6 Upper Body Exercises to Improve Your Running

When you run, you use your legs, that’s no secret. But, running’s not only about your legs.

That’s because, as you move through space, your core fires, your arms pump, and your entire body works together to drive you forward. So, while logging miles is still the best way for runners to train, don’t forget to train the top half of your body with upper body exercises.

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“Having a strong upper body makes you a more efficient runner,” says Aaptiv Trainer Kelly Chase. “A strong upper body aids in the forward movement of each stride. And one’s abdominals and arm muscles provide support and coordination. All these elements combine to allow the athlete to run more efficiently.”

Aaptiv Trainer Benjamin Green agrees. “If you only focus on your legs for running strength, you are missing out on the benefits a strong upper body offers,” he says.

“Your back and abdominal muscles play a critical role in the transfer of energy as your body propels forward. These muscles will also help stabilize your torso when your arms are moving back and forth. Add proper form and you’re set up for success.”

Both are quick to note, however, that upper body strength is more important for sprinters than distance runners. While the former can use that extra muscle to get out of the starting blocks quickly, the latter might be weighed down by extra weight.

So, if you’re a marathoner, you need to consider how upper body muscle impacts your pace time. But, Chase adds, “If you’re wanting to run long distance for the sake of being able to, and you’re not necessarily doing it for time, then I recommend conditioning your upper body to simply help you be a more efficient runner.”

Okay, let’s get to it. Below are six trainer-approved upper body exercises to add to your workout regimen. Give them a try, and see how they enhance your running.


“This full body exercise strengthens the legs, core, and upper body all in one, because, when we run, we are using our entire body,” says Chase.

Do it: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lower your body into a squat, place your hands on the floor directly in front of you, and jump back into a plank position.

Jump your feet back in, bringing them outside of your hands for a wider base. Then stand up, reach your arms overhead, and jump into the air. That’s one rep.

To mix things up, and to get some extra upper body work, you can also perform a push-up from the plank position, lowering yourself down and pushing yourself back up before jumping your feet in.

Renegade Rows With Push-Ups

Chase likes this particular combo because it’s a push-and-pull anaerobic exercise that works the shoulders, chest, traps, and upper back.

Do it: Start in push-up position with your hands clutching dumbbells, and the dumbbells aligned parallel to your body. Do a push-up. As you push your body up, row one dumbbell up to your side, lower it, and repeat on the other side. That’s one rep.

Dumbbell Overhead Press to Lat Pulldown

Here’s another push-and-pull combo upper body exercise, but this time you’re moving vertically instead of horizontally as you did with the renegade rows. “It targets different angles of the upper body muscles, including the lats, shoulders, and triceps,” says Chase.

Do it: Start with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing forward, and the weights at shoulder height. Press up in a smooth motion. Once you reach the top, slowly lower back down while squeezing your shoulder blades together, just like you’re using the lat pull machine at the gym.

Push-Ups on Stability Ball

“Here you are engaging your core and other muscles for balance on the ball before even doing the push-up,” says Green.

Do it: Place your hands on a stability ball (like this best seller) with your legs straight behind you, just like a normal push-up position. Slowly lower, and then return to the top.

Bench Dips

Dips work your triceps, chest, and shoulders—all things that can improve your running. Green notes that, for an added challenge, place your feet on a stability ball to engage even more muscles.

Do it: Place your hands behind you on a bench, and place both feet flat on the ground with a 90-degree bend in your knees. Lower your body down and then back up in a controlled motion. Aim for three sets of ten reps.

Benjamin’s Burpees

Another advocate of burpees, Green suggests his own unique version of the exercise. “It targets multiple muscles groups at one time and increases your heart rate to ensure your body is ready to go the distance on race day.”

Do it: Start by standing tall, then squat down, and place your hands on the ground. Kick your legs back, do a push-up, and then hold a high plank for five seconds.

Tap your right hand to your left shoulder, then tap your left hand to your right shoulder. Hop your legs back in, jump up, and repeat. Try to accomplish four sets of eight.

Work these upper body exercises for runners into your strength training routine. Take note of how improved strength in your arms, back, and chest helps improve your speed as a runner.

Looking for more tips to training for the big race? Aaptiv has running workouts to help with all of your running goals.

Runners aren’t typically known for their upper body strength, but here’s a list of exercises that can change that. Jordan Foley, an Athletics Canada strength and conditioning coach, says that the upper body shouldn’t be neglected by runners. “It’s important to develop the body holistically. Upper body strength isn’t going to directly influence your outcomes in distance running, but these exercises will help with posture maintenance throughout your daily life and in workouts.”

RELATED: 6 strengthening exercises for glutes and hamstrings

When you fatigue while running, your shoulders can begin to collapse. By focusing on back strength in particular, a runner can improve posture and prevent this. Foley also reminds runners that upper body work likely won’t increase mass. “One of the main concerns for runners would be gaining too much muscle mass in the upper body. For people logging a lot of miles, this is a very unlikely outcome.”

