02-17-2015

Upper Body Strength For Runners

Random start to this post but I had a good idea for a post I wanted to write the other day, and now I can’t remember what it was for the life of me! So this one will have to do ;)

I’ve noticed that gaining upper body strength has really helped my running. We all know how important core strength is, but upper body strength is just as important. Your arms are what propel you as you’re running, especially during accelerations and/or sprinting to that finish line.

For me, lifting for biceps and triceps isn’t my favorite thing to do. I much prefer exercises like pull-ups, bench press, etc. which hit those bigger muscles. And I believe those are key exercises to help you with your running as well.

Upper Body Strength For Runners

Here are a few exercises to incorporate into your strength routine:

Rows

My favorite type of row is a supported bent over dumbbell row.

Bent Over Row
Photo Source

Single arm (and leg for that matter) exercises utilize more core strength which is obviously a plus. A few cues I’d give for this exercises are:

  • Keep your back flat throughout, don’t let it sag when you lower the weight.
  • As you lower the weight, don’t use momentum to row it back up. I see people lower and let there shoulder and back go down with the weight in order to almost swing it back up. Keep your torso steady as you lower the weight, then before you row up focus on squeezing your shoulder blade/the muscles in that area to row up. Those are the muscles you want to recruit. Try to keep them “flexed” throughout the exercise.

If you have a cable machine, this exercise will really help your running, since it mimics arm strength. I was doing this one about 2-3 times per week:

 

A video posted by pattyrivas13 (@pattyrivas13) on


You want to pick a challenging weight but not one that will cause your torso to move as you pull or let the weight go. Once again, focus on using your back muscles as you pull in (think “squeeze your shoulder blades”)Pull in with force, then let it go slowly (count 3 seconds). That explosive movement will help your arm swing during that last sprint of a track workout or race. Do 3 sets of 10-12 reps to start, and each week try to add more weight.

Those are my 2 favorite exercises for upper body strength relating to running, but here are a few others to incorporate into your routine:

  • Pull-ups (assisted or unassisted)
  • Negative pull-ups
  • TRX rows
  • Barbell or dumbbell overhead press
  • Push-ups (great for core strength too)
  • Bent-over barbell row
  • Inverted row
  • Lying barbell tricep extension (video) –> much more effective than tricep kickbacks and other tricep exercises.
  • Single arm dumbbell overhead press
  • Tricep rope extension

I forget what video I was watching but it was one of Mary Cain doing a track workout, and her coach (Alberto Salazar) was yelling, “Use your arms! Use your arms!” Next time you feel you’re getting tired during a run, workout or race, pump your arms harder. You’ll find that it will help you maintain your pace.

Do you incorporate these exercises into your strength routine? 

What’s your mental tip for when you are really fatigued at the end of a track workout or race but want to finish strong?

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10-22-2014

Add Pull Exercises To Your Routine

Chances are, if you’re like me, you sit at a desk for the majority of your day. This can wreak havoc on your posture and muscles. I wrote once about posture tips in the office, but today I want to talk about what you can do at the gym to help your posture.

Something I learned when I first starting personal training in 2010 was in regards to exercises we do that can either help or end up making our posture worst. Pull exercises are the #1 that can help you maintain better posture (I feel like I already typed posture 10 times and I’m only 2 paragraphs in).

Add These Back Workouts To Your Routine

Most people do push exercises when they’re at the gym, or do a combo of push and pull exercises.

Push exercises include: push-ups, bench press/any type of press

Pull exercises include: pull-ups, rows, pull-downs

I know that banging out a few bench press reps makes you feel awesome and hardcore, but it may not be the best thing for your posture. When you sit at a desk all day, chances are you’re probably hunched over, at least a little bit. That means your shoulders are rounded forward, and as time goes on, they stay like that. Your pectoral muscles get tight, and doing more bench press reps just ends up making it worse…meaning then your shoulders are hunched over, and the vicious cycle continues.

That’s why I suggest doing more pull exercises than push exercises. I rarely even do push exercises to be honest. I’d rather work on my back anyway, which is one of your largest muscle groups. I also have horrible posture so I know going for a bench press PR won’t help me (though I did try this winter haha).

Doing anything that involves pulling will work your back muscles, which is good for a few reasons.

  1. Working a large muscle group like your back means you’re burning more calories, before and after the workout.
  2. Your back muscles are what keeps your posture up and also pulls your shoulders back. A strong back will help correct posture imbalances.

When you start doing more back workouts, just make sure you mix up horizontal pulls (seated row) and vertical pulls (lat pulldown).

