Look, I know you just want to get out there and run. You don’t want to bulk up. You don’t want to waste time in the gym. You don’t even have a gym membership, and that is perfectly ok. Maybe you’ve realized that some cross-training is beneficial, but it’s not just your legs and core that you should be strengthening.
There are many compelling reasons to add upper body strength training to your routine:
Balance and Stability
Your upper body (neck, shoulders, arms, back, chest) isn’t just along for the ride when you hit the pavement. You are not just legs and lungs. Your entire body is working to propel you forward, and if some muscles are under-trained and lacking in strength and endurance other muscles will have to pick up the slack. This will impede your performance and endurance.
Momentum and Forward Motion
Your legs are obviously the primary muscles driving you forward while running, but your arms and shoulders are performing a key function as well. Think of pumping on a swing which is absolutely key to keeping your momentum going. The mechanics of running require total body cooperation: shoulder flexion and extension, arm swing, spine and pelvic stabilization, torso rotation, and of course leg swing.
Fatigue and Decreased Endurance
Proper posture is essential to keeping your body moving quickly and efficiently, avoiding injury, and keeping the chest and lungs open. When fatigue sets in your posture is the first thing to suffer. Your shoulders drop, your chest sinks, your back rolls forward, and your arm movements become shorter and slower. We’ve all been there. If your upper body is weak your strong lower body compensates which leads you to fatigue faster and therefore have decreased endurance and greater risk of injury.
So what should you be doing for your upper body as a runner?
You don’t want to “bulk up”, and trust me, you’re not going to. Those guys and girls don’t get like that accidentally! You can achieve overall upper body strength through light weights and high reps. I do recommend some simple hand weights or resistance bands, but there are moves you can do with absolutely no equipment.
(bench, chair, coffee table…)
Shoulder Push ups (Pike Push ups)
Side Plank Toe Tap