Here are five exercises that require minimal equipment and time that can make a big different in a runner’s posture while running.

RELATED: Hip mobility exercises for runners

Push ups

There are two variations of this push up: hands elevated (as seen above) and the more traditional push up of hands and feet on the ground. Hands elevated is easier, so if you’re just getting started, begin there.


With the TRX row, the more your body is angled toward the ground, the more difficult it will be.

Dumbbell shoulder press

Keep you arms level with your shoulders and increase weight to increase intensity.

Chin ups

Runners can use a resistance band to begin, and slowly work their way toward full body weight.

Band pull apart

Grab an elastic band, shoulder width apart and pull your arms apart until you form a T. This exercise is very good for postural muscles.

Best Upper Body Workout For Runners

Balance out your strength with this quick upper body workout for runners: you’ll improve your running posture and stabilise your frame as you move.

Make sure you warm up for at least five minutes before you do these exercises, either by jogging, brisk walking or using the stationary bike, cross-trainer or rower. Ensure you feel warm before you start.

Perform each of these exercises for 45 seconds, and then rest for 15 seconds before moving onto the next exercise. One circuit should take you around four minutes. Perform the circuit twice, one or two times per week.

Single-arm dumbbell row

This simple exercise works your back muscles

– Place a dumbbell each side of a flat bench.

– Place your right knee on top of the bench and bend forward from your waist until your back is flat and parallel to the floor.

– Place your right hand on the bench for support.

– Use your left hand to pick up a dumbbell and keep your palm facing your torso, and your elbows in.

– Gently pull the dumbbell up to the side of your chest, keeping your elbow in close to your side.

– Lower back down to the start position and repeat.

– Repeat the set on the other side, changing legs so that your left leg is on top of the bench and your right arm does the work.

Watch point: Keep your elbows in and your back flat and don’t twist your upper body during the exercise.

Modified press-ups

Work your chest, shoulders, back and triceps with this tricky move

– Kneel down on the floor and place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.

– Gently lower your body towards the floor.

– Push back up until your arms are straight.

Watch point: Keep your tummy muscles tight to avoid your lower back arching.

Bench dips

Strengthen your triceps, chest and shoulders

– Sit down on the edge of a bench or sturdy chair, and bring your feet shoulder-width apart in front of you.

– Place your arms shoulder-width apart behind you with your fingers facing forwards on the edge of the bench
or chair.

Slowly and under control, lower your body down, bending your arms until they are at a 90-degree angle, then push back up again.

Watch point: To make the exercise easier, bend your legs and bring your feet closer to your body. To make the exercise harder, straighten your legs and move your feet further away. Don’t lock your elbows when you push back up.

Standing dumbbell arm swing

Work your biceps and improve your running arm action

– Hold a pair of light dumbbells in each hand and stand with one foot in front of the other in a split stance to help you balance.

– Swing your arms back and forth to mimic the arm action of running.

– Pump your arms up and down, not across your body.

Watch point: Position yourself in front of a mirror so that you can make sure your arms aren’t moving across your body. Switch on your core to keep you stable during the exercise.

Does Running with Weights Make You Stronger?

Running with weights does offer several fitness benefits, including:

Calorie burn

Running with added weight means your body needs to exert more energy than normal to cover the same ground distance at the same speed. That means you’ll burn more calories.

Moving your body weight across a certain distance at a certain speed takes a certain amount of energy expenditure. When you add weight onto that amount, the energy required goes up.

According to ACE, doing aerobic activity while using one- to three-pound arm or hand weights will make you burn about 5 to 15 percent more calories.

Strength building

Running with weights can help you build more strength than regular running in someways, but not all.

The research

  • One study looked at young men who wore weighted vests of 5 to 10 percent of their body weight during everyday activities. Researchers found that wearing a weighted vest during aerobic training sessions can measurably improve speed and agility. Strength and power, however, weren’t meaningfully affected.
  • Another study found improvement in postmenopausal women’s isokinetic strength after 12 weeks of running with weighted vests.
  • In a 2012 study on adults with overweight and obesity, aerobic training was less effective at increasing lean muscle than some aerobic training combined with some targeted resistance training.

Muscle fibers

Different kinds of training will benefit different types of muscle fibers. Steady-state endurance training, like moderate-intensity running with low or no added weights, may help improve slow-twitch muscle fibers. These are the kind most important to sustained running.

Running with weights isn’t necessarily a good way to improve your fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are the kind of muscles associated with explosive power or higher-intensity force.

In the future

More research is needed in order to know exactly how much functional strength and muscle mass running with weights is likely to increase.

