Day 4: Work Those Arms Baby!

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As runners, we don’t give much thought to training our arms. After all, it’s the lower body that’s doing all the work, right?

Partially, yes. Our arms aren’t driving this bus, our hips and glutes are! The driving forces in our running come primarily from the muscles of the lower extremity and our core. However, if we are weak in our upper body, there is an imbalance of strength, and we won’t be as efficient.

The way we hold and swing our arms can tell us things about our running. It can also tell us how we can improve.

Here are three ways you might be using your arms and therefore not running efficiently:

  1. Your Arms Wing Out from Your Body – This is a sign that you have weaknesses in your abs or glutes, because the arms have to go farther from the body to maintain balance. What this means you need to add to your training: more planks!
  2. You Clench or Hunch Your Shoulders, Tightly Bend Your Elbows, or Cross Your Hands in Front of Your Body – These are signs of tension and wasted energy. You want your arms and shoulders to be relaxed with your elbows should be bent at about a 90-degree angle, with hands gently brushing by where your front jeans pockets would be. You want to cup your hands so that the thumbs rest lightly against the first two fingers, as if you’re holding potato chips but don’t want to crush them. Think of having a penny in your hand that you want to be able to move around, but not fall out. Your arms should arc slightly as they come forward, but should not cross your body’s midline. If you’re arms are crossing, you need to practice your arm swing so you’re relaxing more and keeping your arms from crossing in front of your body.
  3. You Arms Have Different Movements or Ranges of Motions – This is a clear sign of muscle imbalance…in your hips & glutes! If you have a different range of motion in one arm verses the other, your push-off is weaker on one side. Practice focusing attention on squeezing your glute muscles as you push off each foot to propel yourself forward. If possible, have someone film you from behind while you’re running so you can then watch where your arms travel when you’re in action. This is a great way to see what your form really looks like when you’re running.
  4. When Arm Swing Matters the Most – There is one time in a runner’s repertoire that a powerful arm swing may make a difference: in a sprint, typically at the end of a race. The arms account for about two to three percent of the forward velocity in a sprint. By pumping your arms on that final stretch when your legs are fatigued, you could make the difference between a good race and personal record!

Arm swing is very important, but if our arms are weak, we’re missing out on a lot of power that can help us push forward when our legs are tired.

A strong upper body provides runners with the following benefits: Naturally, strong leg muscles are crucial for running fast, but many runners underestimate the importance of upper body strength for efficient running performance. A strong upper body Arms, shoulders and back and core) is essential for guaranteeing an efficient transfer of energy from your body to your legs. Without this, even the proper arm technique cannot provide optimal support to your legs. An efficient running form helps you to run faster and expend less energy, meaning that running faster takes less effort.

An additional benefit: Well-developed arms, shoulders, abs and back muscles help protect our spine from the impact of running. Thus, a strong upper body is essential for minimizing the risk of injury. The best exercises for building up your stabilizing muscles are total body exercises like planks, push-ups and burpees!

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We all love to run. That’s why we’re here right? And while all we really want to do is go out and run…in oder to stay on the road running longer, stronger, and without pain we have to do the little things that prepare our body to go the distance. So today…it’s all about our arms!

Little known fact: When we think about arm work, we’re mostly drawn to bicep work. And while it’s important to have strong biceps, the real benefit for runners comes from having strong tricep! When we run we push our arms backwards, which propels us forwards. This power comes from our triceps. So today, we work that often flabby part at the back of our arms where we need the most strength. And the upside…bye bye bat wings! 🙂

Day 4 exercises: 3 sets of 15 (how to videos at bottom of page)

  • :60 Plank
  • Push Ups
  • Tricep Dips
  • Tricep Overhead Extensions
  • Tricep Kickbacks
  • :60 Plank

Bonus: Burpees – Burpees are fabulous full body exercises that we all love to hate! Don’t worry, we aren’t doing a lot of them… 1 set of 10 and you are good to go! Not sure how to do a burpee? Check out this video on burpees for beginners. No jumping! Just start in the up position with your hands in the air, come down to a squat position, put one foot back at a time, then reverse the process. One set of 10. You got this!

Burpees are one of the most effective and powerful full body exercises that an individual can do. They require no special equipment, gadgets or gimmicks to perform. They can be done almost anywhere and anytime. A few minutes of burpee conditioning will quickly show you that your own natural bodyweight provides plenty of resistance for an amazing workout that builds your stamina and explodes fat burning through the roof!

Speed Work: If you haven’t gotten in your speed work yet this week, today is probably the last day to do it, unless you are doing long on Saturday, then you’ve already missed your window. If you’re going long on Sunday, DO YOUR SPEED WORK TODAY! 🙂

Click here for Monday’s post and scroll down for this week’s workout!

As always…roll and stretch! Long runs are coming soon! Love those legs so they are ready to give you all they’ve got! 🙂

7 Key Stretches for Runners

That’s all for today Crew….

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Day 4 “how to” videos:

Push Ups: Hopefully you are getting used to having these in your regular routine. A few more per set today…you can do this!

Tricep Dips: You can do it from a chair or a bench, you can even do it on the floor.

Tricep Overhead Extensions: Working the triceps again here. Don’t use a dumbbell that is too heavy. Keep your elbows in close to your ears. Watch Michelle Trapp (one of my favorites) show us how it’s done.

Tricep Kickbacks: You can use the edge of your bed, couch or a chair if you don’t have a bench. Your arms will be starting to get sore by now. Push through it Crew!

Plank: If you are new to planking, please start slowly and work your way up. If you can’t hold the plank for :60 break it into :30 with a short break in between.

The plank is a great core exercise that doesn’t involve doing any crunches. In fact, the basic plank doesn’t involve moving at all. This is referred to as an isometric exercise.

Here is a great beginner video for planks. Watch and see how it’s done properly to get the most out of this exercise and to avoid getting hurt.