Arms: they’re good for more than triumphant finish-line photos! Those non-leg appendages, which runners tend to ignore when it comes to strength training, can actually help you cross that line faster and more efficiently.
“Running requires the locomotion of your arms to generate optimal speed,” Noam Tamir, C.S.C.S., CEO and owner of TS Fitness in New York City, tells Runner’s World. That’s because, to run efficiently, you need upper body strength and muscular endurance for a solid arm swing and to maintain good posture through all those miles.
To help with that: This bodyweight arm workout, designed by Tamir, builds strength in the arms, shoulders, core, chest, and back, all of which work in tandem to power your arm swing and support your stride.
Plus, a bodyweight arm workout holds up against all of the excuses even well-intentioned runners use to skip arm day—it can be done virtually anywhere (including outside before or after a run), takes about 15 minutes, and requires zero equipment.
How to use this list: Perform each exercise below for the number of reps listed for this bodyweight arm workout, resting for 15 seconds between exercises. Repeat the full circuit for 3 sets. Rest 1-2 minutes between sets. Each move is demonstrated by Tamir in the video above so you can master the proper form. An exercise mat is recommended.
1. Close-Grip Eccentric Push-Up
Why it works: Work the biceps and triceps, as well as the chest with this exercise that also gets the core involved—all important for upright posture and a strong arm swing. Imagine pulling your body down to the floor, then pushing your body away from the floor on the way back up.
How to do it: Start in a high plank position with wrists directly under shoulders and knees resting on the ground. Engage core, glutes, and thighs so that body forms a straight line from shoulders to hips to knees. Keeping elbows tucked in close to torso, count to 3 as you slowly lower chest to the ground. Immediately push up back up through the palms and straighten the elbows. Repeat. Do 8 reps.
2. Crunch With Biceps Curl
Why it works: Build superior core and bicep strength with this combo move.
How to do it: Lie faceup with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Extend arms at sides, widening them so that hands are about a foot away from hips. With palms facing up, ball fists and plant elbows on the ground. As you engage core to lift shoulders and torso off the mat, use biceps to curl wrists toward shoulders. Keep chin lifted and elbows on the ground. Lower torso and arms back to the floor. Repeat. Do 12 reps.
3. Prone Press-Up
Why it works: This extension exercise activates the lower back, which is important for runners to strengthen, especially those who sit most of the day.
How to do it: Lie facedown with legs extended and hands directly under shoulders. Maintain a neutral neck and keep elbows tucked in close to torso. Push up through the palms and extend the elbows to lift chest, keeping hips and legs grounded. Bend elbows and lower chest back to the floor. Repeat. Do 12 reps.
4. Y Raise to Pull-Down
Why it works: A great exercise for improving posture and strengthening the back of the upper body, this move not only targets the lats, but hits the biceps on the pull-down.
How to do it: Lie facedown with legs straight and arms extended above head in a Y-shaped position. Maintain a neutral neck (you may want to place a small, rolled-up towel under forehead). With thumbs facing up, lift arms and squeeze shoulder blades together as you pull elbows down to sides. Straighten elbows to extend the arms, then lower back down to the mat. Repeat. Do 10 reps.
5. Straight-Leg Triceps Dip
Why it works: As the name suggests, you’ll feel the fire in the triceps, while also working you reverse plank, which targets the core, including your glutes.
How to do it: Start in a seated position with legs extended and palms on the mat about a foot behind hips, fingers facing back. Engage core, glutes, and legs as you straighten arms and lift butt off the ground. This is the starting position. Bend the arms slightly until butt is hovering just above the ground, then extend the arms to lift back up to the starting position. Repeat. Do 12 reps.