My Favorite Things: Upper Body Exercises

In keeping with the theme of my favorite things for the beginning of this week I am going to share some of my favorite upper body exercises.  Many people often think that as runners we do not need to work our upper body.  However, a weak upper body can lead to poor form, especially as you get tired.  By keeping your entire body strong you will see improvements across the board with your running.  Plus, who doesn’t love having toned arms?!

Curls/Reverse Curls:

This simple workout will work both your biceps and triceps.  With any upper body exercise it is always important that you keep your core and shoulders nice and steady.  Never lean or swing your shoulders.  Make sure all of the work comes from the muscles you are focusing on.  Aim for light to medium weights and longer reps around 20x each exercise to work on toning and not bulking up those muscles.  Heavier weights with fewer reps are meant to build up  muscles which is the opposite of what we are looking for.  We want the tone but not the extra heft to carry around for miles!

StrengthTrainingArms1 StrengthTrainingArms2

Rows/Shoulder Press:

This is a great combination that gets into the upper back and shoulders.  Many runners tend to either fall forward or hike up their shoulders as they tire.  By working these muscles you will find that you can maintain proper running form longer.  By doing these in combination you will find that you can effectively work and exhaust both muscle groups well.  I like to do 20-30 reps of each, one after the other.  Begin your rows by slightly hinging forward from the hips and pull in your abdominals.  Lift your arm up with your elbow pointing to the ceiling and slowly bring back down.

I recommend starting shoulder presses on a weight bench or a chair for back support.  Start with the weights at shoulder/ear level with your palms facing out away from you.  Lift both weights up and above your head to touch and then back down to starting position.  Anytime you do any exercise that involves the shoulders you should take your time and focus.  The shoulders are the most susceptible joint to injure and it is important to never over load them.

StrengthTrainingArms3 StrengthTrainingArms4

Armpit Squeezes:

I do this one mostly for vanity’s sake.  This exercise gets into that armpit flab that ails me no matter what I do.  However, it also works your chest muscles which will help balance out your upper back muscles.  All you have to do is hold two weights about six inches away from your chest.  Press them together and use a squeezing motion.  You will feel your pectoral muscles contracting.  This is a good exercise to do larger repetitions with (see if you can do 50!).  Aim to do one or two sets until exhaustion.  Make sure you keep your back up straight and elbows pointing out!


A recycled pic. I forgot to take a few new ones.


Paddy Cakes:

This is another favorite of mine.  This works your armpits, shoulders, back, and biceps.  Hold two weights just as you would for arm pit squeezes.  Lift one weight on top of the other and lower your bottom hand.  Then bring your bottom weight above the other and continue to repeat.  It looks somewhat like you are climbing a rope or a ladder.  20-30 repetitions should do the trick. Aim for 3-5 sets and you will feel that good burn!



23 thoughts on “My Favorite Things: Upper Body Exercises

  1. Nice workout!! Sounds like you’re working hard in the new year!! I love all of these exercises, especially rows and bicep curls. They work great every time. Love feeling the burn!! 🙂 Have a fabulous day! XOXO

    • I know but you can make some great progress in as little as 15 minutes a day. I just do these while I watch the am news or a show in the evening. It makes a huge difference for me.

  2. Upper arm work is my least favorite thing to do……..but I really want some toned looking arms. Sigh. I like to do a curl-shoulder press combo, and some tricep dips. I can’t count the times I’ve been at the gym and seem some dude (sorry but it’s usually a guy) swinging weights around and using body momentum – that’s not going to bring out them guns!

    • Oh that is so aggravating to see. I know it can be hard to get into the “swing” of things (wink, wink) with doing upper body but this is one where just a little bit of effort will show great results. Any time I take a break and come back I notice the results pretty quickly. Tone arms are one of my faves 🙂

  3. These upper body workouts are so useful! I use free weights at home, but basically do the same few exercises over and over and over. Thanks for the detailed descriptions. Time to shake up my routine!

    • So glad you found these useful. I think this can make a for a great 15-20 minute routine and you will find fast results. Having free weights at home makes this such an easy way to get your workout done. Enjoy!

  4. I agree about the pushups and the vinyasa..before I started Body Pump my strength training was almost exclusively yoga (although now that I do pump I feel myself getting a lot stronger!) These are some of my favorite exercises!

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