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Best Workouts Upper Body Workouts

Upper Body Workout For Runners

by Power Life Team | February 25, 2021

As a runner, you probably spend a lot of time, well, running. The number one way to become a better runner is to keep pushing yourself on the pavement. However, an upper body workout for runners – strength training – is also key for improved performance.

Let’s take a look at why.

3 Reasons Runners Need Upper Body Strength

Generally speaking, the runner’s upper body needs to be lean and light, and not weighed down with extra muscle weight. Unless you’re a competitive sprinter, it’s easy to believe that building upper body strength is just not compatible with running.

This is incorrect thinking. Building muscle – lean muscle, not Schwarzenegger-style muscle – is essential to any runner, for three reasons.

It May Help Prevent Injuries

Strength, quite simply, might help to prevent injuries. When your muscles are strong, they’re more resilient. Strengthening your muscles also strengthens the connective tissue around them. This could help to prevent soft tissue injuries.1

upper body workouts for runners | My Power LifeIt May Help You Run Faster

One of the key words related to many forms of athletic training is “power.” Power is how the body propels itself forward (or upward). It’s how one athlete is able to excel over the next. Power is what also enables you to run faster.

But what if you’re a long-distance runner? Well, strength increases the power of each individual muscle fiber. This results in fewer fibers being needed to run your pace. Fewer fibers in use means a lower oxygen demand on the body — which is another way of saying it makes you far more efficient.2

It May Help Improve Your Technique

Speaking of efficiency, your running technique also needs to be efficient in order to produce a successful run. And, good technique is determined by the strength and flexibility of your muscles. If your coordination or stride is “off” you are going to tire far more quickly.3

Run Strong With These Upper Body Exercises (Yes, You Need Them)

The upper body includes the arms, shoulders, chest, and upper back. These five tried and true exercises all focus on these areas. Don’t underestimate their power to help you achieve your running goals. Just make sure to get your doctor’s approval before giving any new exercise a try.

pushup exercise | My Power LifeThe Basic Push Up

Push ups target many muscle groups and require no equipment, just your body weight. Think of a push up as a strength exercise you always have in your back pocket.

How To Do A Push-Up

  1. Start in a straight arm plank position with wrists directly under your shoulders, shoulder width apart. Your body should form a nice straight line from head to toe.
  2. Bending at the elbows, slowly lower your body (keeping that straight line) until your arms form a 90-degree angle.
  3. Push back up until you reach your starting position.
  4. Focus on keeping your shoulder blades back and your core strong.
  5. Aim for three sets of 8-12 reps.

If you’re not ready for full push ups, you can start by bending your knees instead of in the plank position until you get stronger. Or, if you’re looking for a body weight advanced version, a wide push-up is far more challenging.

The Tricep Dip

The biceps may get all the upper arm attention, but the triceps are actually a bigger muscle group. You want to have strong biceps and triceps when it comes to running technique.

The triceps are made up of three parts, and the tricep dip will work all three of them.

How To Do A Tricep Dip

tricep dip | My Power Life

  1. Place your hands on a bench (or a table, couch, or chair) behind you, hip width apart. Your feet should be together, flat on the floor, with your knees bent. Or, your legs can be completely straight out in front of you, with your weight resting on your heels (this makes the exercise more difficult).
  2. Slowly lower your body as far as you can, bending at the elbows.
  3. Press back up quickly.
  4. The lowering phase should be slow and the press-back fast.
  5. Aim for three sets of 8-12 reps.

The Bent Over Row

A bent over row is great for your back and shoulders. You can do this with a set of dumbbells or one single barbell.

How To Do A Bent Over Row

  1. bent over row | My Power LifeStand with your feet shoulder width apart, keeping your knees slightly bent.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing the body. Your weights should also be shoulder width apart.
  3. Bend from the hips so that your back forms a 45-degree angle. Focus on keeping your back straight throughout.
  4. Tighten your core, and pull the dumbbells straight up toward your armpits, squeezing the shoulder blades and keeping your elbows in.
  5. Slowly lower the weights back to the starting position.
  6. Remain in your 45-degree angle until all reps are complete.
  7. Aim for three sets of 10-12 reps.

The Seated Dumbell Shoulder Press

This seated overhead press is a great strength exercise on its own, but it’s also a great launching point for the more advanced standing overhead press with a barbell. Performing this exercise while seated on an upright bench keeps your back stabilized, and the dumbbells give you greater control.

How To Do A Seated Overhead Press

dumbbell press | My Power Life

  1. Sit on a bench with your back supported, arms bent, and dumbbells held at shoulder height, palms facing inwards. Your dumbbells should be shoulder width apart.
  2. Keeping your elbows directly underneath your wrists, squeeze your shoulder blades and press the weights upwards, directly over your shoulders, until your arms are straight. As you press, twist the weights so that your palms face forward.
  3. Lower the dumbbells back to your starting position.
  4. Aim for three sets of 10-12 reps.

The Bench Press

A bench press targets the chest muscles, triceps, shoulders, and core strength. You can perform it several different ways depending on what you have at your disposal – a flat bench, an incline bench (an adjustable bench), a stability ball, or simply the floor.

bench press | My Power LifeHow To Do A Bench Press

  1. Lie on a bench (or the floor) with your knees bent and feet firmly planted.
  2. Hold your dumbbells with an overhand grip, arms bent at 90-degree angles.
  3. Keeping your core tight, press the dumbbells toward the ceiling until your arms are straight up in an overhead position. If your shoulders come off the ground, your dumbbells are too heavy.
  4. Slowly lower the dumbbells back down until your triceps reach your body – or rest on the floor.
  5. Pause, then press up into your next rep.
  6. Aim for three sets of 8-12 reps.

Feel Good And Get Better With Upper Body Workouts

runner fitness | My Power LifeYou shouldn’t only think in terms of heart rate-pumping cardio when it comes to your running. Start to incorporate these upper body strength exercises for runners into your weekly routine, and see if you start to notice a difference in your performance.

If you’re not sure how to proceed with strength training workouts for runners, talk to your coach or personal trainer about devising a workout program uniquely for you and your running goals. And of course, make sure to get your doctor’s approval before giving a new exercise a try.

And, ultimately, as Tony Horton says, “Exercise for the joy of feeling good and getting better.”

Learn More:
Workout Tips To Help Take You From Beginner To Advanced
What to Eat After a Run: Carbs or No Carbs?
Learn How To Do Cardio Without Running

Sources
1 https://www.runnersworld.com/training/a20865330/weight-training-for-runners
2 http://www.ustfccca.org/assets/symposiums/2014/Endurance-Spangler-2014.pdf
3 https://www.runnersworld.com/beginner/a20811257/proper-running-form-0/