This Running Coach Says Training Your Upper Body Could Improve Your Running Performance—Here’s How

Man performing single-arm cable row in gym
(Image credit: Janko Maslovaric / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Incorporating regular strength training into your routine is one of the best ways to become a better runner, and normally that means a lot of single-leg exercises and core work. But if you completely neglect your upper body you could be missing out on performance benefits.

Running coach, ultra runner and level 4 personal trainer Olga Stignii, who is also captain of Midnight Runners, recently shared a workout on Instagram designed to help runners strengthen the muscles in the arms, core and back.

Intrigued, I got in touch with Stignii to find out why she recommended upper-body work for runners. “A fortified upper body helps you to run stronger for longer,” Stignii told me. “Prioritizing upper-body strength training can elevate your running, enhance endurance, and reduce the risk of injuries as it helps build a strong foundation.

“Arms play a crucial role in propelling you forward, especially during sprints and uphills. With more power in your upper body, you’ll push through fatigue and maintain your pace.”

Take a look at Stignii's Instagram Reel where she demonstrates each of the moves. Complete three sets of 12-15 reps for each exercise. Rest for two minutes between each set to allow your body to recover.

Stignii told me she likes to program compound exercises such as rows, presses and pull-ups, to engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously, which mimics the demands of running.

She also includes exercises that work one side of the body at a time. “Unilateral exercises such as single-arm rows, single-arm presses and unilateral cable machine exercises to address asymmetries and improve balance,” says Stignii.

Alice Porter

Alice Porter is a journalist who covers health, fitness and wellbeing, among other topics, for titles including Stylist, Fit & Well, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Grazia, VICE and Refinery29. When she’s not writing about these topics, you can probably find her at her local CrossFit box.