Day 5: Strong is Sexy!

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Runners don’t spend much time thinking about the strength in their Arms. And why should they – in the end, it’s their legs that count…so runners don’t need to work out their upper body, right?

Wrong! While we do rely on the strength of our legs in a race, having strong arms and a strong core will not only keep us upright moving forward, it can also mean the difference in the final push towards the finish line.

Our arms provide additional thrust, catapulting us forward. Strong arms, shoulders and core are particularly important for running uphill. Standing tall and using our arms as leverage to get us up those hills are essential!

According to Herwig Natmessnig, a sport scientist and former professional athlete, and currently a writer with,

Naturally, strong leg muscles are crucial for running fast, but many runners underestimate the importance of upper body strength for good running performance. The abdominal and back muscles play an important role in stabilizing your upper body. A weak core leads to compensatory movements, thus decreasing your forward propulsion. A strong upper body is essential for guaranteeing an efficient transfer of energy from your body to your legs. Without this, the proper arm technique cannot provide optimal support to your legs. An efficient running form helps you to run faster and expend less energy.

Now is a good time to talk about arm swing too…the right arm technique makes your running form efficient. However, you can’t run with optimal form until you build up your upper body, which includes your shoulders, arms and core!

The proper way to hold your arms when running:

  • Bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle or less
  • Let your arms swing loosely in the direction in which you are running (your arms should not cross the centerline)
  • Keep your hands relaxed with your palms facing inward. Your thumb and index finger should be touching lightly
  • Focus on pushing your elbows back rather than pulling them forward

Next time you go for a run (hopefully today), think about your arms. How do you hold them? Are they hanging uselessly by your side? Do they cross your body, expending extra energy that does not promote forward motion? Are your arms and shoulders relaxed or hunched up and tensed? (I’m so guilty of tensed up arms and shoulders!) Do you use your arms to help push you forward by driving your elbows backwards?

These are just a few things you can think about and work on while your running to help you develop a more efficient running form.

An additional benefit to a strong core: Well-developed abs and back muscles help protect your spine from the impact of running. A strong core is essential for minimizing the risk of injury!

The best exercises for building up your stabilizing muscles (pelvic, abdominal and back muscles) are complex total body exercises like planks, push-ups and burpees.

Burpees…..yes we should do some of those this month… 🙂

Final reason we should work on our upper body strength? Because no matter how you look at it….


Day 5 exercises: 2-3 sets of 10

  • Mountain Climbers
  • Weighted Russian Twists
  • Crocodile Rows
  • Crouching Hover Plank – :60

Bonus: BURPEES and Push ups! Add 2-3 sets of 10 burpees and 10 push ups with today’s workout! Your push ups can be done from your knees, on a bench up against a wall, whatever is best for you. Break the burpees and push ups into smaller sets if you need to but work them in today. I can hear the grumbling from here…that’s ok…grumble through them and get it done Crew!

Quick Morning Workout: Everyday y’all! 🙂

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Negative Pull Ups: Don’t forget to add these in 3-5 reps. These are a great way to build arm and shoulder strength! Check back with on July Challenge main page for a reminder on how to do these properly.

Speed Work: If you ran a race yesterday, THAT is your speed work for this week. You do not need to additional speed work after a race, unless you just ran for fun and didn’t push the pace….then you can still throw in a speed work day. This weeks speed work can be found on Monday’s daily post. Click here and scroll down for the workout.

Day 5 “how to” videos: Not sure how to do today’s exercises? Watch the videos below for the proper form to get the most out of each exercise and to avoid injury!

Mountain Climbers: Mountain climbers are great total body exercise. You are going to be utilizing your core because you are starting from a plank position. Your shoulders have to stabilize your upper body. Your triceps have to work isometrically to keep you in place. And then you are gonna be moving your legs, so you are getting some work in the hip-joint. And also because you are usually doing them pretty quickly, it becomes a very cardiovascular type movement.

Weighted Russian Twists: Take your medicine ball, lean back, you should already feel the contraction in the abs, and then you’re just going to tap the ball from side to side. Bring the legs up for a greater burn.

Crocodile Rows: The Crocodile Row exercise works your back, shoulders, biceps, and abs. Please watch the video to avoid someone making fun of you at the gym….Pam, Sharon and MJ… 😉

Crouching Hover Plank: The crouching hover plank is an isometric exercise that trains the abdominal muscles and strengthens our core. If you are new to planks, hold the move for :10 – :15 take a break then do it again. Breaking it into sets is a great way to build up strength and works towards being able to hold it for longer.

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