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Upper body training and technique will make you a better runner. Photo: Michael Kappeler/dpa

ExplainerHow to improve your upper body running form – exercises and posture to make you more efficient

  • Running is a full body exercise yet the upper half is often neglected in training and technique, to the detriment of performance
  • Improving your upper body posture and strength will make you more efficient

The upper body is often overlooked by those wanting to improve their running. The legs demand the most attention for obvious reasons, but there is good reason to focus on your upper body too.

Having good technique from the waist up will make you more efficient and ultimately able to run further, faster and for longer. It will also make you less susceptible to injury.

  • Posture

A good posture means the energy expended by your body is used to propel your body forward. With bad posture, energy is lost to other moving parts.

Keep your head up, and look forward. Do not watch your feet or let your chin drop.

Yoga will help your strength and mobility, helping you maintain better posture for running. Photo: Shutterstock

Relax your shoulders. Tense shoulders are a waste of energy. Some runners find it helpful to occasionally tense their shoulders for a second, then relax them back again to ensure they are not unconsciously carrying tension.

Your upper body should be straight, upright if not a little leaned forward. Do not hunch your back or shoulders.

  • Arms

Your arms are crucial in balancing your body and allowing your legs to propel you forward. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees, and hang your upper arm down by your side.

Keep your elbows bent at right angles, and move your arms back and forth, but not too much, or too little. Photo: May Tse

Do not swing too much or too little.

If you are twisting your torso, that is energy wasted in the rotation that should be used to push you forward.

  • Upper body exercises

Strength exercises are crucial to improving your posture and use of arms, and overall efficiency, when running.

  • Core exercises

Core is crucial. Strong and enduring core muscles will help keep you stay upright, avoiding slumping over, and help prevent your body rotating.

You can do the plank or side plank, rigidly holding your body in a straight line.

Try the dead bug, lying on your back, lowering your arms and legs gently towards the ground.

Do body rotations (ironically to prevent rotation) by standing 90 degrees to a pulley/cable weight machine, holding your arms out straight to the side of you and slowly rotating until your arms are in front of your chest.

There are countless core exercises, so keep mixing it up.

  • Strength and mobility exercises

A strong back will help with your posture. Work on your back and your traps.

For example, do lawnmowers, when you lean forward and lift a weight up like you are revving a lawnmower.

Shoulder raises will strengthen your traps. With a straight arm hanging down your side while holding a weight, lift your arm out to the side and lower it again.

Press-ups are great for core and upper body strength. Make them even more effective by holding a weight in each hand. Between each press-up, lift one of the weights to touch your shoulder. This will work your back and your core.

A flexible and mobile upper body will also help, so your body can move unrestricted, and you do not hunch as you get tired.

Try rotating your shoulders, or lifting a broom over your head with straight arms. Do yoga or Pilates to strength and loosen your muscles.