Upper Body Exercises for Runners

Upper body strength is crucial to running strong and injury-free.  A strong upper body can help us run with better form, prevent injuries, run more efficiently, and reduce fatigue.  You’ll even find that running hills and sprints become easier as you strengthen your upper body.

Try incorporating these upper body exercises into your routine 2x a week and you’ll start to notice a difference in your running.


How to Do a Tricep Dip

Gym bunny or couch potato?
flickr Editorial/Getty Images / Getty Images

This exercise will strengthen your triceps, the muscles that run on the backside of your upper arm, from your shoulder to your elbow. All you need for this exercise is a sturdy chair or bench.

  1. Sit on the edge of a secured bench or chair, with your knees bent. Position the heels of your hands shoulder-width apart on the chair. Keep your back straight and your abs pulled in.
  2. Slide your butt off the front of the chair and support your weight with your hands. Your knees should remain bent.
  3. Straighten your arms, but keep your elbows slightly bent.
  4. Slowly bend your elbows back to lower your body toward the floor until your elbows are at about a 90-degree angle. Your body should just clear the chair.
  5. Push down into the chair to straighten your elbows, returning to your starting position. This completes one rep.
  6. Do 10 to 15 reps per set and aim to do two to three sets.

Advanced version: Rather than keeping your knees bent, extend your legs out in front of you, with your heels resting on the floor. Then do 15-20 reps per set and complete two to three sets.


Standing Dumbell Overhead Shoulder Press

Shoulder press exercise
Blend Images

The overhead shoulder press will help work your shoulders and triceps. If you’re new to strength-training, start with light dumbbells (3 to 5 pounds) and then graduate to heavier ones (5 to 10 lbs).

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Start with dumbbells at shoulder height, with your palms facing forward.
  3. Push the dumbbells overhead until your arms are fully extended. Using a slow, controlled motion, lower the dumbbells to the start positions.
  4. Repeat for 15 to 20 reps for one set. 

Complete two sets.


How to Do a Push-up

Caucasian woman doing push-ups
Blend Images - Erik Isakson / Getty Images

Push-ups are an excellent upper-body strengthening exercise for runners.  They'll help you improve your overall strength as well as engaging your core. Here’s how to do a basic push-up:

  1. Get into a plank position with your hands positioned planted slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Position your feet however you feel most comfortable – either close together or a bit wider apart. Prop yourself up on your toes, so you’re balancing on your hands and toes.
  3. Slowly lower your body until your chest almost touches the floor.
  4. Don’t let your butt sag or stick up at any point. Keep your body in the plank position -- a straight line from head to toe.
  5. Inhale as you slowly bend your elbows and lower yourself until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle.
  6. While maintaining a tight core, exhale as you push yourself back to the start position. Continue pushing the ground away from you until your arms are almost in a straight position again (but don’t lock your elbows).
  7. Repeat for 15 to 20 reps or as many as you can while maintaining good form.

Modified push-up: If you’re not ready for a standard push-up, you can start on bent knees. Start on your hands and knees, with your hands directly under the shoulders. With your knees on the floor, lower to the ground the same way as a standard push-up, but you can use your knees, rather than your feet, to help stabilize your body.

As you progress, you can start with basic push-ups for as many as you can complete and then switch to modified push-ups for the remainder of the set.


How to Do a Triceps Overhead Extension Exercise

Rare view of female body, exercising with dumbbell
Alexandr Sherstobitov / Getty Images

Here’s another great exercise to strengthen your triceps. You’ll need a dumbbell for this one. Choose one that you can comfortably lift above your head. As you become stronger, you can use a heavier dumbbell.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Wrap both hands around the dumbbell handle and hold the dumbbell behind your head. Keep your palms facing up.
  2. Keep your shoulders down and your elbows as close to your ears as possible. Keep your back straight, shoulders relaxed and abs engaged.
  3. Slowly press the dumbbell up by extending your arms straight overhead. Straighten your elbows until your arms are vertical. Your elbows should be pointing forward and be straight but not locked. Try to keep your upper arms vertical to the floor throughout the exercise and your elbows shoulder-width apart. The dumbbell should be directly over your head with your palms facing upwards and the dumbbell hanging vertically from your hands.
  4. Bend your elbows in a slow and controlled manner, lowering the dumbbell behind your head. Try to keep your upper arms stationary and only move your forearms. Make sure you clear the back of your head. Continue to bend your elbows until they’re at a 90-degree angle.
  5. Slowly raise the dumbbell back up above your head.
  6. Repeat for 10 to 12 reps for one set. 

Complete two sets.

Was this page helpful?