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Upper Body Workouts for Runners

In the past, runners have been discouraged from using weights for upper body strength, because heavy lifting is often attributed to bulky and unnecessary muscle mass. But don’t dismiss weighted exercises quite yet. When used correctly, light weights and resistance work can help you gain muscular endurance, decrease body fat, and develop more powerful arm movements—all clear boosts to your overall running performance.

So pick up your dumbbells (or find a gym in your area) and start with this easy and fast workout!

All of these exercises should be performed with five pound (women) or seven pound dumbbells (men). Anything more will prevent you from doing a useful number of reps, while anything less may not give you the workout you need.

Exercise #1: Row Up

  1. Start standing, feet hip-width apart. Hold the five pound dumbbells at your sides with the backs of your hands facing forward.
  2. Lift the dumbbells straight up to the level of your chest, keeping the palms facing towards your body. Your elbows will bend, pointing to the side.
  3. Lower back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat this exercise a total of 20 times. 

Exercise #2: Curl In

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold the dumbbells with your palms facing forward (the opposite of the last exercise).
  2. Slowly curl your arms upward, lifting the dumbbells to the level of your shoulders.
  3. Slowly reverse the curl, coming back to your starting position.
  4. Repeat this exercise a total of 20 times.

Exercise #3: Shrug

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and arms relaxed at your sides, holding the dumbbells such that your palms face inward toward your body.
  2. Shrug your shoulders up to your ears, hold it for four counts.
  3. Slowly release your shoulders.
  4. Repeat this exercise a total of 20 times.

Exercise #4: Heave Ho!

  1. Find a level surface such as a bed or workout bench.
  2. Place your left knee and left arm on it, keeping your spine parallel to the bed/bench.
    Every Breath You Take

    Take deep breaths during each exercise, inhaling as you bring the weight up and exhaling as you bring it back down. By focusing on your breath, you’ll both distract yourself from the intensity of the workout and deliver much needed oxygen to your hard-working muscles.

  3. Hold the dumbbell in your right arm, straight below the shoulder, with your right leg slightly bent.
  4. Lift the dumbbell straight up, such that your hand comes up near your arm pit with the elbow pointing to the side and slightly back.
  5. Repeat this exercise a total of 20 times.
  6. Switch sides and repeat, holding the weight in your left hand.

Exercise #5: Fly Away

  1. Take the same stance as the last exercise with your left arm and leg on the bed/bench and spine parallel.
  2. Hold the dumbbell in your right hand, palm facing inward toward your body.
  3. Keeping the right arm straight, slowly lift until it is level with your shoulder.
  4. Slowly lower the arm back down to the starting position.
  5. Repeat this exercise a total of 20 times, breathing deeply and maintaining control.
  6. Switch sides and repeat, holding the weight in your left hand.

Hidden Kick

These five exercises will develop just the right amount of upper body strength to make you a force on the track, roads, or trails. Think about it: The stronger your arms, the less tired they will become during a race. And the more your arms drive forward in the final kick, the faster your legs will have to move to keep up.

So when you see the home stretch or enter the bell lap, remember your time in the gym and starting pumping those arms to blow by the competition.

Runners often overlook the importance of upper body strength. This guide outlines five arm and shoulder exercises to make you a force on the track, roads, or trails.
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