Why Runners Need Upper Body Strength

May 02, 2023

Improve your efficiency and prevent injury by strengthening your upper body.

Many runners fail to make time for strength training. Many runners feel that it is unimportant or simply do not have the time while others just flat out hate it. But pumping iron for runners is incredibly important – not only for increasing your efficiency when it comes to running but also for preventing injury! Below are a couple of reasons why along with a few exercises you can do to start building strength.

It is important to note that the end goal is not to add a ton of muscle that will negatively impact your performance and pace. Instead, you are simply increasing your strength by increasing your neuromuscular adaptation, or the ability for your muscles to work together. When you strengthen your upper body, you become a more balanced runner.

Now here is why.

For Efficiency’s Sake

Every time your feet hit the pavement, you use not only your legs to push you forward but also your arms, chest, torso and back to improve efficiency and balance. Your arms pump when you run, enhancing your forward movement. So, the stronger your arms are, the more efficient they will be in your forward movement.

Prevent Injury

Have you ever suffered from aches, soreness, cramping, strains and/or inflammation after running? Has it happened in your shoulders, neck or arms after running regularly? If it has not, it does not mean it will not. This is not an uncommon occurrence and is typically the result of poor form.

What is more is you can be fine for miles and miles and suddenly something can switch, causing a kink in the kinetic chain. A number of factors may contribute to this: rounding your shoulders, shrugging your shoulders up to your ears, holding a cell phone or water bottle or swinging your arms too widely.

A strong upper body can help you to maintain proper position and posture as you work out. It is important that you develop and maintain this strength. This can help you to run longer without fatiguing so easily as well as prevent that hunched, painful look toward the end of your race.

Upper Body Exercises for Runners

Pushups: You can start out doing pushups – as many as you can for one minute. Advance this toward to minutes as you are able.

Once you feel like you are ready, try single-leg pushups. Get in pushup position. When dropping down, lift your right leg 8 to 10 inches from the floor. Return to starting position. Descend again, raising your left leg this time. Do this as many times as you can in one minute.

Man Makers: Get in a pushup position with one dumbbell in each hand. Bring the dumbbell in your right hand up to the side of your chest. Lower it to the floor. Repeat with your left arm. Next do a pushup. After the pushup, tuck your legs in toward your chest and stand, lifting the dumbbells into an overhead press. Reverse this pattern, heading back into starting position. Do this as many times as possible for one minute.

Try to get some upper-body workouts in before your next race. Pay attention to how your body responds and you may be surprised.