Running Strong - Crank & Pistons

By John Withinshaw

While a lot of emphasis is put onto the legs regarding running and running training. It's just as important to put focus into the upper body too.

Whilst we're not trying to be body builders, physique models or cross-fit athletes here, upper body strength has a serious part to play in our running technique.

Think of it like a car engine. Without the pistons driving the crank the car will not move (no jokes about electric cars please).

So thinking of your abdomen/core as your crank, connecting your upper and lower body.

Your upper body and arms are the pistons.

Look at Usain Bolt when he runs, or all sprinters for that matter.

The faster he/they pump heir arms the faster their legs go.

This is true for all runners, not just sprinters.

A strong upper body is therefore super important and immensely beneficial, provided you have good core engagement or in terms of a car, a good crank.

I'm a big fan of utilising body weight work,resistance bands and kettlebells too.

Here are a couple of workouts you can add to your program a couple of times a week;


Simple Body Weight Workout

Do this as a circuit keeping rest between exercises as minimal as possible. Rest between rounds for 2 - 3 minutes and complete 5 - 6 rounds. Here we have exercises that work the upper body and core.

Pull ups - any grip 3 - 8 reps Press ups - close grip 8 - 15 reps

Good mornings 8 - 15 reps

Leopard crawls 4 steps forward, 4 steps back on each side

Cross body mountain climbers 8 - 15 each side

Dead bugs 8 - 15 each side


Resistance Bands For An Added Challenge


Do this as a circuit keeping rest between exercises as minimal as possible. Rest between rounds for 2 - 3 minutes and complete 5 - 6 rounds. Here we have exercises that work the upper body and core. Choose a band that will challenge you but not be impossible. You must have full range of motion for each exercise. As the late Charles Poloquin said, 'Strength is only gained in the range it is trained'.

Shoulder Press 8 - 15 reps

Seated Rows 8 - 15 reps

Deadlifts 8 - 15 reps

Rotations 8 - 15 reps each side

Resisted Clams 8 - 15 each side

Emerging pattern 8 - 15 each side


One For The Kettlebells

Do this as a circuit keeping rest between exercises as minimal as possible. Rest between rounds for 2 - 3 minutes and complete 5 - 6 rounds. Here we have exercises that work the upper body and core. Make sure you're fully capable and trained in how to use kettlebells before attempting this workout. It is an out of balance weight and will require full abdominal tension and diaphragmatic breathing to complete safely.

Suitcase deadlift (heavy) 5 - 10 reps each side

One arm row (heavy) 5 - 10 each side

Double Kb military press 8 - 12 reps

2 handed swing (heavy) 15 - 20 swings

Kick throughs 8 - 12 each side

These are just a few examples of some workouts I've used over the past few months. I find a circuit style keeps good intensity and prevents the workout getting boring with reps and sets.



You can mix these together and create your own version as you please but there are key elements within each as they target specific areas, mostly targeting running mechanics.

Always start with a comfortable weight until you get the hang of what you're doing. Increase when you feel ready and the workout becomes easy.

I suggest at least 2 sessions per week, more if you feel you need it, inter-spliced with whatever running sessions you're doing.

I've given you the basics, there are some more complex exercises to choose from on my You Tube channel which you now have access to.

Please do let me know if you use any of these and how you get on. I'm always interested in your running, training and workout experiences.


In Fitness & In Health

John 'Work The Pistons' Withinshaw

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