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Know How Upper Body Muscles Help in Running

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For runners, the lower limbs play a far major role than the upper limbs. This, however, doesn’t mean that the arms and upper body play no part in their athletic performance. This is evident by the general physique of many professional runners. It seems that they pay a lot of attention to their upper body muscles and include upper body workouts on their regimes. But if you are a new runner and want to focus on improving your running form, then you should even understand the importance of upper body muscles and how it impacts your running. Let's get straight into the topic.  

Role of Strong Arms in Different Formats of Running

If you are wondering what upper body muscles are used while running, then the arms help you move forward and counterbalance the movement of your legs. Whereas the biceps and abdominals coordinate and stabilize the body weight. In fact, you should focus on strengthening your upper body which will help you become a better runner. 

If you are a sprinter, then having sturdy arms will be beneficial to your running style. This is because strong and muscular arms will provide you with a forward thrust and increase your lead. Not only arm strength, but also the technique by which you use your upper body muscles to your advantage can make a big difference in short distance running.

On the contrary, if you consider long distance running, thick and strong arms will clearly be a disadvantage because of all the extra weight that you will have to carry. Nevertheless, your arm swings will still influence your running a bit. This is because the brain tends to process arm movements and leg movements together. A faster swinging of arms increases our step frequency. Thus, we can safely say that indirectly, upper body muscles are used in running.

upper body muscle
Strengthen your upper body for better running

How to Position Your Arms While Running

You have probably never wondered about the positioning of your arms while running. It is important to know the correct arm technique for runners and the right running form because it is vital for their performance.

  • The elbows of runners should be bent close to the right angle for optimal running posture.
  • The arms should never cross the body centre-line as you run. It is alright to let them swing gently in the same direction as your feet are moving,
  • Your elbows should be pulled back while running.
  • Let your palms face towards your body as you run.
  • The hands should be slightly folded so that there is a gentle point of contact between the thumb and the index finger.
running form
Keep a check of your arm position (source)

In addition to keeping your arms in proper position while running, it is equally important to increase upper body strength through regular exercises.

Why Should You Do Upper Body Exercises

Because running is a form of exercise that involves the whole body, we should aim to increase upper body strength by exercises that specifically target these areas. Here are more reasons to motivate you to hit the gym for shaping up your upper torso. Although runners rely more on their lower body muscles, it is wrong to conclude that upper body muscles are not used in running, having a strong upper body has definite advantages for a runner.

  • Having a fit upper body will definitely add to your running performance by making the body more flexible and resistant to fatigue. Therefore, upper body workouts are crucial for runners.
  • Having strong upper body muscles is especially useful in long distance running where you might have to run with a bottle in your hand. Although a bottle might not sound like a great deal of load, but when you are running, it does become a mammoth load.
  • Having a fit body will make it easier for you to coordinate the upper and lower limbs. A balanced body is much less likely to fall down during an important run and has a more dynamic movement pattern.

Therefore, it is important to devote some time every day on upper body workouts for runners. A well-toned body will make the core and upper body to absorb the impact of running better.

Upper Body Workouts for Runners

Here are a few simple workouts that specifically target upper body muscles of the runner:

  1. Carrying lightweights in our arms while running will help you to build your upper body and core strength. This simple addition body weights for running will increase the heart rate and makes oxygen consumption more efficient.
  2. Resistance band rows are another very effective ways to improve upper body strength. One of the various ways in which you can use the band is by tying it firmly at a fixed object at chest level. Pull this band towards your chest using your arms. Hold this position for a few seconds before releasing the band back at the start position. This simple exercise works wonderfully to increase upper body strength.
  3. Upper body workouts can also be incorporated into interval training by doing a few rounds of push-ups in your recovery intervals.
push ups
Indulge in push ups

The importance of upper body strength is evident in the fact that a weak upper body will decrease forward propulsion and lead to imbalance. Not only your arms but also your back and abdominal muscles play vital roles in contributing to your running performance. Additionally, having a strong core and upper body muscles makes you more resistant to injuries associated with running.

Toning Your Upper Body

All runners have to work on their body and fitness before they achieve their goals. Whether you want to put on weight on your upper body or lose that excess weight up there, the following points will help you tremendously:

If you want to lose weight from your upper body, then you should cut down a bit on your daily calorie intake and drop some upper body muscles workout. When you reach your desired upper body weight, include some core strengthening exercises in your routine, like push-ups and pull-ups.

If you are aiming at gaining some bulk on the upper half of your body, it is advisable to add a few calories to your diet, especially in the form of proteins. Additionally, you should lift heavier weights with fewer repetitions.


Upper body muscles are as important as other muscles for a runner. However, a runner tends to focus more on his/her lower limbs.As we have seen, it is important to devote enough time to strengthen the core and upper body in order to improve running performance. Does your work out include some upper body exercises and core strengthening sessions? We would like to hear from you on how do these exercises affect your running.

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