There aren’t currently any comprehensive studies on humans that measure meaningful differences in strength and mass before and after beginning to run with weights.

Heart rate

Checking your heart rate is one way to measure the intensity of your exercise. Running with wrist or ankle weights, between one and three pounds per side, may increase your heart rate by 5 to 10 beats per minute, according to ACE.

A higher heart rate could be a good thing or a bad thing for your running, depending on your goals. If you’re just starting out, you likely won’t have trouble reaching a high enough heart rate. But if you’re a seasoned runner, you might want additional weight to boost your exercise intensity.

You can calculate the best heart rate zones for your goals using a variety of online calculators, but field testing your maximum and resting heart rates is the most accurate.

Max Heart Rate Targets

If your goal is to burn the highest percentage of calories from fat, you want your heart rate between:

  • 60 and 75 percent

If your goal is heart health and cardiovascular performance, you want your max heart rate to be between:

  • 75 and 80 percent

We get it—strength training is hard. And it can be intimidating for those who are relatively new to it. For those reasons, many of us tend to shy away from it, especially when it comes to arm workouts. Why do you even need a strong upper body for running, anyway? Aren’t your legs doing most of the work anyway?

“While arm swing isn’t as important in endurance running as it might be in sprinting, distance runners still rely on a powerful arm swing for counterbalance, especially for that finishing end-of-race kick,” says running and strength coach Mary Johnson, founder of Lift|Run|Perform.

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That’s why building strength in your arms and upper body can greatly improve your performance, and benefit your overall health, too. Lifting regularly helps prevent health issues such as osteoporosis, arthritis, obesity, heart disease, depression, and diabetes, according to the Mayo Clinic.

That said, even though you know something is good for you, it can be hard to motivate yourself to do it if it’s out of your comfort zone (let’s be real, we’ve all passed over a kale salad before). That’s why we asked Johnson to create the best arm workout specifically designed for those of us who don’t want to do the same monotonous basic exercises such as biceps curls and triceps extensions over and over again.

Johnson’s workout is an arm circuit that will keep you moving so you don’t get bored. The two major arm-based movement patterns are pushing and pulling, Johnson says, so including both movements in any total-body routine is ideal. Generally speaking, pushing exercises are chest-based, and pulling exercises are back-based. And remember: Every time you lift a weight, you should be bracing your core. That way, you get an abdominal workout in, too.

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How to use this list: The exercises below are demonstrated by a variety of certified trainers and run coaches so you can master the perfect form. Incorporate this arm circuit into your regular training routine once or twice a week to improve your form and boost your power out on the roads and trails. You will need a set of medium-weight dumbbells, a TRX (or similar suspension system), and a bench. An exercise mat is optional.

Perform 3 Rounds of the Following:

1. Dumbbell Floor Press

Lie faceup with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and dumbbells in both hands at chest. Press the weights straight up then lower back down to your chest, elbows touching the floor. Make sure to pinch your shoulder blades together as you come back down. Then immediately press up again. Repeat for 8 to 12 reps.

2. TRX Low Row

Shorten the TRX straps so that handles line up with hips. Stand facing the anchor point, grab handles with palms facing each other, and lean backward with arms straight until you feel tension on the straps. To make it easier, walk further away from the anchor point. To make it harder, walk closer to the anchor point. Engage shoulders and back to pull chest up to the handles, then return to start. Repeat for 8 to 12 reps.

3. Plank

Julia Hembree Smith

Start on all fours. Lower onto your forearms with shoulders directly over elbows. Step feet back into a plank position. Draw your shoulders down and back—not hunched. Engage abdominal muscles tight to keep hips in line with shoulders so your body forms a long, straight line. Squeeze legs and glutes for support. Hold this position for 30 to 45 seconds. Gradually add time as your core gets stronger. The more you do planks, the easier it’ll be to work your way up, but there are no additional benefits to holding a plank longer than two minutes.

Then Perform 3 Rounds of the Following:

1. Alternating Bent-Over Row

Start standing with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing each other. With a micro-bend in your knees, send hips back and lower your torso until it’s nearly parallel to the floor. Keep arms straight as you bend at hips so the dumbbells hang straight down. Bend left elbow to pull the left dumbbell to left rib. Lower and repeat with right arm. That’s one repetition. Repeat for 10 to 12 reps.

2. Elevated Push-Up

Place hands on a sturdy box or bench with arms should be straight, shoulders directly over wrists, core engaged so the rest of your body forms a straight line. Bend elbows to lower chest to the surface, then press back up to starting position. Repeat for 8 to 10 reps.

3. Side Plank With Leg Lift

Start in a high plank position with wrists under shoulders and core engaged, then roll to your left forearm. Place right arm on hip. Squeeze your glutes and lock your hips out. Lift your left leg six to eight inches and repeat for 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat on other side.

