Benefits of Upper Body Strength Training for Runners

Why should you work on upper body strength as a runner?

This may seem like a very basic answer, but it’s true: because runners use their upper bodies when they run!

Strong legs help you increase your running power and speed, but your arms can be a key driver of your legs, especially when it comes to cadence, or how many steps per minute you take. As you walk or run, your arms swing reciprocally of your legs and at the same rate. So the faster you move your legs, the faster your arms swing, and the opposite is also true. When you run long distances, your legs can get tired. If you find your cadence slowing down because of the leg fatigue, focus on your arm swing and try to pump your arms faster and a little harder. Your legs will follow! If your arms are weak and your legs get tired, you’ve got nothing left to pull from to keep you going strong.

Also, if your shoulders, upper and middle back muscles are weak and fatigue while you run, your posture is going to suffer. Weakness in the upper body, especially the muscles around the shoulder blades, are key for keeping you upright. Your upper body should be upright and relaxed. Get your shoulders out of your ears when you run! If those upper body muscles aren’t strong enough or have enough endurance, you’ll likely end up with a slouched posture with forward shoulders and a hunched upper back. Not only is this posture harder to keep upright (because your center of gravity is pitched forward), but it makes it harder to breathe. Less efficient breathing means decreased oxygen getting into your system for your muscles to utilize. Less oxygen means your running performance will suffer and decline.

Therefore, strong arms can help you be a stronger, faster runner!

Dr. Jeanne Williams, PT, DPT, OCS
We help endurance athletes (from beginners to pros) train and cross the finish line faster and injury-free!


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