What will it take to finally get you in the gym hefting around some iron? While I’ve been lifting for years, it was never consistent until last years knee injury forced me to find new ways to stay active. Of course I also wanted to do things that would benefit my running when I was able to go again, which includes a upper body runners workout!
Today friend, runner and personal trainer Katherine and I are teaming to give you a little added motivation!
Intuitively, you might recognize the benefit to doing weighted lunges, step ups and squats. But how often do you think about the power needed from your upper body for a strong run??
And I get it…but hey science (and all those super fast elite runners we marvel at) shows we need it!
3 Reasons Runners Need Upper Body Strength
But you know, from the sharing of our past mistakes, that making time for strength is key too. And if you want to run faster or farther, then it’s time to listen up for some very good reasons to get it done.
There are three main reasons that training your UPPER body will make you a better runner.
Muscle imbalances make us more prone to injury. While running is mostly moving forward, it’s also shifting your weight side to side and requiring your torso to limit excess motion! Running with your arms across the body or a weak core are going to prevent you from maintaining good form, which leads to fatigue and you guessed it, injury.
A great way to practice stabilization is everyone’s favorite the plank!Practicing the stabilization outside of running, will have your muscles primed and help them to “remember” what they need to do. We call these “anti-rotation” moves.
Anti-rotational exercises build stability and strength to prevent rotation of the lower back in harmful ways…which can easily happen as you fatigue during a run.
A few other anti-rotation exercises to try:
- Pallof press
- Single arm TRX row
- Single leg deadlift (no weight needed intially)
- Renegade row (from plank position, pull dumbell from floor to chest)
Better Running Efficency
What if we told you that by training your upper body, you might just become a more efficient runner?
Tons of new research indicates that strength training can provide up to an 8% increase in running economy when a resistance training program is followed. Why is that?
A few reasons:
- a strong core allows you to hold your posture with less effort, which leaves more energy for your legs
- strong arms are able to move quicker without fatigue, which entices your feet to move quicker
- strong arms prevent the excess rotation mentioned above
- strong arms for sprinters truly are part of their power
- a strong upper body keeps your lungs open for better breathing.
Our focus here is on the inclusion of posture focused movements to keep our core stable, our arms pumping and our chest open to keep air flowing.
These moves will help us limit the hunching and slumping common in our everyday, computer working, lives.
- Supermans (lying face down on ground, raise both arms and legs for 10 seconds)
- Cat/Cow (yes the yoga move)
- Bird dogs
Better Running Endurance
As we run longer, our bodies get used to longer distances. As we lift heavier weights, we get stronger. So we’d think that strength training would have no bearing on our running ability – two different exercises, two different adaptations right?
As your shoulders being to fatigue, you stop swinging your arms as fast, which tells your legs to slow down, which tells your brain your getting tired.
As your back gets tired you start to slouch, which closes off your lungs, which reduces your oxygen, which tells your legs they need to stop.
Science shows us we’ve got to think about strength!
“the addition of resistance training to an ongoing endurance exercise regimen, including running or cycling, increases both short and long term endurance capacity in sedentary and trained individuals.
Resistance training also appears to improve lactate threshold in untrained individuals…“
So, as we train our upper bodies, this translates into being able to run longer, more easily. Sounds like a win, win.
Finally we want to focus on endurance and unilateral exercises.
As we run, we move one arm at a time, so we wanna replicate that pattern in upper body strength training programs. Bonus points because by moving one limb at a time, we build on tip #1 and force our core to stabilize throughout the movement.
A couple great exercises to try:
- single arm rows
- single arm + single leg shoulder press
- alternating chest presses
- holding a pair of light dumbbells and running with your arms
Here’s a short, circuit to incorporate into your training plan 2-3x per week to meet your upper body needs quickly! 3 rounds, 10 reps per exercise.
A1. Single arm TRX row
A2. Single arm, alternating chest press
A3. Renegade row
A4. Single arm shoulder press (standing on one foot)
A5. Kneeling pallof press
You’ll notice we aren’t talking about hours in the gym or Olympic lifting. Many of these moves are body weight focused! You can certainly do more, but you don’t have to do a ton to see some great benefits to your run.
If you’re looking for more workouts you can do at home and be lead by an instructor checkout this comparison of the different Beachbody Workouts (so many great options for runners).
One thing Katherine and I agree on is working out shouldn’t be stressful!! Checkout her awesome free #StressFreeStrength plan to get you started and follow her on Instagram for more ideas.
Katherine is an twelve year anorexia survivor who’s now a nutrition coach and personal trainer helping women change their bodies & get consistent without stress, obsession, or restriction. In her spare time, she enjoys cuddling with her pit bull, drinking prosecco, and watching true crime shows on Netflix.
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