All images: Julia Hembree Smith

Danielle Zickl Associate Health & Fitness Editor Danielle specializes in interpreting and reporting the latest health research and also writes and edits in-depth service pieces about fitness, training, and nutrition.

Best Arm Workout For Runners

Each exercise is two minutes, so one round is 8 minutes. Repeat twice more for a total of 24 minutes of strength training. You’ll need weights: two 7.5-12.5kg dumbbells.

You want to train muscle memory, so intensity while maintaining form is the key here. It’ll be tough, so each time you start hitting the wall channel the words of the legendary Steve Prefontaine: “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”

Kneeling Shoulder Press

Kneel with your weights in each hand, your arms at 90 degree angles and your palms facing forward. Exhale as you press weights overhead, keeping your back straight. Inhale as you return to start.

ONE MINUTE both arms at same time

ONE MINUTE alternate one arm at a time

Tricep Crushers

Lie on a bench or the floor with weights in each hand, extended to the ceiling, your palms facing into each other. Position the weights above your face, then lower to your ears by bending at the elbow only. Exhale as you return the weights to the ceiling, finishing with the weights over your face.

ONE MINUTE both arms at same time

ONE MINUTE alternate one arm at a time

V-SIT Hammer Curls

Sit on a bench/stool/coffee table with weights in each hand, your hands by your sides and your palms facing into your legs. Lean back and lift feet off the floor, until you balance on your tail bone. Exhale and curl weights towards shoulders. Inhale as you return to start.

ONE MINUTE both arms at same time

ONE MINUTE alternate one arm at a time

Tricep Dips

Sit on a bench or chair and place hands on the edge with fingers pointing forwards, your legs extended straight in front. Slide your butt off the chair and lower towards the floor, keeping lower back as close to the chair as possible. If too hard, bend knees by moving feet closer to chair – not by moving back away from the chair.

ONE MINUTE both arms at same time

ONE MINUTE alternate one arm at a time

Sandy Macaskill is an instructor and co-owner of Barry’s Bootcamp in the UK

Runners often think doing upper body work will cause them to carry more weight during the race—dashing hopes of a PR. That might be the case if you’re building big, bulky “vanity muscles” (think numerous bicep curls in the mirror) with no real benefit.

But many upper body exercises actually help you improve vital things like your form. That’s where these at-home upper body moves from Dr. Jordan Metzl, creator of the IronStrength Workout for Runner’s World, can come in handy.

“They’ll build an upper musculature—arms, shoulders, chest, upper back—that will make you more athletic and improve subtler things like posture,” writes Dr. Metzl in his new book—Dr. Jordan Metzl’s Workout Prescription.

Perform the following three moves for one minute each. That’s one set. Rest for one minute before repeating the set, aiming for three complete sets.

Single-Leg Pushup

Matt Rainey

Assume a pushup position. While descending, lift your right leg 8 to 10 inches off the floor. Return to the starting position and descend again, this time raising your left leg. Alternate for the allotted time. Perform the move as many times as you can for one minute.

Squat Clean and Press

Matt Rainey

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a pair of dumbbells just below your waist, palms facing in. Push your hips back and squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor, while lowering the dumbbells toward the floor. While still in the squat, bring the dumbbells up to your shoulders. Push through your heels and stand back up, pressing the dumbbells over your head so that your arms are straight. Return to the starting position. Perform the move as many times as you can for one minute.

Person Maker

Matt Rainey

Assume a pushup position, grasping one dumbbell in each hand. Row the dumbbell in your right hand up to the side of your chest, then lower it to the floor. Do the same with your left arm, then do a pushup. After the pushup, quickly tuck your legs in toward your chest and stand up, lifting the dumbbells from the floor into an overhead press. Reverse the pattern and return to the starting position. Perform the move as many times as you can for one minute.

Brian Dalek Director of Content Operations, Runner’s World & Bicycling Brian has spent the last 10 years focused on creating compelling news, health, and fitness content—with a particular interest on enthusiast activities like running and cycling.

Today is one of my favorite posts of the whole month: the monthly workout round up with five other amazing running bloggers! This month we’re sharing 6 upper body workouts for runners.

Many runners neglect their upper body in strength training (I’ve been guilty of this in the past!) in favor of training the lower body. Strengthening the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and core is vital for injury-free running and overall strength, so it makes sense that runners gravitate towards squats, lunges, and bridges. And by no means should you neglect those!

However, adding even one day of upper body strength training to your weekly routine will positively impact your running. Why? Your posture and arm swing play a key role in maintaining an efficient and proper running form.

A strong back and shoulders will help you maintain an upright posture as you run. Slouching causes inefficiency in running, which is the last thing you want during a race or long run!

Strong arms and shoulders mean a powerful arm swing. Your feet follow your arms when running. By keeping your arms swinging forward (not across the body or with chicken wings) you avoid unnecessary energy waste and by pumping your arms quickly, you increase your stride rate (cadence).

