Upper Body Strength Training – Yes, Runners Need it Too.


We runners love our legs. Really smart runners (read: anyone who’s ever had a blister or hanky toenail and tried to keep it from happening again) really love our feet too. Extra socks, extra shoes, blister packs, vaseline, Gold Bond medicated powder, whatever it takes to keep our feet happy for the long haul is worth the effort.

While we’re busy pampering our gnarly tootsies and slogging along mile after mile, many of us are neglecting our upper body and core. I know, it’s tough to care about the body parts you think won’t help shave seconds off your latest PR. Still, who wants the equivalent of chicken legs for arms? I call these Kermit the Frog arms.

Arm Day

The point is, to be as healthy and efficient as possible, upper body is also important. As important as sticking to your marathon training? Well, incorporating upper body and especially core can help.

Think about it. Your cadence includes arm swing right? I hope so. It’s good to have balance. Your core includes a ton of huge muscles, so you’re kidding yourself if you think skipping core is doing you any favors. Plus, those of us who aren’t elites probably do it for the love of running and, well, to eat food and drink beer. Ever been to an ultra? Beer is big. Heard of Running for Brews? You guessed it.

So, here’s a quick superset workout I put together to cover my arms, shoulders, and core. It requires minimal equipment: dumbbells, exercise ball.

I worked with light weights today (5-15lbs). 3 sets of 12-15 reps.

Superset 1:
Push Up (Regular or on your knees, good form, tight core)
Plank Knee Twist (start in a full plank, pull your left knee across to your right arm. Repeat on right side. )

Superset 2:
Overhead tricep extension
Zottman curls (Palm up on concentric motion – up; palm down on eccentric motion – down)

Superset 3:
Front and lateral shoulder raise (left arm front, right arm lateral; switch)
Shoulder press

Superset 4:
Hip raise to curl or hamstring curl
Plank knee tucks on exercise ball

This took me about 20 minutes, so it easily can fit into a short run day or on a crosstrain day. I just started this, but intend to incorporate it into my routine 2-3x per week in addition to my marathon training. I’ll probably work more core into my own program as well. A strong core does everybody good.

A few other core exercises I want to include:

  • ball pike
  • burpees
  • ball passes
  • side planks

I may even try a 30 day ab challenge. We’ll see how it goes.

Toss in chest presses and rows and you’ve got a nice upper body circuit for general strength training (you won’t get big, but you’ll get stronger than you are now!)

What are your favorite arms and abs workouts?