It’s easy to ignore the upper body when tight hip flexors, glutes, and quads are calling your name, but all your muscles from the waist up—especially the shoulders—are just as crucial to your running performance.
“Shoulder mobility is a large yet forgotten piece in the puzzle of efficient running,” says Alison Staples, coach at Formula Running Center in Arlington, Virginia. “A mobile shoulder and strong stabilizing back muscles not only give us power to make it up those monstrous hill repeats, but they also impact running economy by making sure energy expenditure is sufficient for a given distance.” Want better form and a more powerful arm drive? Improve your shoulder mobility.
The following shoulder mobility workout takes about 15 minutes and requires minimal equipment. Staples recommends incorporating it into your training a few times a week.
How to Use This List: Perform each exercise below for the number of reps listed, resting 30 seconds between exercises.
Each move is demonstrated by Staples, a certified trainer, in the video above so you can master the proper form. You will need a resistance band and an exercise mat.
Start facedown on mat, tuck your toes, then prop yourself up on forearms with elbows under shoulders. Lift hips off the mat, keeping your back straight and abs tight. Clasp one hand around your fist to form a triangle with forearms. Keeping core engaged, bring shoulder blades together and lower chest, stopping when your forehead touches your fist. Push down through forearms to draw apart shoulder blades and return to starting position. Complete 3 sets of 6 reps, resting 30 seconds between sets.
Lie faceup, knees bent, and feet planted on the floor. Extend right arm to the side, palm facing down. Press right arm into the floor as you slowly drop your legs to the left. Use left hand to gently pull knees toward the floor. Hold for 3 seconds, then return to starting position. Complete 12 reps per side.
Resistance Band Chest Opener
Start in a tall kneeling position, arms at sides. Grip the ends of a resistance band, palms down, and pull it apart to create tension. Keeping elbows straight and maintaining resistance on the band, lift arms overhead. Pause for 1 second, then return to starting position. Complete 2 sets of 10 reps, resting 30 seconds between sets.
Start in a tall kneeling position, arms at sides, elbows bent 90 degrees, hands in loose fists. Draw one elbow back as you drive the other elbow forward, then immediately switch arm positions. Continue to alternately swing arms back and forward, mimicking the motion of arm drive during running. One swing is one rep. Do as many reps as possible in 20 seconds. Complete 4 sets, resting 30 seconds between sets.
Start in a tall kneeling position, arms extended out to sides at shoulder height, palms facing down. Make small, clockwise circles with arms, initiating the movement from the upper arm/shoulder joint. One circle is one rep. Do as many reps as possible in 30 seconds. Complete 4 sets, resting 30 seconds between sets.