MY FAVORITE PULL EXERCISES

Here are a few of my go-tos, and I wrote about more in a previous post as well:

Negative pull-ups

Can’t do a pull-up? No problem. Start with these. These are really tough but will make you stronger really quickly. This exercises focuses on your lats and biceps. Yeah you’re not actually PULLING yourself up but you’re working towards being able to do unassisted pull-ups (if that’s your goal)

Start with lowering in 5 seconds, and work your way up to 10 seconds (aka it takes you 10 seconds before your arms are straight again)

Seated row

I love seated row. It’s probably my favorite exercise and has really helped me build a stronger back. Make sure you sit with your chest up and shoulders back. Shoulders back always!! Pull in with force, then take 3 seconds to let the weight go again. Don’t rush through any of these exercises. Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades as you pull in.

Cable row (Runners, add this to your routine!)

I just started doing this as I’ve been half marathon training and I believe it has really helped me running. Go to a cable machine, pull the cable out a bit and stand in a split stance. Leg that goes back matches with the arm holding the cable. As always, chest up, shoulders back and when you pull make sure to maintain that posture and don’t let your body turn in any way. Your torso should stay facing forward. Pull in with force, then slowly let it out.

She’s not standing in a split stance but her form cues are exactly what you need to be doing.

Why is this great for runners? Because it’s working on your arm strength specific to running. When you need power, what do you do? You pump your arms. You need that arm force. This exercises goes through that exact movement pattern, and as you get stronger you’ll have more power when you need that finishing kick.

To make it more challenging and add in a leg workout too, you can grab the cable, do a reverse lunge, and as you come up do the cable row.

So my main tip? Stop doing as much pushing and start pulling!

Do you do chest AND back exercises or tend to focus more on one?

What’s your favorite pull exercise?

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05-22-2014

My Top Back Exercises

It’s t-shirt and tank top season – which means it’s time to work those back muscles! Working my back is one of my favorite things to do. I always feel really strong while doing back exercises, and it’s a major muscle group which means you’re burning even more calories. I wanted to list out my favorite back exercises, in case you want to add some to your routine. Even if you’re already doing most of these, remember you can switch up your routine bu changing how many sets or reps you do, and increasing the weight you use.

Single Arm Bent-Over Dumbbell Row

Bent-RowSource

This is definitely my favorite. I love doing single arm exercises because you can focus on one side, and also strengthen any weaknesses you may have on one side. Start with whatever side you think you’re weaker on. Focus on keeping your core tight and your back flat. Also focus on squeezing your shoulder blade as you pull up…engage that muscle!

T-Bar Row

t-bar_rows copybigSource

I only really started doing T-Bar rows when I started the Get Swole program, but I love them. Talk about a full-body exercise! You’re really working your core and lower back because you’re lifting the weight while in a bent-over position. If you’re lower back hurts as you are pulling up, the weight is too heavy for you. Always remember to keep a flat back and core engaged. A good cue I give people during any exercise is chest up, shoulders back.

Seated Cable Row

Intense-20-Minute-Back-Workout-Seated-Cable-RowsSource

Another great back exercise that will have you out of breath. Once again you will be using your core to stabilize yourself. As always, remember, CHEST UP SHOULDERS BACK! ;) Also, make sure your shoulders aren’t up by your ears. Relax your traps. Don’t lean back either as you pull it in. Stay in a neutral position. If you have to lean back, it’s too heavy for you.

Inverted Row

modified-rowSource

The great thing about this exercise is that you can do it anywhere. You can use the smith machine bar, or any barbell, or you can use a ramp railing (which is what I usually do at the gym). Engage your core and don’t let your hips sag or go up too far (so that you have an arch in your back).

Pull-Ups

How could I not include this??? Pull-ups are a full body strength exercise, and I’m still working on bringing back my strength so I can do unassisted pull-ups. In the meantime, I’m focusing on the assisted pull-up machine and band assisted pull-ups, which is the picture below:

Band-Assisted-Pull-upSource

As you get stronger, you’ll be able to use thinner and thinner bands. Plus, using a band works your core as well because you need to use it in order to not swing forward as you pull up.

Single Arm Cable Pull Down

Single Arm Pull DownSource

We covered a lot of horizontal pull exercises, so we need some vertical pull in here too. I like doing single arm cable pulls because, as I mentioned with the single arm rows, you’re focusing on each arm at a time, which makes it a bit tougher than using both arms on something like a lat pull down. I like to do these sitting or standing. Pull with force, and then slowly  let it go. This exercise will also help you get stronger with your pull ups.

Here re two chest and back workouts using some of the above exercises. I like combining chest and back because they are opposing muscle groups. I prefer body split routines like this as opposed to full body, which I explained in this post about the benefits of both full body routines and body split routines.

Do one of the workouts for 3 weeks, then switch to the other one. This will help avoid plateau, and help you get stronger!

Feel free to change up any of the exercises, or how many sets/reps you do…this just serves as a starting point :)

chest-and-back-workout

Let me know if you try it out!

Do you like doing back exercises? Which are your favorite?

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04-03-2014

Welcome To The Gun Show Workout

Ready to strengthen those “guns?” 

