Completing an upper body workout for runners can help improve arm swing and power on the run.
Although the focus of training usually centers around mileage, strength training is an essential part of most runners’ routines. Since lower body workouts and core exercises are usually a go-to, many find themselves asking:
Should runners do upper body workouts?
Yes: upper body workouts are very beneficial for runners.
All runners, whether you’re just getting started or are a seasoned distance runner, can benefit from upper body exercises.
Arm strength can actually play a vital role in a runner’s efficiency. With each step, the arms pump, providing an extra source of momentum and energy. The stronger your arms, the more energy you generate.
However, with so much emphasis placed on the lower body, it’s easy for to overlook the importance and potential benefits of upper body workouts for runners.
Benefits of Upper Body Workouts for Runners
- Adds power to your arm swing
- Helps avoid fatigue during long runs
- Improves efficiency
- Supports proper runner form
- Can help increase pace
When your schedule is tight and training is at its peak, it may feel like there is no time to squeeze in any arm exercises. Between cross training, strength training, easy runs, long runs and speed workouts – it feels like there is hardly any time to spare.
Luckily, upper body workouts for runners are usually designed to be quick, simple and easy to implement each week. The arm exercises can be completed before or after a run rather than dedicating an entire day to just upper body exercises.
This upper body workout is designed specifically for runners. It targets all the major muscle groups that will help improve your arm strength to generate more power on the run.
Each upper body exercise can be completed with or without weights, making it convenient for days at home when you don’t have access to a gym.
Try incorporating this beneficial upper body workout at least once a week and see how your running improves.
10 Minute Upper Body Workout for Runners
- Tricep Dips x 30
- Commandos x 20
- Push Ups x 25
- Bent Over Row x 20
- Push Up to Side Plank x 20
- Kettlebell Swing x 20
- Plank Row x 40
- Overhead Press x 30
- Arm Circles x 50
Upper Body Exercises for Runners
To complete this arm exercise, you’ll need a bench or supportive surface behind you. Stand in front of the bench or object, facing away from it.
Place your palms behind you on the surface and walk your feet forward until your legs are at an angle and weight is distributed between your feet and hands. Bend your arms to lower your body closer to the ground, and then straighten to lift back up. Continue to repeat.
This arm exercise is a powerful addition to any upper body workout. Begin in the straight arm plank position, with your hands spread about shoulder width distance apart.
From this straight arm position, lower down to an elbow plank one arm at a time. Once in an elbow plank, rise back up on to your hands to return to a straight arm plank and repeat.
Push ups are a beneficial part of any upper body workout for runners. Begin in a straight arm plank position, with hands placed on the floor about shoulder width distance apart.
Bend at the elbows to lower your body towards the floor, maintaining a flat back and straight hips the entire time. Straighten back up to your starting position and repeat.
Bent Over Row
This arm exercise can be completed with or without weights, depending on what you have available and how much resistance you would like to incorporate. However, a bent over row can be effective even with no equipment.
Begin in a standing position, with arms down at your sides. Bend at the hips to lean your upper body forward, keeping your hands down at your sides. Lift one hand up towards your chest, bending at the elbow to do so. Return back down to your side and then repeat with the opposite arm.
Push Up to Side Plank
Take your upper body workout to the next level with this twist on a classic push up. Begin with a push up, and then return to the straight arm plank position. Once you return, lift one arm into the air and twist your body so that shoulder is pointed towards the ceiling.
Stack your feet to arrive in a straight arm side plank position. Once balance is achieved, return back to the straight arm plank position to complete another push up. Then, transition to a side plank on the opposite side.
This arm exercise is ideally completed with a kettlebell (of whatever weight you feel comfortable with), but can also be completed with a dumbbell or other heavy object that you have available.
Stand with your feet about hip width distance apart, with the kettlebell down at your feet. Pick up the kettlebell with one hand, and bend slightly at the knees to prepare for movement. Next, engage your core, arms and shoulders as you swing the kettlebell into the air. Let the kettlebell drop back down as your arm falls in front of your body.
Continue to repeat on the same side and then switch arms.
Another way to increase the effectiveness of your arm workout is to include plank variations. This exercise is a powerful way to tone your core and arms all at once – a key element of any upper body workout for runners. The plank row can be completed with or without dumbbells, depending on your preference.
Begin in a straight arm plank position, with dumbbells underneath your hands if you choose to use them. Bring one hand up to your side, bending at the elbow until your arm is parallel with your body. Return your hand back to the floor and complete with the opposite arm.
This is another arm exercise that can be completed with or without weights, depending on your preference. Begin by standing with your feet about hip width distance apart and arms down at your sides.
Lift your hands (and dumbbells if you are using them) up to shoulder level, keeping the weights parallel with the floor. Straighten your arms to press your hands and/or weights directly above your head, and then lower back to shoulder level. Continue to repeat.
To finish this upper body workout, you’ll complete this simple cool down exercise. With no weights, swing one arm forward in a circular motion. Next, swing the same arm backwards in a few circles. After completing both directions on the same arm, switch to the other side.
These arm exercises might sound simple on their own, but when completed all together, they create a powerful upper body workout.
Taking the time to fit regular upper body exercises into your training routine will not only help you gain arm strength, but will help increase your power, speed and endurance on the run.