LOWER BODY EXERCISES seem to have obvious benefits for runners; strengthen the muscles you use when running, and you’ll be a better runner. The benefit of upper body exercises to runners may not be as straightforward. However, keeping the muscles of the chest, shoulders, and back strong are critical to avoiding injury, aches, and a lagging race time.
If its hard for you to understand exactly how the upper body works while running, try filling a backpack full of heavy textbooks or rocks, put the backpack on your back, and then go for a run (or even a walk). You won’t last more than a few paces before your shoulders hurt, your back aches, and you just can’t keep up any speed. Though the backpack is located on your upper body and doesn’t touch your legs, it has a direct impact on the way the entire body functions.
Maintaining strength in the upper body, specifically your back, helps prevent your shoulders rounding forward, hunching your back, and collapsing inward when on a long run. It also allows the core to remain in an upright, engaged position, which contributes even more strength and stability.
One of my favorite upper body exercises is a chest supported dumbbell row. The chest supported stance allows you to focus on your arms, shoulders, and back without compromising posture or spinal alignment.
CHEST SUPPORTED DUMBBELL ROW
STEP 1: Lean your upper body on an incline bench, with your entire chest supported, and your feet on the floor. You are not sitting, but rather just leaning forward with all of your body weight on the bench. Your spine should remain neutral; keep your eyes looking straight down in front of you.
Start with a dumbbell in each hand, hanging down by your side, palms facing inward.
Using the muscles in your back, draw your shoulder blades in toward each other, and squeeze. Pull the weight up so that your elbows are at your side. ***Do not perform this move strictly with your hands pulling the weight up and down. Think about engaging your back muscles.***
STEP 2: In a slow and controlled fashion, allow your arms to return to their fully extended starting position.
Be sure to use a dumbbell that you can lift safely, and work your way up to heavier weight as your strength increases.
Start with 3 sets of 8 repetitions at a weight that appropriately fatigues you by the end of each set!