Plus, let’s be honest: many of us wouldn’t mind having chiseled arms like Molly Huddle or Shalane Flanagan.

Single arm kettlebell swings: Hold the kettlebell in your right hand and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Keep your shoulder blades down and back and your core engaged and hold the kettlebell in front of your body, between your legs. Hinge at the hips and swing the kettlebell up until your arm is parallel with the floor (the power should come from your glutes and core). Lower and repeat.

Pushups: Begin in plank position with your arms beneath your shoulders, core engaged, and back flat. Lower down until your elbows are bent, then push back up to complete one rep. If need be, perform these on your knees.

Bent over rows: Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand. Hinge forward at your hips, keep your back flat and core engaged, and let your arms extend down in front of you. Engage your shoulder blades and pull up the weights to your chest, pause, and then slowly lower to complete one rep.

Pushups to side plank: Perform a pushup and then rotate into a straight-armed side plank with your left arm on the floor and hold for 2-3 seconds. Return to plank, do another pushup, and then rotate into a straight-armed side plank on your right arm. Repeat, performing an equal number of reps on each side.

Plank ups: Begin in a raised plank, with back flat and core engaged. Lower your one arm down so your forearm is resting on the floor and then follow with the other arm. Pause in forearm plank, and then reverse the movement to raised plank to complete one rep.

Shoulder press: Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand and raise your arms to rest by your shoulders. Extend your arms and push the weights straight up, pause, and lower slowly down. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Single leg pushup: Perform as you would for a normal pushup, but raise one leg in the air. Be sure to keep your back flat and your abs engaged and drop to one knee if needed. Do all reps on one side, then repeat with the other leg in the air.

Sarah from Run Far Girl’s workout pumps up your heart rate with bits of cardio as you strengthen your upper body.

Challenge your core by adding a stability ball to your upper body workout, like Angela from Happy Fit Mama does in her workout!

Want triathlete arms? Try Allie from Vita Train 4 Life’s upper body workout!

Want to work your core as well? Try Carly from Fine Fit Day’s upper body workout!

Nellie at Brooklyn Active Mama’s workout will leave you with shredded shoulders and toned biceps!

What’s your favorite upper body strength exercise?
What’s your workout today?

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When it comes to running, the lower body gets a lot of the limelight—the musclesgroups from heel to hip, in particular. But while strong glutes and hamstrings will get you to the finish line, it’s a solid upper body that’ll help you chase down your personal best.

Danny Mackey, head coach for the Seattle-based Brooks Beasts Track Club, says “communication” between the upper and lower body, and balance between the two, is crucial. “When there’s a weak link in the chain, like powerless arms, your body isn’t going to run as efficiently,” he says.

Racking up miles should be your focus when training, but Mackey says incorporating some upper-body strength work into your routine will help you in the long run. (Heh.) As you start to fatigue during a race, your form tends to break down, but stable arms and shoulders will help you maintain a forward lean, he says. “Your elbows should bend at 90–120 degrees for sprinting and be tucked in by your sides. The angle of your elbows in the front should be less than the angle in the back for perfect form,” Mackey says.

“When there’s a weak link in the chain, like powerless arms, your body isn’t going to run as efficiently.”

You also want to swing your arms from your shoulders, not the elbows, and the opposite arms and legs should be in sync when running. This will help give you that last push you need when your legs are fatigued. “If you don’t swing your arms properly, the result is that your strides are shortened,” Mackey explains.

Photo: Stocksy/Guille Faingold

A variety of push, pull, and balance exercises for the arms and shoulders are recommended, but Mackey also stresses the importance of working your back. Training the entire posterior chain from your calves up to your neck will help deepen that connection between the upper- and lower-body. “There’s fascia line that goes from one shoulder to the opposite glute. You want to make sure that line of communication is strong. Sometimes, a weak glute can be linked to a weak shoulder,” Mackey says.

And how often should you be doing these exercises? Mackey suggests four reps of each for three to four rounds at least once a week. Lifting heavier with lower reps will help you build more endurance. “Running is a high-rep, low-weight exercise, so when you strength-train with heavier weights, it trains different muscle fibers,” he says. “It creates variability in your training and also prevents burnout.”

How Running Changes Your Body (Most Of It’s Good)

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Taking up running will change your life. I mean it. running isn’t just a way of exercising, it’s joining a community (and not in a scary religious cult type of way). Yet the question most would-be runners want to know is “How running changes your body”.

Most of it’s good. Really good. But if you’re body obsessed, or just trying to get in shape, I’m sure you’ll want a few more details. Here’s my observations from a life spent running…

You Will Lose Body Fat

It’s simple really, weight loss is about the balance between calories in verses calories out. Running is a great way to burn calories. You burn nearly double the amount of calories compared with walking. Develop a regular running habit and you will lose weight.

