In this post, I want to look at why doing an upper body workout for runners can really improve your running, even though this at first glance might seem counterintuitive with, of course, running being such a dominant lower body exercise.
However, having a strong upper body can make a big difference to your running.
Posture When Running.
When you think about it, your legs are totally at the mercy of your upper body stability; if that is not efficient, you will have problems running.
I often think of the old saying when I was a kid.
The knee bone is connected to the leg bone.
Basically, nothing works in isolation. Upper body workouts help with your posture, which delivers a more stable platform when running,g specifically if you are tired.
Plus, doing an upper-body workout will help strengthen your abdominal and back muscles, which helps protect your back from the rigours of the repetition of running.
Why Shouldn’t Runners Ignore Their Arms?
I love watching runners when they run, and I often observe how underutilised the average runner’s arms are average runner’s arms are, apart from perhaps holding a drinks bottle.
This is in stark contrast when you watch, for example, the elite marathon runners whose arm swing is consistently engaged.
So What Does More Arm Strength Do For Your Running?
Your arms act as a balancing mechanism; this, in turn, enables you to run more efficiently and expend less energy whilst you run.
Also, your arm swing improves your overall momentum and helps lift the body off the ground.
Many runners think that they are conserving energy by moving their arms less; however, this is the complete opposite.
However, if you have a weaker upper body, you will be less inclined to utilise your arm swing when you run.
Many years ago, a PT put together a training regime for me to get faster. Initially, I was surprised at the amount of upper bodywork, not so much to give me bulky muscles, which would hinder endurance running.
However, that extra power meant I used my arm swing more consistently, which improved my speed and running economy.
Some Tips For Good Form Arm Swings When Running.
Bend your elbows and swing close to your body without swinging your arms across your body because that will through your posture off.
- Swing from your shoulders; however, this should not be a forced action… Relax, feel the motion back and forth.
- Relax your hands; I know this might sound weird, but a clenched fist can tense up your body, so make sure your hands are relaxed because that relaxation will transfer up the whole length of your arms and shoulders.
- Please don’t force the arm to drive forward because it’s the pendulum movement from the back to front that is key, so as you push back, the momentum will automatically propel your arms forward.
Benefits Of Upper Body Workout For Runners.
For me, it has to be the impact of making your body harder to break when running, which runnings impact has a rather unnerving ability to do to runners.
Using upper body strength is a key component for a runner. Initially, it may seem counterintuitive. The more you look at the interconnection of our bodies, the more sense it makes to make sure you don’t neglect your upper body strength building.
The workouts don’t need to belong and are arduous, just 10 minutes 3 times a week.
I do many bodyweight exercises such as press-ups while I waited for the kettle to boil in the kitchen!
But this little extra work can have a huge impact on your running performance.
It Reduces Your Risk Of Injury.
Many runners quite naturally focus on their legs and lower body; however, as mentioned, you will improve posture and control of your body by strengthening the upper body, core, and arms.
Even your reaction time to trips and stumbles would be improved, decreasing the chances of serious layoffs.
The bottom line is a runner should train the whole body, as the action of running is a whole-body exercise.
The issue is while running; our lower body automatically gets
Upper Body Workout For Runners Without Weights
Below are some exercises that can be integrated into a runner upper body workout.
Sometimes you do not have to reinvent the wheel. A push-up is a great arm exercise.
However, I will point out that you might want to make certain refinements to consider to get the best from a press-up as a runner.
Because one of the key benefits of a press-up for a runner is your arm swing, then.
- It’s key that the press up be done with your arms only shoulder-width apart.
- As you go down into the press up, make sure your arms stay close to your sides and don’t flare out.
What I love about a press-up can be done almost anywhere; we, ll maybe not be on a bus, but when you have a spare five minutes at home, you can do a quick 10 press-ups.
Extended Arm Plank. (Straight Arm Plank)
Yet again, the plank is nothing new as an exercise, but I find doing the plank in the plank position with my arms extended instead of my arms bent on the floor engages the core and arms more and works that upper body.
Another great arm exercise as well as a fantastic way to get your core engaged.
Supermans are great for strengthening the upper and lower back areas, strengthening glutes and hamstrings and are generally good for your core strength.
All you do is lie flat on the ground lift your arms like you are skydiving with your thumbs pointing up.
Lift your body off the ground, then lift your legs hold for 5 seconds and repeat. Keep your chin tucked so you don’t overstretch your neck.
I often use bridges; I did not add them to this article because the benefits are more to your glutes and hamstrings.
However, they are great for your core, and I think about squeeze into upper body exercises.
So all you have to do is lie on your back, feet in a position so that your hills are adjacent to your knees.
Activate your abs and glutes, push your shoulders into the ground, and raise your body, so your bottom is lifted off the floor.
Pause and come back down again.
I use variants of the bridge using bands just around your knees to add some resistance.
Basically, all of the above exercises create great resistance, but if you are beyond just bodyweight exercises but want more resistance than just bodyweight, then utilising a resistance band is a good direction to go in .
Personally, I love the resistance band training as I can pretty much do it anywhere, even if I only have 10 minutes to spare.
Upper Body Workout For Runners With Weights.
If you want to use weights but aren’t perhaps ready for a full-blown weight training workout in a gym, below are some exercises that you can do with weights at home.
When I have done full weight training workouts in the gym, squats and deadlifts are fantastic; however, for some runners, the balance between the benefits of a weight training workout and the potential for injury if the incorrect form has to be considered.
That’s why it’s great to start with the resistance of body weight or resistance bands and then if you want to advance your training to full weights, make sure you are advised on good form.
Kettlebell Swings For Runners.
The dynamics of a kettlebell are their strength and biggest risk.
I think kettlebells are one of the best ways to give any runner an all-over workout by doing quite simple movements.
However, the downside is if you go too heavy too quick and your core and back aren’t in condition, then this is where injuries can happen.
So my tip is if you are new to building strength up for a runner, be it all over or just your upper body may be bodyweight exercises are a good place to begin.
However, I wanted to include Kettlebells in my recommendations because I think done correctly and consistently, they do deliver great results in gained strength and mobility for runners.
Single Arm Renegade Row.
This exercise neatly mimics the arm movement for runners and builds up the strength in the arm and shoulders that will improve your running economy.
I love after a run doing some weighted farmers walks.
They are great for core and posture and, as a side benefit, really build up your grip strength which weirdly is one of the key indicators of overall health as you age.
All I would say is I have done farmers walks in groups of men that are looking to lose weight and gain muscle.
However, as an endurance runner, my goal… Yes, you have guessed it endurance.
So try and find that sweet spot with the farmer walks weight.
Heavier enough to have some resistance, however not too heavy, so that you can only do limited reps.
I am to be able to do 10 reps of a walk of about 20 metres.