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The Best Upper Body Workouts For Runners

The upper body plays a crucial role in maintaining proper posture and conserving energy. Here are some upper body workouts for runners!

I have always been a fan of strong arms on ladies. For some reason a lot of women believe that lifting weights and doing arm specific exercises will result in super bulky scary man arms–this is completely untrue. When you lift weights and train your arms, you get a gorgeous defined womanly upper body that make any sleeveless dress look amazing! Plus it doesn’t hurt to look even better in your running tanks in your race photos!

Not to mention that upper body strength is essential for good running posture. Since running is a complete body sport, in addition to the squats/lunges/calf raises we do, we need to make sure we are paying equal attention to the biceps and triceps too so that we can stay upright at the end of races.

Just in time for sleeveless tops for the summer I have teamed up with my favorite group of bloggers for our Monthly Workout For Runners, and now we are focusing on Upper Body Workouts. 


Why Runners Should Incorporate Upper Body Workouts

Running, at first glance, may appear to be a sport that solely involves the legs. After all, it’s our feet that pound the pavement, our calves and quads that feel the burn, and our hips that guide our stride. But seasoned runners know there’s more to efficient and powerful running than just leg work. The upper body plays a crucial role in maintaining proper posture, regulating pace, and conserving energy. Hence, incorporating upper body workouts is not just beneficial, but essential for runners. Here’s why:

1. Improved Posture

Maintaining an upright, yet relaxed, posture during runs helps with respiratory efficiency. A strong upper body—specifically the back and core—supports the spine and keeps the runner upright, especially during long runs when fatigue sets in and slouching becomes tempting.

2. Balanced Muscle Development

Only focusing on the legs can create a muscle imbalance in the body, potentially leading to injuries. An upper body workout balances out this muscle development, ensuring an even distribution of strength and reducing the risk of posture-related issues.

3. Enhanced Arm Drive

The arms play a pivotal role in driving the body forward, especially during sprints or uphill climbs. Strengthening the biceps, triceps, and shoulders allows for a more potent arm drive, which can give you that extra push when you need it most.

4. Increased Core Strength

The core acts as a stabilizer during runs. A strong core—achieved not only through targeted core exercises but also through comprehensive upper body workouts—helps in maintaining stability, especially on uneven terrains. This reduces the risk of trips and falls.

5. Better Respiratory Efficiency

A strong chest and intercostal muscles facilitate deeper, more efficient breathing. This ensures a better oxygen supply to the muscles, which can improve endurance and delay the onset of fatigue.

6. Energy Conservation

A balanced, strong upper body helps evenly distribute the effort required during a run. Instead of overburdening the legs, runners can use their arm drive and core strength to aid in the movement, conserving energy in the process.

7. Injury Prevention

Overuse injuries are common among runners. Incorporating upper body workouts can not only alleviate the stress placed on the lower body but also ensure that the muscles and joints of the upper body are conditioned enough to prevent strains or injuries.

Incorporating Upper Body Workouts For Runners

For runners, the goal isn’t necessarily to build massive biceps or a broad chest, but to develop functional strength. Here are some recommended exercises:

  1. Push-ups: An excellent exercise for the chest, shoulders, and triceps.
  2. Planks: Great for the core, but also engages the shoulders and chest.
  3. Pull-ups or assisted pull-ups: Target the back muscles, which are essential for posture.
  4. Dumbbell rows: Strengthen the upper back and shoulders.
  5. Bicep curls and tricep dips: These will help improve the strength of the arm drive.

Incorporating upper body workouts into a runner’s training regimen is not about aesthetics; it’s about performance, efficiency, and injury prevention. Just like how the engine of a car isn’t its only essential component, a runner’s legs aren’t the only muscles powering their movement. So, the next time you’re planning your training, ensure you have a balanced mix of lower and upper body exercises. Your running performance will thank you for it!

For more strength training posts check out:

How often do you work on your upper body? What is your favorite upper body workout?


Friday 29th of April 2016

It's so easy to forget to work out the upper body when you love to focus on running. Sadly most of my upper body workouts come from carrying around kids (though I can carry the 16-lb baby in his car seat in one arm and the 35-lb 3-year-old in the other arm like it's nothing!). Pinned for future reference!


Thursday 28th of April 2016

I am ALL FOR strong arms and shoulders for women! Way back when Linda Hamilton was in Terminator, I was like YASSSS! :)


Wednesday 27th of April 2016

Yes to strong arms! So many women, especially female runners, shy away, but strong upper bodies are never bulky - hooray for feminine and strong!


Wednesday 27th of April 2016

So timely for me as I was just running at the park and was wondering what to do for my arms at home. Planks? But then that's just part of the arm? I was thinking of getting myself some light weights to incorporate for home use.


Wednesday 27th of April 2016

Yes to strong arms, shoulders and backs!