There is a caveat. Running makes you hungry. If you’re running to lose weight, make sure you combine running with a healthy eating plan.

Strength building exercises and high intensity interval training (HIIT) will boost your metabolism AND do wonders for your running.

Your Thighs Will Become Toned

Always wanted to get rid of fat at the top of your thighs? Running is the answer. It’s hard to think of any regular runners who don’t have toned thighs.

Running gives your legs a terrific workout. Run regularly and your thigh fat will be history.

Reading Tips For How Running Changes Your Body

This is a downside. To be fair, it’s a downside to losing weight full stop. Most women (and men) will lose weight off their chest when they take up running.

You can still have an attractive cleavage. Just make sure you wear a sports bra even if your breasts are small (no-one wants saggy boobs).

You Will Develop Envious Calf Muscles

Best chat up line ever? Walking around a bookstore in Sydney I was asked “How did you get such great calf muscles? You must be a runner!”

Now my calf muscles have been admired by many, but using it as a chat up line was a first!

Running will build your calf muscles giving you shapely legs.

There is a downside. You will no longer be able to fit into skinny jeans, skinny boots or anything that requires stick thin skinny legs. Will it bother you? I doubt it. You’ll be too busy running…

Your Arms Will Shrink

This is another downside of losing weight. If you’re running intensely, the muscles you’re not using will slim down. That means no more arm muscles.

There is a way to prevent weedy arms. Combine running with yoga or any other weight bearing exercise that give your arms a good workout.

You Will Have The Best Butt Ever

Running doesn’t just tone your legs, it tones everything below the waist. Think stomach muscles of steal and a butt to die for.

When you run you’re really working your gluteal muscles. That means an envious butt without having to hit the gym.

You’ll Sleep Better

Physical exercise increases the amount of time in deep sleep and can help with insomnia. The only proviso is to avoid intense activity in the hours before bedtime.

Run earlier in the day and feel the benefits when it’s time to get some shut eye. Sleep soundly and awaken refreshed.

You’ll Feel Terrific

Running just makes you feel great. It gives you energy, builds confidence and makes you more outgoing. However, when it comes to “How running changes your body” it’s about more than just the physical side.

It’s a wonderful way of making friends and you’ll find yourself enjoying your journey towards becoming a fitter, healthier person.

Being able to move better, run to catch a bus, get the maximum use out of your body, just makes you feel terrific.

You’ll Stop Overthinking Everything

The runner’s high isn’t a myth. Running releases endorphins creating a natural high. This way you get to feel good without any side effects.

It could be the endorphins or just the benefits of exercise, but running creates positive outlooks, helps you stop overthinking and sweating the small stuff. Life’s just better when you’re running regularly.

I hope this insight into “how running changes your body” will convert you to take up running. It’s been a big part of my life for years and taken me on all sorts of adventures. I’d love to hear about yours…

Frequently Asked Questions – How Running Changes Your Body

How running changes your body?

Running changes your body by burning body fat and building muscles. Expect to lose fat at the top of your thighs, build stomach muscles of steal and a butt to die for the weight. When you run you’re really working your gluteal muscles. That means an envious butt without having to hit the gym. Running increasing your strength and endurance plus interval training can boost your metabolism. You’ll lose weight if you combine running with a calorie controlled diet.

How does running change a woman’s body?

Running is a great way to burn calories and can help with losing body fat. However, if you’re trying to lose weight, you need to combine running with a healthy eating plan. Running will tone your legs and give you a perfect butt. There’s a good chance your boobs will shrink. Running makes you feel terrific. It’s not just a runner’s high, you feel more energetic, it builds confidence and makes you more outgoing.

Can you get in shape by just running?

Running is excellent cardio and if you combine running with healthy eating you can achieve a really high standard of fitness. But running does neglect some muscle groups, especially your arms, so it’s good to add one or two weekly gym workouts, yoga or HIIT to your training schedule.

What happens to your body when you run every day?

It’s best for most runners to take at least one rest day a week. Beginner runners should run no more than alternate days. Running every day won’t give your body a chance to recover and could lead to injury. Building up to a routine of running just 1 to 2 miles a day is achievable and will have terrific cardio benefits such as reduced risk of heart disease. Running is a terrific way to get in shape.

Will running 2 miles a day tone my body?

Running 2 miles a day will definitely tone your body. For best results combine running with healthy eating. If you’re a beginner runner don’t jump right into running every day. You need rest days for your body to recover and to reduce risk of injury.

Does running make you skinny?

Running is an excellent cardio exercise. The intensity of the exercise can mean you burn more calories per minute compared with walking, cycling on the flat or swimming. Weight loss happens when you use up more calories than you consume. Running can help you lose weight provided you don’t over-eat afterwards. You need a calorie deficit to lose weight and running can be a terrific aid to achieve this.

