Do Runners Need to do Upper Body Strength Workouts?
A fictional conversation between a runner and a running coach, and I hope it helps you understand how important it is to do upper body workouts in your sustained running journey.
“Coach, I am getting slight niggles on the left side of my left knee, and it keeps coming and going once in a while. How do I permanently get rid of it and train without worries of an injury.”.
“Are you following all the pre-requisites for a running workout such as a good warm-up, running drills and post-run cool-down stretches, and foam rolling for your major leg muscles?”.
“Yes, I have been doing that pretty well always without missing.”.
“I see. How is your strength training going for your lower body?”.
“It is going pretty well. I have been focusing on improving strength for my lower body with all the lower body exercises using gym equipment and sometimes using just the body weight as well.”
“Well, that sounds interesting. It does look like you are taking care of strength training and conditioning well. Let’s see what else might be causing this repeating niggle. How is your upper body strength training going?”.
“That’s the only thing that I am not able to do very well. The reason is I am unable to generate the motivation to do upper body workouts. Maybe it is just that I don’t understand how it helps in my running. I always thought running was all about using two legs to move ahead. I struggle to understand why upper body workout”.
“I am glad you are asking the questions about areas that are bothering you or not giving you motivation. Let me help you understand that. Have you tried running, keeping your hands down? I mean, leaving your hands down, freely”.
Have you tried running, keeping your hands down? I mean, leaving your hands down, freely and running”.
“No, I cannot move ahead well if I do that.”.
“It, in fact, hinders my forward movement.”.
“So, what do you do to get better forward movement?”.
“I raise my hands and keep them on the sides of my ribs or chest as elbow pointing backward and my fists facing forward.”.
“So, tell me, what would demand strength for your arms? keeping it down or raising it to your sides?”.
“Obviously, raising it to my sides. As I also keep moving my hands to get the forward momentum for my run, I think I would need strength for my arms.”.
“Your arms are part of your upper body or lower body?”.
“It is part of the upper body.”.
“Well, we have now seen that hands need strength to make your runs better. Let’s understand what all makes your hands. Tell me what all make your hands.”.
“Shoulders, elbows, biceps, triceps, wrist, palm, fingers, forearms.”.
“That’s a good enough list that you have shared. So, when we talk about strength for the arm, are we talking about strength for all these parts of your hands?”.
“Yes, I guess so. You are right.”.
“OK, that’s great. We have an agreement for arms now. Let’s go to other areas.”.
“How much important you think it is good to have overall back strength. By “back”, I mean starting from where your neck ends to where the spine chord ends.”.
“I am not sure.”.
“Let me ask differently. What would help you run better? Your spine chord being straight and strong when you run or if they are weak, slouchy, bends a bit as you run?”.
“I think, the former.”.
“Great, Does your spine connect to other bones and muscles of the upper body? Strengthening your spine would mean strengthening other components of your upper body? Would you agree?”.
“Yes, but it would be great if you could help me understand how they help in running better?”.
“To your previous answer about running straight (vs. running in a slouchy way) helping run better, to be able to run straight and strong, don’t you think you need your entire upper body to have good strength?”.
“Yes, I see your point now. but I need to hear more.”.
“Sure, let me help. Let us think of two scenarios. One is where you run without any strength left in the upper body, and you run. The second is where you run with great upper body strength in the upper body, and you run. Out of these two, where do you think the entire body mass would impact your lower body or in other words, in which scenario, your lower body would get the most weight or load?”.
“I think, in the first scenario.”.
“Why do you think so?”.
“I think that is because in the first case, we let the upper body weight get pulled down towards the gravity, and hence, our lower body would see the most load.”.
“What happens because of more load to the lower body?”.
“I guess all the muscles, ligaments, tendons would start to wear off due to the extraneous load.”.
“What could be done to prevent that?”.
“When we strengthen our upper body, and when the upper body helps in holding our body against the gravity, we tend to put less load on the lower body and hence preventing cause for potential injuries.”.
“There you go. You had all the answers in you. I just had to ask you the right questions. So, Have you understood the importance of upper body strengthening? and how they help you ultimately in preventing lower body injuries?”.
“Yes, very much. Thank you for enlightening me. With diligence, I shall focus on upper body strength workouts in my training.”.
“Sure, all the best.”.
“Should we talk about how core strength helps in your running today? :-)”.
“No, I am good for today. Let’s talk about the core another day. :-)”.
Imagine your body as a full-fledged robot made of several components assembled together to keep you in the correct form as you run. It will leave a negative impact on the overall system, even if one part faces an issue (shoulder pain, sore shoulder, or a little back pain). Eventually, it would not help you to run better.
Running is not just a legs workout; It is an entire body workout! Never forget that.
Always train your entire body if you plan for sustainable running for a long time to come.
Be Strong. Run Forever.
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Originally published at https://vocal.media.