This TRX upper body workout will benefit your running, but that’s not the only (or even the most important) reason to do it.
“Many runners don’t see the connection between a strong upper body and running performance, and some believe that the weight of muscle will slow them down. But this thinking is flawed on a couple of accounts,” Dane Miklaus, C.S.C.S., founder of WORK Training Studio in Irvine, California, tells Runner’s World.
“Having a strong upper half is integral to simply functioning well,” Miklaus continues. “Adults shouldn’t need help lifting things, carrying groceries, or stowing their own luggage into overhead bins.”
While this TRX upper body workout will help you in those tasks you experience in every day life, you will also gain a strong core, shoulder, chest, back, and arm muscles. This will absolutely elevate your running game.
How this TRX Upper Body Workout Benefits Runners
“Adding in additional core training outside your running can improve performance and decrease the risk of injury. A stellar way to do that is by incorporating an effective upper-body routine to your programming,” Miklaus says. “Upper-body strength and endurance are imperative to proper running mechanics.”
One of Miklaus’s favorite ways to strengthen the upper body is with a TRX or suspension trainer. “A suspension trainer is versatile, light, portable, can be affixed almost anywhere, and it does a tremendous job because of the instability component. It challenges your core in the midst of every single movement you perform,” he says.
Here, Miklaus created a TRX upper body workout for you to not only gain the benefits of a strong upper half, but also to reap the rewards of an added core challenge that the TRX provides.
How to use this list: Perform each exercise below in order for the number of reps and sets listed, resting 30 seconds between sets. Each move is demonstrated by certified trainer Anthony Fernandez, also of WORK Training Studio, in the video above so you can master the proper form. You will need a suspension trainer.
“In-season, we recommend this workout either once a week in tandem with another full-body resistance training workout outside the running schedule. Or, we recommend performing this workout twice a week,” Miklaus says. “Off-season, this workout could be performed two to three times per week, depending on the other training program variables.”
Why it works: “This move is excellent for upper and middle back activation and strengthening your posterior core. It even targets your biceps,” Miklaus says. “Over time, challenge yourself by getting closer and closer to the anchor point.”
How to do it: Adjust the TRX straps so that handles line up with hips. Facing the anchor point, grab handles, palms facing each other, and lean backward with arms straight until you feel tension on the straps. This is your starting position. Engage shoulders and back to pull chest up to the handles, then return to starting position. Repeat. Do 3 sets of 12 reps. To make it easier, walk further away from the anchor point. To make it harder, walk closer to the anchor point.
Why it works: “Using your strong deltoid muscles in your shoulder, your top hand traces a line up towards the sky. Conversely, your bottom hand (remaining palm up the whole time) presses down towards your hip by activating your posterior deltoid [back of shoulder], triceps, and shoulder stabilizing muscles,” Miklaus says. In other words, consider it a 360-degree upper-body exercise.
How to do it: Facing the anchor point, grab handles and stack left hand on top of right, palms facing each other. Engage core and lean back slightly with straight arms until you feel tension on the straps. Simultaneously lift left arm overhead and lower right arm toward hip. Slowly return hands to stacked position, flip the positioning so right hand is on top. Repeat. Do 3 sets of 8 reps per side.
Why it works: “This position will automatically challenge your anterior deltoids, as well as all of your deep and surface core muscles,” Miklaus says. “The goal is to avoid any break in your hips forward or backward, as well as any side-to-side or rotational movements. Try to remain solid as a rock, with only your hands and shoulders moving.”
How to do it: Start facing away from TRX anchor point with arms straight, hands gripping the handles, and toes planted on the floor. Walk feet back so you’re in an elevated plank, wrists under shoulders. Move left arm forward and right arm backward. Then move left arm backward and right arm forward. Repeat. Do 3 sets of 20 reps per side.
4. Cross-Body Hug
Why it works: This exercise activates your chest muscles, as you pull your arms in toward your midline, and gets the biceps in on the action too, Miklaus says. “The end of this exercise will look like you are actually giving yourself a hug,” he adds.
How to do it: Facing the anchor point, grab handles, palms facing each other, and lean backward with arms straight until you feel tension on the straps. Stack right hand over left (as if you were holding a pole with both hands). This is your starting position. Pull hands toward opposing shoulders in a hugging motion. Return to starting position. Then stack left hand over right and repeat. Do 3 sets of 8 reps per side.
5. Skull Crusher
How to do it: Start facing away from TRX anchor point with arms straight, hands gripping the handles, and toes planted on the floor. Walk feet back so you’re in an elevated plank, wrists under shoulders. Bring thumbs close together. Bend elbows, lowering body and bringing hands toward forehead. Use triceps and shoulders to straighten arms and push back up to an elevated plank. Repeat. Do 3 sets of 12 reps.
6. Squat to Reverse Fly
Why it works: You’ll alternate working the muscles in the front and back of your core with this two-for-one exercise. It hits the posterior shoulder and mid back muscles—“two areas that are often neglected but play a large role in running mechanics,” Miklaus says. Plus, the squat provides a bit of hip and ankle mobility work, along with quad and glute strength.
How to do it: Facing the anchor point, grab handles, palms facing each other, and lean backward with arms straight until you feel tension on the straps. Keeping chest tall and back straight, send hips back and down toward heels into a squat. Push through feet to stand back up. Then, keeping arms straight, pull chest toward the anchor point by opening arms up to the sides while squeezing shoulder blades back and down. Slowly bring arms back to center. Repeat. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.