That sleeveless dress is beautiful, but what about my arms?’ If you’ve said this (or thought it), you’ll know that one of the most niggly things about ageing is how our arms lose their tone. According to new Mintel research, 25% of women dislike their arms, and brands like Spanx and M&S now sell control shapewear specifically for them!

But why does the strength and tightness of our upper limbs disappear over time? Turns out, there are age and lifestyle related changes at play.

‘Muscle mass naturally declines with age,’ says Zana Morris, fitness expert and founder of The Clock gyms. In fact, some studies suggest we lose 1%-2% of muscle a year from the age of 50. Plus, as you lose muscle, your metabolic rate goes down, which is why it’s easier to gain weight as you age – even if you’re not eating any more.

Changing hormones also contribute to the problem. This is because dwindling oestrogen levels means there’s less to convert into testosterone, which is crucial for muscle building.

The result?

You have to work harder to maintain muscle mass. ‘We also lose collagen and other connective tissues in our skin, which can cause our arms to lose their elasticity and sag,’ says Zana. No prizes for guessing that weight gain, weight loss and yo-yo dieting can also trigger it.

However, it needn’t be this way. The answer is to do cardiovascular exercise to boost your metabolism and reduce excess fat, as well as strength training (also known as resistance training) to build your arm muscles. To do strength training, you don’t need to lift weights (unless you want to), nor do you have to do hours of push-ups.

You can get strong, sleek arms with resistance bands or doing arm-challenging Pilates or yoga poses that strengthen and lengthen the muscles. Simple at-home arm exercises will make a real difference, too.

It’s important to know there’s no magic bullet, particularly with the stubborn fat that runs from under your upper arm down to your elbow. This is because your underarms aren’t actually one muscle, but many muscles, including the triceps and shoulders. As a result, you need to work these in lots of different ways with a variety of exercises.

Also, let’s get one thing straight: working with weights or doing weight classes like Body Pump and Kettle Bells won’t make you ‘bulk up’, because the majority of women don’t have enough testosterone for this to happen. Also, know that (sadly) workouts can’t fix large amounts of excess loose skin, but they can tighten the whole area, making a difference in how you feel about your arms.

Need more convincing to strengthen up? Arm-strengthening workouts also help to keep your bones healthy, reducing your risk of osteoporosis.

‘Workouts with things that are weighted, or where you need to support your body weight, stimulate bone formation as, during these types of activities, our skeleton adapts to the pressure of gravity by building more bone,’ says Dr Michael Stone, director of bone research at Cardiff University Academic Centre. And, of course, feeling fit and strong makes life more enjoyable – and that marmalade jar easier to unscrew, too.


Your 90-second daily strength-training workout:

These quick-but-effective strength training moves will help you get stronger, more naturally-defined arms, says Zana Morris. Do as many as you can of each exercise for 30 seconds before quickly moving on to the next exercise to really get your heart pumping. Over time, you’ll be able to do more of each exercise in the timeframe.

  • Press-ups – Keep your knees on the floor to begin (known as a kneeling press-up) until you’re strong enough to do it with straight legs.
  • Tricep dips – With your back to a solid bench or chair (make sure it’s anchored), position your hands on to the chair. With your knees bent, lower your body down until your shoulders are slightly stretched. Now push yourself back up to the starting position and repeat.
  • Overhead tricep press with weights – Holding a weight (or a big bottle of water) directly above your head, bend arms fully then stretch them back towards the ceiling. Keep your upper arms behind your ears throughout.


Cardiovascular workouts that help tone your arms:

It’s advised to do 150 minutes of moderate activity every week. These ideas area good way to get started, plus they make your arms a thing of beauty.

  • BOXING – Thanks to an avalanche of women’s boxing clubs and popular boxing training classes like Body Combat, the hottest arm-sculpting workout right now involves an uppercut, jab and left hook.
  • SWIMMING – Breaststroke and front crawl are great arm- toners. Want to work harder? Try doing your lengths with a float between your legs, or swim in lakes, rivers or the open sea where you have to work against the current.
  • CYCLING – It gets you from A to B and involves an arm workout, as you are supporting your upper body for long periods of time.
  • NORDIC WALKING – Stepping out with a set of poles is a simple way to tone your upper-body muscles.
  • SKIPPING – Works all the major muscles in your arms and shoulders – all you need is a rope and some room!
  • ROWING – Whether on water or using a machine in your living room, you’ll be burning cake-loads of calories while really challenging your arms.
  • TENNIS – Research has shown that tennis players have more muscle and higher bone density in their serving arm than their non-serving arm

And if you only buy one thing… make it a resistance band!

Resembling giant elastic bands, these are light and small but can be as effective as using weights.

