6 Upper Body Workouts for Runners

A strong upper body can improve your running. Find 6 different upper body workouts for runners here.

Today is one of my favorite posts of the whole month: the monthly workout round up with five other amazing running bloggers! This month we’re sharing 6 upper body workouts for runners. 

A strong upper body can improve your running. Find 6 different upper body workouts for runners here.

Many runners neglect their upper body in strength training (I’ve been guilty of this in the past!) in favor of training the lower body. Strengthening the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and core is vital for injury-free running and overall strength, so it makes sense that runners gravitate towards squats, lunges, and bridges. And by no means should you neglect those! 

However, adding even one day of upper body strength training to your weekly routine will positively impact your running. Why? Your posture and arm swing play a key role in maintaining an efficient and proper running form. 

A strong back and shoulders will help you maintain an upright posture as you run. Slouching causes inefficiency in running, which is the last thing you want during a race or long run! 

Strong arms and shoulders mean a powerful arm swing. Your feet follow your arms when running. By keeping your arms swinging forward (not across the body or with chicken wings) you avoid unnecessary energy waste and by pumping your arms quickly, you increase your stride rate (cadence). 

Plus, let’s be honest: many of us wouldn’t mind having chiseled arms like Molly Huddle or Shalane Flanagan. 

6 Upper Body Workouts for Runners

Single arm kettlebell swings: Hold the kettlebell in your right hand and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Keep your shoulder blades down and back and your core engaged and hold the kettlebell in front of your body, between your legs. Hinge at the hips and swing the kettlebell up until your arm is parallel with the floor (the power should come from your glutes and core). Lower and repeat. 

Pushups: Begin in plank position with your arms beneath your shoulders, core engaged, and back flat. Lower down until your elbows are bent, then push back up to complete one rep. If need be, perform these on your knees.

Bent over rows: Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand. Hinge forward at your hips, keep your back flat and core engaged, and let your arms extend down in front of you. Engage your shoulder blades and pull up the weights to your chest, pause, and then slowly lower to complete one rep. 

Pushups to side plank: Perform a pushup and then rotate into a straight-armed side plank with your left arm on the floor and hold for 2-3 seconds. Return to plank, do another pushup, and then rotate into a straight-armed side plank on your right arm. Repeat, performing an equal number of reps on each side. 

Plank ups: Begin in a raised plank, with back flat and core engaged. Lower your one arm down so your forearm is resting on the floor and then follow with the other arm. Pause in forearm plank, and then reverse the movement to raised plank to complete one rep. 

Shoulder press: Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand and raise your arms to rest by your shoulders. Extend your arms and push the weights straight up, pause, and lower slowly down. Repeat for the desired number of reps. 

Single leg pushup: Perform as you would for a normal pushup, but raise one leg in the air. Be sure to keep your back flat and your abs engaged and drop to one knee if needed. Do all reps on one side, then repeat with the other leg in the air. 

Sarah from Run Far Girl’s workout  pumps up your heart rate with bits of cardio as you strengthen your upper body.

6 Upper Body Workouts for Runners

Challenge your core by adding a stability ball to your upper body workout, like Angela from Happy Fit Mama does in her workout! 

A strong upper body is an asset that every runner should have. Try this quick upper body workout for runners to get faster and stronger. happyfitmama.com

Want triathlete arms? Try Allie from Vita Train 4 Life’s upper body workout!

6 Upper Body Workouts for Runners

Want to work your core as well? Try Carly from Fine Fit Day’s upper body workout! 

6 Upper Body Workout for Runners - Fine Fit Day

Nellie at Brooklyn Active Mama’s workout will leave you with shredded shoulders and toned biceps! 

6 Upper Body Workouts for Runners

[Tweet “Upper body workouts for runners @thisrunrecipes @happyfitmama @vitatrain4life @runfargirl @BklynActiveMama @CarlyPizzani #workoutsforrunners”]

What’s your favorite upper body strength exercise?
What’s your workout today?


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22 Responses

  1. I love that alot of the exercise work more than just the upper body. I used to get all my strength training done at Body Pump but when I stopped going last year I had to get myself to do my own workouts. It was tempting to stop paying attention to my upper body but it’s definitely an important piece of being a balanced runner.

    1. Thank you! I love combo moves – they save time and really work the core well to balance working various muscle groups! I’ve done the upper body workout you shared a couple months back a few times and love it for a quick total body workout with a focus on the upper body. 🙂

  2. It’s my favorite time of the month too! Lol. This is such a great topic for runners just because our focus is almost always on the lower body. And I’ve been doing more kettle bell moves too just because it’s a great full body move.

  3. Love this roundup so much!! I got so many ideas from you ladies, and I love being apart of this! I definitely plan on working on my upper body today!

  4. Great resource! I’m supposed to do a track workout, but it’ll be on the treadmill. Booooo. And then I’m doing some strength/core work too.

  5. These are great!!! Currently, I am pretty motivated to be hitting my new workout facility a couple times/week. But these workouts are awesome to add one more day of upper body only (but at home). Quick and easy. I just need to remember that I have these workouts to do at home. 🙂

    Today’s workout will be a few 400 repeats. I like to make my legs move quickly for short spurts within my last week before a HM. We’ll see how it works out for me come Sunday for my HM. 🙂

    Thank you for sharing the workouts, Laura.

    1. I always love how these workouts can be done at home – no gym required! 🙂 It’s extra nice to get to watch Netflix or listen to a podcast along with not having to travel to strength train 🙂 Good luck on the half this weekend!

  6. Totally saving this post. I think one of my biggest struggles is maintaining my upper body strength since so much of my effort goes towards strengthening my legs and core for running. I agree that upper body strength is definitely worth focusing on at least once a week too and these circuit are a great way to do it!

  7. I love our round ups! 🙂 great info on why it’s so important to keep a focus on upper body strength training. And those push ups to planks are awesome. Can’t wait to try this one out, Laura!

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