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UPPER BODY Exercises for RUNNERS: the SECRET to Being Injury Proof

Updated: Sep 11, 2023

Ready to walk on the wild side of running?

(sorry, no pickle juice or hallucinations.)


These strength exercises absolutely BLEW my mind.

I though how hard can a 3 POUND bicep curl be??

And how challenged can I be by yet ANOTHER chop and lift combo??


I'm telling you, running fit fam from personal experience...

these are not to be underestimated.


I wasn't quite on the floor afterwards...

but my jaw was on the ground.

I was sweating and huffing and puffing.

and my eyes were wide.


You spend so much time running.

You practically LIVE in the movement of running.

But how STRONG are you actually in that position?

Let's find out. ;)


UPPER BODY EXERCISES FOR RUNNERS: the Circuit

Circuit:

2-3 sets each // LIGHT & medium weights (light weight = 3# up to 5# suggested to start)


Elongated Runner's Lunge Bicep curl

  • x12 each arm; light weight (opposite leg is forward for curl)

Elongated Runner's Lunge with chop/lift

  • x12 ea leg (medium weight)

Runner's Push Up

  • 30 SECONDS

How Upper Body Exercises become CORE EXERCISES

Elongated Runner's Lunge Bicep Curl

  • I know what you're thinking: "BICEP CURLS FOR RUNNERS IS STUPID." I beg to differ.

  • THE SECRET: while keeping your legs strong IS the priority of all strength training for runners, your upper body plays a CRICITCAL role as an extension of your core. How many blazing fast marathons OR sprinters do you see huddled and crunched over while zipping across the finish line? That's right: NONE.

  • This exercise places you in a position that looks like running. It then challenges your upper body to remain upright and your core strong. You will feel your entire body working here! but these are just silly bicep curls, right?

  • There is a reason for starting with LIGHT WEIGHT. A physical therapy secret: it's all physics. The further away the weight is from your body, the harder the exercise feels (lever arms and all that stuff).

Elongated Runner's Lunge Chop/Lift

  • I know you're thinking this one too: "HOW MANY CHOPS/LIFTS CAN I DO?" The answer: never enough.

  • Chops and lifts hold a special advantage for runners. There's a natural thoracic rotation (mid-spine spinning) that occurs with single stride you take. Your core is mainly responsible for controlling this spinning. This specific chop and lift works that rotation while in a position that looks like running (where you're ultimately going to need that control).

  • THE QUESTION becomes: why wouldn't you train your body to be strong and able to control that rotation in way that gives your body a preview of where you're actually going to need it?

Runner's Push Up

  • DO NOT TAP OUT ON ME HERE. This is where upper body exercises for runners becomes sneaky core work.

  • Remember that rotation we talked about above? This sequence targets that. In addition to activating your core. On top of working your push strength (which just happens to be a key component with fixing hip flexor issues).

  • "Core work" becomes a misnomer because we're so used to thinking of planks, crunches, hollow body holds, etc. As a runner, you can certainly do those. But you are still only as strong as your weakest link. And a lot of runners avoid upper body (especially push ups).

  • THE QUESTION CONTINUES: why wouldn't you train your body to be strong throughout the entire continuum of the movement of running and give your body a preview of where you're actually going to need it?

WRAPPING UP

If you're noticing your form really starts to deteriorate during your long run...

If you're ready to run stronger, better, maybe even faster then ever before...

And you wouldn't mind passing on x1000 of crunches...


You'll want to give this circuit honest shot.


Getting into our bodies and feeling them is what we do on a near-daily basis when we run. But we won't find out limitations and weak links unless we stretch our body's to their limits.

This circuit is a safe way to do that.


I've cited multiple research papers in previous blog posts that talk about how injury-proof strength is built in end ranges of motions (think stretching your body to it's limits in these runner's stance positions).


All too often, we get comfortable doing the same (but good!) strength exercises (lunges, squats, deadlifts) etc.

These exercises are NECESSARY; they're your foundation!


But occasionally, we need to test for weak spots.

And then, we need to patch them.

THIS circuit, is just one way to do that.


Case in point: Friendly Competition.


A physical therapy tech and myself used to have monthly exercise challenges where we'd whip up our most outlandish and difficult exercise in the PT clinic and challenge each other to a duel.


The first to break or fail the exercise lost.


For context: this guy was 6'3"and a big gym bro who ate 6 eggs for breakfast every day.

I'm 5' 2.75" on a good day and I can only put away 2 eggs.


I gave him this exact bicep curl in this elongated runners lunge.

He poo-poo'd the 3 or 5lbs dumbbell I offered him and grabbed a 10lbs.

2 reps in and his face is BRIGHT red.

His tree trunk front leg is shaking in the wind.

I switched his 10 for a 5lb.


He takes a break and gets back to it.

He can muscle out probably 8-10reps (not shabby at all!).

But admits, despite all his gym-bro gains...those are freaking HARD.

THE POINT FOR YOU RUNNER:

I don't expect you to be a gym bro,

and I don't expect you to train like one.


You're a runner.

And it is necessary to train like one.

Because if this real-life hulk is struggle-busing despite his pounds of muscle, there's the potential that this could be a weak spot in your armor too.


So Dare to Train Differently,

Marie Whitt, PT, DPT //@dr.whitt.fit


P.S. If you're looking for more ways to Dare to Train Differently, I have a FREE strength guide for runners you're going to want to grab! Click HERE and it's all yours!

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