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Why upper body strength exercises are important for runners

We all know how important it is to have a strong lower body and core for impact exercises such as running and keeping muscle groups strengthened like the glutes, quads, and calves play a vital role in improving our running overall. However, upper body strength is often overlooked which can, in fact, have a detrimental effect on our performance. In this article, we will discuss why upper body exercises are important for runners and provide examples to help strengthen the upper body to aid in overall running improvement.

Why is it important?

Upper body and core strength aids in keeping good form when running which is crucial to running well. If the proper form is not maintained whilst running full performance potential may not be met and can also result in injury. By working to improve upper body strength, posture will also improve which in turn strengthens the back and shoulder muscles to maintain an upright position when running even when fatigued. Upper body strength will also help runners with arm swing and projection which results in a more effective running gait.

Helps reduce injury risk

Having good core strength is vital for runners, however many runners specifically focus on training just the abdominal muscles. The back also makes up the core, and therefore neglecting it increases the chance of injury to the area, this is because your core (both your abs and your back) help to support your spine and protect it from the high impact of running. Training one without the other not only increases the chance of injuries occurring but can also lead to less-efficient running.

Improves arm swing

Even though runners tend to solely focus on leg training, the arms also play a significant role in helping the body run as well. When running, good arm technique helps support the legs while the arm swing dictates the overall rhythm. Having strong shoulders and arms will help to keep a consistent tempo during a run and including upper body exercises will strengthen the arms, shoulders, and back thus improving overall performance and gait.

Examples of upper body exercises for runners

  1. Inverted rows- to complete this exercise you will need to find either a bar, set of rings, railings or the edge of a table. Hold onto the bar with your palms facing toward you. Keeping the feet stretched out in front of you and keeping the core strong to keep the body in a straight line. Pull yourself up until your chest touches the bar or table, then slowly lower yourself back down until your arms are fully extended. To make it slightly easier, plant your feet and bend your knees when performing this exercise. Repeat 12-15x
HTC - Upper body strength inverted row
HTC - Upper body strength - press ups

2. Press Ups –Find a space on the floor that is comfortable to perform the exercise, go down on all fours, placing your hands slightly wider than your shoulders, then straighten your arms and legs into a high plank position. Lower the body until the chest is nearly touching the floor. Once movement is complete push through the arms and push body back into starting position. Repeat 10-20x .

3. Elevated Triceps Push-ups. Place hands on a bench, bar, chair, or elevated surface about six inches apart. Step back a few feet, so that the body is in a straight line from the feet to the head, keeping the glutes and abs contracted. Slowly lower the body forward, bending only at the elbows as far as can go without losing form. Push back up to a straight line with the arms fully extended. Repeat 10-20x