Here’s a workout that focuses on your upper body, on small muscles (biceps and triceps) and big muscle groups (back) alike. You can use it as a finisher to your normal routine, or do this on it’s own. Repeat it 3-4 times through as its own workout, and finish up with cardio or abs if you’d like! You can find all my other workouts here, or hover over my navigation bar to get a breakdown based on what body part you want to work.

Arms workout

Photo Credit: beyondhue via Compfight cc

As always, here are some helpful YouTube videos for each exercise, if you’re not sure what the correct form is:

Tricep French Press (though you will be doing single arm presses)

Dumbbell Bent Over Row

Dumbbell Overhead Press

Let me know if you decide to try this out!

What is your favorite upper body exercise? Currently, I love to bench press :)

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03-06-2014

Abs & Arms Workout

Ready to torch those abs and arms? Here’s today’s workout for ya:

abs workout

So for the abs portion, I want you to do 100 reps of those exercises. You can choose where you do 20 of each, or you can do 10 of one exercise, 5 of another, 15 of another, etc.

Here are examples of some of the exercises:

Reverse Crunch

Side Plank W/ A Twist

Opposite Arm/Opposite Leg Crunch

After you’re done with abs, move straight into arms. Do those exercises 2-3 times through depending on how you feel. Let me know if you try it out & what you think of the workout!

Do you like working out arms? I’m not a huge fan because I like working out bigger muscle groups, but do it because I know it will help on the bigger lifts.

What arm exercises do you like?

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02-26-2014

Chest and Back Gym Workout

When I was thinking of what my next workout video should be, I decided I wanted to do a gym workout. Most of my videos you can do at-home, and with little to no equipment. But I know some of you like working out at the gym, like I do.

chest and back workout

Here is my chest and back workout for you. In the next week or so, I plan on uploading a leg workout so that you can pair the two and do each workout 1-2x per week.

Instructions

As I mention in the video, you want to do the A1 and A2 exercises 3 times before moving on. So you’ll do bench press and pull-ups for 1 set, take a 30-45 second break, then do another set of bench press and pull-ups, take a 30-45 second break, another set, and THEN move on to B1 and B2 exercises.

If your gym is set up so that bench press is really far away from pull-ups, it’s ok to switch to another back exercises, or do all 3 sets of the bench press, then all 3 sets of pull-ups before moving on. But ideally, you’ll do A1, A2 three times, then move on, etc.

You can watch the video and pause after each exercise so that you hear the cues, or you can take my printable with you to the gym!

Sets and Reps

It’s 3 sets of 12 reps for everything, so find a good weight for you to complete those reps. It should be a weight that is challenging in those last 2-3 reps. If you finish and feel like you could do more, then increase your weight. If you increase and can’t complete the reps, just lower back down to another weight and complete the set…nothing wrong with that!

Make sure you record your weights so that you can track your progress. Each week, try to increase your weight by a tiny bit. In 4 weeks, I’ll upload another chest and back workout so you can switch it up.

Here’s the video:

Let me know if you try it!

What are your favorite chest and back exercises?

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01-16-2014

Torch Those Arms Workout

Last week I posted a quad & glute workout, so now it’s time for an arm workout!

arm workoutAll you need is a set of dumbbells. If you only have light dumbbells, you can make it more challenging by doing more reps of each exercises.

Burpees are thrown in there for a full body move, but also some good cardio ;)

For a full body workout, you could do the glute workout, followed by this arms workout.

Let me know if you try it out or have any questions!

What is your favorite upper body exercise? Recently, I’d have to say bench press, even though it is so challenging for me.

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01-02-2014

Upper Body HIIT Workout

For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you may have seen this workout a week or so ago.

Once a week, my brother and I are doing a high intensity interval workout that also incorporates strength. We are currently following a strength training program, but I will talk about that in another post!

This workout focuses on upper body muscle groups, but you will definitely still feel it in your legs during the cardio portions.

Directions:

Perform the first set of 3 exercises 2-3 times through. For each exercises, time yourself for 1 minute and count your reps. In between each exercises take a 45-60 minute break. Once you’re done with the first batch, move onto the second. Your break will be however long it takes you to set up for the second set of exercises – just don’t take too long ;)

My brother and I did each set of exercises 2 times through, and it took a total of 21 minutes. We were huffing and puffing by the end. It’s a short workout, but intense! For a longer workout, just add sets.

The reason you will count your reps is so that the next time you do this workout you can compare your numbers.

One last thing, make sure you focus on form. Yes, you’re trying to get as many reps as possible in 1 minute, but only with good form. For example, I went way slower on squat to curl than I did on barbell rows, because I wanted to get in good squats. Don’t sacrifice form for numbers.

Exercises:

Here are some YouTube links to show you how to do some of the exercises with proper form:

Tricep Pushups

Barbell Bentover Row

Box Jumps

Let me know if you try this workout or have any questions!

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