Upper Body Exercises for Runners

man doing push up

A runner's legs get all the attention.

And rightly so. We need to strengthen our quads, fire up the glutes, stretch out the always-tight hamstrings and of course, keep our calves strong and loose.

However, just because the lower body gets all the attention, doesn't mean your upper body doesn't need any love. It's not just going along for the ride. To be an efficient runner, you need to have your whole body work together to stride through the miles.

A strong upper body will help you power through when your legs are getting tired in the late stages of any hard-effort workout or race. If you've ever spectated a race before, you know what I'm talking about. You'll see runners with hunched over shoulders and arms barely moving as they cross the finish line. Most likely, their feet are shuffling, not gliding along like you want.

If you're collapsing in your upper body when you fatigue, you're making your legs work a lot harder than they need to. But if you pump your arms faster, your legs will follow suit. To run faster and be a more efficient runner, you need your whole body to be strong and in sync.

Here are four upper body exercises every runner should be doing.


Get into a high plank position. Place your hands firmly on the floor while bracing your core and with your back flat. Lower your body down toward the ground, maintaining a flat back and keeping your entire body in a straight line from your shoulders to your heels. Have your arms close to your body at a 20- to 40-degree angle from your body. Ideally, you want your chest to touch the floor while maintaining proper form. Exhale as you push back up to the starting position.


Grab the pull up bar with your palms facing away from you and your hands about shoulder width apart. Let yourself hang with your arms nearly straight. Maintain tension in your arms and shoulders.

Pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar, then lower yourself back down to the starting position in a controlled manner.

Assisted pull ups with a band or machine are an alternative if you are unable to perform a strict pull-up on your own.


Start out in a low squat position with your hands on the floor. Next, jump your feet back to a push-up position, complete one push-up, then immediately return your feet to the squat position. Jump up as high as possible before squatting back down and moving into the push-up portion of the exercise.


Begin in push-up position. Bend your elbows and rest your weight on your forearms to make a 90-degree angle from shoulder, elbow and hands. Engage your core to form a straight line from head to toe. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute.

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