To be a good runner, you have to do more than just run. Strength training is an important part of a runner’s regimen, including training your upper body. If you want to reach faster times and farther distances — and keep your body happy while doing so — more upper-body strength and power can make a massive difference.
Here, we discuss why you need to add running-specific upper-body training and offer a workout to get you started.
WHY RUNNERS SHOULD TRAIN THEIR UPPER BODY
With any sport or physical activity, technique is everything. If you’ve been running for some time, you know having proper form can make a world of difference. With good posture (especially in your upper body), you’ll run more efficiently to preserve energy and you’ll keep your muscles in good alignment to help prevent common overuse aches and injuries (e.g., shin splints and achy knees). Without good form, however, your run suffers — maybe not in the first mile or two, but after an hour, you’ll feel it.
If you run a lot, consider that your (tired) legs might not be able to handle a heavy training routine. But your upper-body can. That way, you can still do a lot of upper-body training, which will indirectly boost your legs.
Lifting weights isn’t only about adding muscle; it’s also about improving motor patterns and enhancing your nervous system. Keep in mind: Everything in your body is connected. So by targeting your fast-twitch muscle fibers and nervous system with upper-body exercises, your lower-body improves, too.
AN EFFECTIVE UPPER-BODY WORKOUT FOR RUNNERS
This workout is focused on building strength and improving your posture, which is critical for runners. Almost every upper-body exercise actually also works your core, so you get a nice 2-for-1 benefit. Core strength is vital for runners and helps keep your back healthy. Instead of using single-joint, bodybuilding exercises, these exercises target many muscles at once so you can build muscle and better movement patterns.
Sets: 4; Reps: 4 each side (8 total); Rest: 30s
Start in a pushup position. Descend to the bottom, and back up, then extend one hand to the sky. Watch that hand with your eyes. Repeat and reach up with the other arm. To make it more challenging, hold dumbbells.
Sets: 4; Reps: 5; Rest: 30s
Grab a pullup bar with your palms facing toward you and start by squeezing your shoulder blades together. Pull yourself up and lead with your chest. (To use your core, lift your legs in front of you so your body forms an “L.” Hold this position while doing your chin-ups.)
TRX INVERTED ROW
Sets: 3; Reps: 10; Rest: 30s
Grab TRX straps from underneath with your feet closer to the anchor point. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull yourself up while keeping your body straight like a plank.
Sets: 3; Reps: 8 each letter; Rest: 30s
While lying with your chest on an incline bench, raise your arms above your head in a Y-shape while squeezing your shoulder blades together — do this for 8 reps. Then lift your arms straight out to your side in a T-shape while squeezing your shoulder blades together — do this for 8 reps. Then, with your elbows bent, make a W-shape with your arms and lift your arms behind you while squeezing your shoulder blades together — do this for 8 reps. Finally, keep your upper arms out to your side and turn your wrists up to the sky while squeezing your shoulder blades together and keeping a 90-degree angle at your elbows — do this for 8 reps.
Sets: 3; Reps: 15 yards each side; Rest: 30s
Grab a heavy kettlebell in one hand and hold it overhead. Keep your shoulder down-and-back and walk while keeping your hips and shoulders level. Keep your wrists as straight as you can.
Sets: 3; Reps: 8 circles each direction; Rest: 30s
Get into a plank position on a stability ball. While keeping your torso still, move your forearms in a circle. Then, switch directions. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and don’t let your lower back sag.