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Upper body strength exercises for runners

Believe it or not, you need your upper body to run

Young athletic sportspeople doing pull-ups in gym

Runners aren’t typically known for their upper body strength, but here’s a list of exercises that can change that. Jordan Foley, an Athletics Canada strength and conditioning coach, says that the upper body shouldn’t be neglected by runners. “It’s important to develop the body holistically. Upper body strength isn’t going to directly influence your outcomes in distance running, but these exercises will help with posture maintenance throughout your daily life and in workouts.”

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When you fatigue while running, your shoulders can begin to collapse. By focusing on back strength in particular, a runner can improve posture and prevent this. Foley also reminds runners that upper body work likely won’t increase mass. “One of the main concerns for runners would be gaining too much muscle mass in the upper body. For people logging a lot of miles, this is a very unlikely outcome.”

Here are five exercises that require minimal equipment and time that can make a big different in a runner’s posture while running.

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Push ups

There are two variations of this push up: hands elevated (as seen above) and the more traditional push up of hands and feet on the ground. Hands elevated is easier, so if you’re just getting started, begin there.


With the TRX row, the more your body is angled toward the ground, the more difficult it will be.

Dumbbell shoulder press

Keep you arms level with your shoulders and increase weight to increase intensity.

Chin ups

Runners can use a resistance band to begin, and slowly work their way toward full body weight.

Band pull apart

Grab an elastic band, shoulder width apart and pull your arms apart until you form a T. This exercise is very good for postural muscles.

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