If you’re a runner, chances are you don’t want to spend a lot of time in the gym. Or any time, for that matter. After all, if you’re not running, what’s the benefit, right? Au contraire. Upper-body strength benefits athletes of all types. Runners who train with weights experience better running economy—you expend less energy when you run. In other words, it’s like a one-day sale at Macy’s: you get more bang for your running buck.
Lift and run wisely
You don’t want to schedule heavy upper-body workouts on days when you plan to do a long run, however. Ideally, if you’re serious about your sport you may want to consider hiring someone with a sports certification (e.g. CSCS, certified strength and conditioning specialist) to help you design a “periodization program.” This type of program targets specific goals (e.g. strength, endurance, power, etc.) throughout the year. When planned correctly, you’ll be in your best form in time for a particular event, such as a marathon.
Upper-body workout for runners
In general, resistance training once or twice a week works well in season, when you’re running the most. Off season, bump it up to three to four times a week. Go for 12 to 20 reps per set, two to three sets per workout.
Chest: Push-ups on a stability ball
Assume a kneeling push-up position in front of a fitness ball; place your hands on the ball a little wider than shoulder-width. Tighten your core muscles by pulling in your belly button; keep your back straight. Maintaining good posture, slowly lower your body toward the ball until your chest almost touches the ball. Do not let your abdominals sag. Repeat 10 to 15 slow and controlled repetitions.
Attach rubber tubing to a door hinge or secure it around a stationary object. Sit tall on the edge of a bench or on a stability ball. With arms extended in front of the chest, pull the handles of the tubing towards you, palms facing towards your body; squeeze your shoulder blades together without shrugging your shoulders up, pause and slowly return arms to starting position while keeping tension in your arm and back muscles. Repeat for 10 to 15 repetitions.
Shoulders: Lateral raises
Sit tall on a stability ball; tighten your abdominals to engage the core muscles. Hold dumbbells with your arms straight, palms facing in. Lift your arms out laterally to approximately shoulder height. Pause and slowly return to starting position. Do not allow your body to rock or lean during the exercise. This exercise may also be done standing. Repeat 10 to 15 repetitions.
Sit tall on a stability ball; tighten your abdominals to engage the core muscles. Hold a medicine ball or dumbbell behind your head with both hands, elbows pointed towards the ceiling. Maintaining a neutral spine, lower and raise the weight by bending and then straightening your arms. Do not pull your elbows forward; they should stay over your shoulders. Repeat 10 to 15 repetitions.
Stand tall holding dumbbells with your palms facing out, shoulder-width apart (hands should be just outside each hip). Keep your knees slightly bent, abdominals contracted. Bend your elbows and curl dumbbells up toward your shoulders without bringing your elbows forward; slowly lower the dumbbells to starting position. Repeat 10 to 15 repetitions.