BUY NOW: Insonder Resistance Bands, £6.99, Amazon

Try this: Put your right foot on one end of the band (and hold the other end in your right hand). Exhale and slowly raise your arm out in front of you, then extend it upwards into the air. Inhale and then return to the starting position. Perform 15-20 reps with each arm, then repeat three times.


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8 Exercises For Strong, Toned Arms

When you want to tone your arms, choose a variety of exercises to hit all the major muscles. The big muscles in your arms are the biceps and triceps. Your biceps run along the front of your arm. There are actually two muscles that make up the biceps. One is closer to your elbow and one runs on top of that muscle all the way into the shoulder.

On the back of your arm, there are three muscles known as the triceps. One goes all the way up into your shoulder and down to your elbow. The other two start on your humerus, the arm bone, and insert into the elbow.

Building up your shoulder muscles helps round out the appearance of your arms, so they deserve some attention as well. The shoulder muscles are called the deltoids, and there are three parts: the front, middle and back.

Women tend to store more fat on their limbs and men tend to store more fat in their stomach and chest cavity according to this 2013 study. There are definitely exceptions to this rule, but that’s what the human body tends toward. It’s healthier for women because there’s less fat around their organs, but it also means they may have a harder time getting that ripped, defined look in their arms and legs.

Keep in mind that building the muscles in your body is only half the equation. The other half is weight loss, which means you have to lower your calorie intake and exercise more. Burning more calories than you consume makes you lose weight over time and reveals the muscles that you’ve been working hard for in the gym.


If you do each of these eight exercises at least once per week, you’ll work all areas of your arms and shoulders. For each exercise, perform 8–12 repetitions. If you can do 12, use a heavier weight during your next workout to make it more challenging. Three sets per exercise is plenty. You can also break it up and do four exercises in one workout then the remaining four in your next upper-body workout.


The pushup isn’t flashy, new or exciting. However, it’s one of the most effective upper-body exercises. You don’t even need equipment to do it.

The move: To do a pushup, start with your hands under your shoulders and arms straight. Lower yourself down until your chest touches the ground, then press back up until your arms are straight.

If you’re struggling to do a full pushup, start with an incline. Put your hands on an elevated surface like a chair or couch. If that’s still too difficult, put your hands on a wall to practice. Keep your body straight, don’t let your butt sag and go as low as possible. Over time, you can decrease the amount of incline you use and begin doing full pushups from the floor.


For the sake of time, you might as well combine two arm exercises into one.

The move: Grab a pair of dumbbells and hold them by your sides. Curl them up toward your shoulders, turning your palms up. When you reach your shoulders, press the dumbbells overhead. As you press up, turn your knuckles back toward the wall behind you. Come back down to your shoulders then reverse curl back down to your sides and repeat.


Use light weights for this shoulder-burner. Single-digit weights are enough for beginners. If you’ve been using weights for a while grab something in the teens.

The move: Stand tall with your knees slightly bent and chest up. Raise the dumbbells in front of you at the same time. Keep your elbows straight. Bring them back down, then raise the dumbbells out to the side with your elbows slightly bent. Continue to alternate between forward and side raises.


Grab a TRX and lean back with your arms straight. This is the same starting position as a TRX row.

The move: With your palms facing up, curl your hands in toward your shoulders. As you curl, don’t let your arms lower toward your sides. The only thing moving should be your forearm and elbow. Everything else remains in place.


This exercise develops your triceps and helps you work on your pushup technique.

The move: Start at the top of pushup position. Bend one arm so you’re resting on your forearm and other hand. Bend the other arm and place your forearm on the ground so you’re in a low plank position. Then, straighten your other arm, plant your hand and straighten your elbow. Straighten your other arm and plant your hand so you’re back to the top of the pushup position.


While this is technically a cardio exercise and not weightlifting, your arms will benefit from the intense workout. Few cardio exercises work your arms as much as battle ropes.

The move: Grab the ropes, one in each hand, and slam them rapidly one at a time. To switch things up, you can slam them at the same time. Try to make ripples in the rope that go all the way from your hands to the end of the rope.


The move: Grab two dumbbells, around the same weight you would use for a bicep curl, and lie back on a bench. Hold the dumbbells up with your elbows straight. Bend your arms but keep your elbows pointed toward the ceiling. Bring the dumbbells down until they’re next to your head, then press back up until your elbows are straight.


Many people swing with their upper body to gain momentum when they do bicep curls. This makes it easier to use more weight but you’re not getting the most out of the exercise. Check your ego by performing bicep curls lying on a bench.

The move: Set the incline slightly higher than halfway up. It should be about 60 degrees of incline. Lie on the bench with your arms dangling straight down. You might feel a stretch in this bottom position. Curl the weights up toward your shoulders, then back down. Keep your palms facing up as you curl up.

Upper body exercises for runners

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