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  • Writer's pictureJesse Lewis

Upper Body and Core Strengthening for Runners

Updated: Jan 22

When it comes to running, it's easy to focus solely on strengthening the lower body – the powerhouse of your body for running, obviously. However, the upper body and core play a crucial role that, when optimized, can elevate your running performance to new heights. Contrary to popular belief, neglecting these areas could mean missing out on your full potential. In this blog post, we'll explore the benefits of upper body and core strengthening for runners and introduce some effective exercises to incorporate into your training regimen.

The Impact on Running Efficiency:

Strengthening your upper body can significantly enhance your running efficiency. The arms, when conditioned, become powerful propellors that aid in driving you forward. Research has shown that increased upper body strength actually improves your endurance with running and prevents fatigue.

Boosting Speed Through Core Strength:

One often overlooked aspect of running is the connection between upper body strength and speed. All running is about a balance in your body. As one side moves forward, the other side moves backwards. If you have a stronger core, this allows your arm and leg muscles to provide more power when they’re propelling you forward. This improved foundation allows your legs to generate more power and speed, translating to faster and more efficient running.

The Endurance Advantage:

Have you ever noticed that towards the end of a grueling race, fatigue sets in, and many runners find themselves slouching and bent over? This is where a well-conditioned upper body and core can make a significant difference. Increased strength in these areas enhances your endurance, allowing you to finish the race strong. A stable upper body and engaged core help you maintain an upright posture, supporting your body when fatigue tries to take over.

Upper Body and Core Exercises for Runners

Bent Over Rows:

Targets: Back, scapular muscles, and hips

  • This exercise not only strengthens your back and scapular muscles but also engages your hips. Maintaining an upright posture while running becomes easier with a strong back, promoting better form and efficiency.

Half Kneel Chops:

Targets: Rotational core muscles

  • Despite running predominantly in a straight line, there is still trunk rotation involved. Half kneel chops focus on rotational core strength, helping propel you forward more efficiently.

Plank Pulls:

Targets: Core and shoulders

  • A versatile core exercise that creates a solid base for both your arms and legs. Strengthening your core and shoulders simultaneously contributes to improved running form and that extra kick at the end of a race.

Split Stance Shoulder Press:

Targets: Shoulders and hips

  • This exercise not only strengthens your shoulders for better arm swing but also incorporates hip work. Performing it in a split stance mimics the running position, making it a functional exercise for runners.


To unleash your full running potential, it's crucial to view your body as a holistic system. While the lower body is undoubtedly the driving force, neglecting the upper body and core can hinder your performance. Incorporating targeted exercises into your training routine will not only enhance your running efficiency, speed, and endurance but also reduce the risk of injuries. Remember, a balanced approach to strength training is the key to becoming a stronger, more resilient runner.

If you’d like some help with your running form, or recovering from a running injury, we’re here for you! Just contact us here and we’d be happy to help with either your performance or injury goals.

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