Why do Runners Need Upper Body Strength?

  • 07 Mar, 2021

Why Do Runners Need Upper Body Strength?

Sure, as runners we need to make sure we have strong legs to cope with the physical demands of running. But it’s important runners don’t neglect their upper body strength as this is paramount for good posture and efficient transfer of energy.


Let’s look at some of the benefits:


Core Strength


Our core is the link between the upper body and lower body. Traditionally, what makes up our “deep core” is our Transverse Abdominis (wraps the front), Pelvic Floor Muscles (sits below), Deep Multifidus (runs along the back) and Diaphragm (the roof). These deep muscles form a cylinder and work together to stabilise the body (particularly the pelvis and spine) prior to any movement. Think of it as the bodies most basic framework.


The “outer core” comprises of our internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis (think six pack muscles),  and also includes our erector spinae, latissimus dorsi, adductors and gluteus maximums in a broader sense. Think of these muscles as the power houses and assist with transfer of energy from the upper limb to lower limb thus aiding with forward propulsion.


Improving core strength improves posture when running. Many of us have been a victim to an exhausted looking, shrugged over race photo and this is a consequence of fatigue. Poor core strength means energy is further wasted rocking side to side rather than propelling our bodies forward. Improving core strength means we’re able to stay tall to the finish.


With an improved upright posture, breathing mechanics also improve, thus allowing better oxygenation of muscles and removal of lactic acid.


Finally, as the core plays a role in spinal stability and aids as a mechanism to protect our back and keep our spines happy.


Arm Strength


Upper body strength doesn’t end at the core. Runner’s need good arm strength to assist with an efficient arm swing. Arm swing aids to assist forward propulsion and helps to reduce overall energy expenditure.


An efficient arm swing can also increase your step frequency. The brain likes to co-ordinate upper limb and lower limb movements, so consider increasing the rate of arm swing is tactic to improve step frequency.


Finally, arm swing plays a role in balance and movement efficiency. An efficient arm swing assists in keeping a stable pelvis, thus improving lower limb mechanics.