the leg swing, keeping us moving.

It is important to recognize that the upper body is not just the arms. Your shoulders, lower back, and entire abdomen are all engaged when you run.

Training your upper body will help you become a stronger runner. Being a strong runner has to do with form and technique, and the stronger you are, the less likely your body is to break down when you get tired.

Why Do Runners Need Upper Body Strength?

If you watch races happening on the track, it is easy to see which runners are starting to get fatigued before the rest of the competition. When you have poor upper body strength, your body will drain more quickly on longer runs or during hard efforts.

The biomechanics of running involves the entire body working together to create the running movements of leg and arm swing, pelvic stabilization, and torso rotation.

Since the arms contain smaller muscle groups than the rest of your body, your other muscle groups have to work harder. For example, the shoulder muscles will need to work harder to continue propelling the weak arms. At this point, the core and torso muscles will need to create a stronger rotation to counteract the leg swing.

As this chain reaction continues, the fatigue works its way down to the legs.

8 Upper Body Exercises for Runners

1. Pushups

Sure, we all hate pushups. But you know how you get better at pushups?

That’s right.

More pushups.

2. Bridges

Lie on the floor with knees bent, feet firmly planted on the floor. Lift up through your glutes and engage your abs as you lift your butt off the floor, forming a straight line from knees to shoulders.

3. Planks

There are many different types of plank positions out there. Start with the basics and add different ones as you get better at them.

4. Crunches

Typical crunches are great but consider adding some obliques, Russian twists, and other variations.

5. Chest Press

This simple lift will help you strengthen your upper body. Lying on your back, hold two dumbbells. Your palms should face forward, and your thumbs need to be wrapped around the handle. Lower the dumbbells slightly, slowly, and while maintaining control as you inhale.

Once your dumbbells gently touch your chest, you can exhale while pressing your arms up. Your elbows should be slightly bent.

6. Shoulder Press

Shoulder Press
Source: hegyminmissionhills.com

While many runners see the value of working on the chest and biceps, the shoulders often get neglected.

As you stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, hold your dumbbells at your shoulder height. Your elbows should be at a 90-degree angle. You should then lift the dumbbells slowly above your head, careful not to fully straighten your arms or lock the elbows.

You can pause at the top, then return to the start position.

7. Bicep Curls

Stand with a dumbbell in each hand and your elbows resting at your sides. Extend your forearms out in front of your body and bring the dumbbells up to your shoulders as you bend your elbows.

While maintaining control, reverse the curl.

8. Tricep Drop

Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, hold a weight behind your head with both hands and elbows bent. The weight should be between your shoulder blades.

Lift the weight up above your head, then slowly drop it back down.

Why Do Runners Need to Work Out Their Upper Body?

Working your upper body will reduce your chances of injury, which is very important to athletes. And while many runners do abdominal core work, their back needs just as much attention.

Upper bodywork and strength training will also help you to improve and hold proper form longer. You are unlikely to run to your fullest potential without maintaining good posture.

And if you are going to do something, why not do it well?

The Takeaway

If you are looking to improve running form, endurance, or even set a PR, consider including several exercises for the upper body. An upper body workout for runners can really help your overall performance.

Although this equates to setting aside even more time for training and working out, it will be well worth the time and effort.

A stronger upper body means more efficient breathing, better posture, and improved biomechanics with every step of running.

All of these outcomes will lead to lasting longer while running and decreasing your risk of injury and pain along the way.

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