Runners have the tendency to focus primarily on the strength and condition of their lower body. Obviously strong and well conditioned legs are vital aspect of a well-built runner. However, upper body strength plays a key role in a runner’s form, efficiency, and overall success. I realize how time consuming both running and putting in work at the gym can be. The good news is that some of the best upper body workouts can be done in your garage, outside on your porch, or even at the park where you do some of your running. The location of your workouts is not so much of a contributing factor to your success, but consistency is the thing that will be the game changer. Just like training for a trail or road race, you must be just as consistent with training your upper body as well.
If there’s one thing I learned from my PT sessions as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division, besides running my ass off, it’s that you can never get enough pushups and pull-ups in for a workout. With that being said, I’ve taken this vast knowledge of military-style workouts and tweaked them in a way to SERIOUSLY step up anyone’s upper body strength. Pull-ups are considered one of the best upper body workouts because it works every muscle above the waist. I know there are some “modifications” out there now to the pull-up, such as the kipping pull-up that crossfitters use, but I like to stick to the old fashioned method. The traditional pull-up forces you to use only your upper body muscles to reach the top of the bar. Pushups are also an excellent upper body workout that can be done just about anywhere. It is best to mix up your pushup routine with various styles of pushups, but again, the key is consistency as it is with anything else.
Having a strong upper body, as well as a solid core, allows you to keep your proper running form even as your legs begin to tire. Not only does this help during your run, but it will also help fend off those nagging injuries that can occur. As your body becomes tired during a run, your running form will begin to weaken. Many runners don’t realize that this isn’t happening because of weak legs, or a poor conditioning level. This is happening because your upper body is wearing out faster during your run than both your lower body and cardiovascular system. According to a Runner’s World article online, Olympians, and elite runners alike, are taking part in strength training to help improve their running game. According to the article, “Based on the various training programs used by the elites, it’s clear that we don’t yet know the ideal strength training routine. What we do know is that strength training in many different forms results in better running economy and an improvement in running time to exhaustion. Put simply, you’ll be able to run faster, longer and stronger.”
I will be posting my own personal pushup and pull-up workouts, with pictures, very soon. It will be a very useful tool for runners at any level, and your upper body will love you for it (except for the initial soreness). Bottom line; don’t neglect your upper body. Think of running as a full body workout. For that reason alone, it is just as important to have a strong upper body as it is to have a strong lower body when you’re out there burning up the street or trails.
Remember to keep an eye out for my military-style workouts that are coming very soon on Seriousrunning!