As a lifelong runner, I’ve never had what you would call shredded or chiseled arms. I’ve largely gotten by with sporadic attempts at circuit training or weight lifting, but nothing long enough to have much of an impact.
As I’ve gotten older, embraced master’s running and tried to hold on to my speed as long as possible, I’ve found strengthening my upper body through regular gym workouts to be an essential cog in staving off father time.
Why work your arms as a runner?
If you think about it, neglecting your upper body as a runner is a little strange. Almost like trying to run without moving your arms. Think Napoleon Dynamite. A stronger upper body can help hold your form when your start to fatigue, help ward off injury with a strong overall kinetic chain, and just make you faster with a more efficient arm drive.
Two quick principles for all these exercises:
- Focus on form. Better not to do them at all than risk injury with crappy for. Ask a trainer, watch a video or watch yourself in the mirror. Just get it right.
- Once you have your form down, dial up the weight to see real benefits. Go for fewer reps with heavier weight to truly exhaust the muscle. With good form, you should struggle to complete 10 reps. If you get to 10 too easily, up the weight by 5 pounds.
Using a very light weight, I like to do three variations of this one. One out to the side, one at a 45-degree angle and one straight out in front. Go slow until your arm is parallel to the floor. You can alternate arms or do both at once.
So simple, but so effective. Don’t overlook this classic. A few quick pointers to make sure you get the most out of this exercise. Don’t arch your back or let your hips sag, engage your core while you are doing the exercise. Keep your elbows tucked in. Too many people put place their hands too far apart. Your elbows should bend back, not out to the sides.
This is a killer move that pulverizes the back, arms, shoulders and core. Hard to get more bang for your buck than that. But…only if you do it correctly. It’s very easy to screw this up and lost the impact. You need to remain totally still other than the arm you are moving. It’s very easy to shift your hips and rock while doing this. Start with a light weight and stay stilL!
Another simple move that provides big results for your shoulders and delts to keep that arm drive swinging with power even while you begin to fatigue.
Just like working both the front and back of your legs, it’s important to work the arms equally so you don’t end up with muscle imbalances that can throw off your kinetic chain and lead to injuries.
For the triceps, I like to stick to bodyweight dips.
For biceps, make sure you pick a weight that isn’t so heavy that it effects your form. You don’t want to rock your body while curling the weight.
The next time you are out for a 60 minute run, cut it 10 minutes short and incorporate these upper body exercises a few times a week. You’ll get more benefit out of the exercises than 10 more minutes of running.