Runners have a habit of prioritizing strength training from the waist down. It makes sense; we want to fortify the muscles that power our miles while protecting the joints that take the most pounding. But Amber Rees, chief curriculum lead at Barry’s in New York City and co-founder of the Brave Body Project, encourages runners to take a more holistic approach to building and maintaining muscle mass.
“Whether you are training for a marathon or working on building your base mileage, choosing a well-rounded strength-training routine will only benefit you,” Rees tells Runner’s World. “Incorporating upper-body strength into your workout regimen helps with improving overall running efficiency, strength, and power.”
That upper-body workout should include chest exercises that target the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor, a.k.a. the chest muscles.
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The Benefits of Chest Exercises for Runners
Rees explains that “specifically working the chest allows you, as a runner, to have better posture, which will help prevent injury over time,” as postural misalignment can lead to compensations in your form. Proper posture also promotes efficient breathing, while running in a hunched-over position can restrict breathing and cause various performance-hampering problems, from fatigue to spinal instability.
Outside of running, chest strength is a critical component of functional strength. You need strong chest muscles to push yourself up off the ground, to slide a piece of furniture across the floor, or open a heavy door. By programming chest exercises into your regular workouts, you can help ensure that you can independently perform everyday tasks.
How to use this list: Select 2-3 exercises below to incorporate into your strength-training workout. Perform the number of reps listed, resting for up to a minute between sets.
Each move is demonstrated by Rees in the video above, so you can learn the proper form. You will need a set of medium-weight dumbbells and an exercise mat to do all of these exercises.
1. Chest Press
Lie faceup on the floor, knees bent and feet planted. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing away from body, weights over chest with arms straight. With control, bend elbows about 45 degrees away from torso, lowering the weights toward chest. Pause, then press back up. Repeat. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps.
2. Closed-Grip Chest Press
Lie faceup on the floor, knees bent and feet planted. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing each other and dumbbells pressed together, arms straight over chest. With control, bend elbows and lower weights down toward chest, keeping dumbbells together. Pause, then press back up. Repeat. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps.
3. Narrow Press
Lie faceup on the floor, knees bent and feet planted. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing each other, weights over chest with arms straight. With control, lower weights to chest, elbows coming to sides. Pause, then press back up. Repeat. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps.
4. Chest Fly
Lie faceup on the floor, knees bent and feet planted. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing each other and dumbbells pressed together, arms above chest. Slowly open arms out to sides, keeping a slight bend in elbows, and lower weights toward floor. Once wrists are in line with the chest, luft weights back up and together. Repeat. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps.
5. Push-Up to Down Dog
Start in a high plank position (hands slightly wider than shoulder-width, wrists in line with shoulders, legs extended so body forms a straight line from head to toe), then perform one push-up by bending elbows and lowering body to floor, maintaining a straight line with body. Press through hands to push back up to high plank position. Next, go into a downward dog by sending hips up and back into an inverted V position. Return to high plank position and repeat. Perform 2 sets of 10 reps.
Stand with feet hip-width apart. Squat and place hands on floor, then jump feet back into a plank position. Next, jump feet back to hands, then jump straight up to return to standing position, feet coming off the floor. Repeat. Perform 2 sets of 10 reps.