Upper Body Workouts for High School Cross Country Runners

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Upper body strength training can be beneficial for athletes participating in any high school sport, including cross country runners. Although your legs do most of the work when you’re running, your arms are essential to fluid motion and balance. Because your opposite arm and leg swing together when you run, building strength in your upper body can also help you use your arms to power up hills and sprint to the finish.

Alternating Standing Hammer Curl

Hammer curls strengthen both your biceps, in your upper arm, and your brachioradialis, in your forearm. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms straight at your sides and your palms pointed toward your thighs. Keeping your palm pointed toward your midline, bend your right elbow and bring the weight up until just before it touches the front of your shoulder. Straighten the right arm, and repeat with the left arm. Alternate sides for the desired number of repetitions. Move only your forearm during this exercise. Your upper arm and shoulder should stay stable.

Triceps Kickback

Strengthen the back of your upper arm with triceps kickbacks. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand with your palm facing your thigh. Place your left knee and left hand on a flat bench so your back is flat. Keeping your upper arm in line with your torso, bend your right elbow so your forearm is perpendicular to the floor. Keeping your upper arm stationary, straighten your elbow. Return to the bent elbow position, and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Lateral Raises

Lateral raises strengthen your lateral deltoid, which is the muscle on the outside of your shoulder. Stand holding two dumbbells with your palms facing your thighs. With a slight bend in your elbow, lift the dumbbells straight out to your sides until your arms are parallel to the floor. Lower your arms and repeat.


Stand holding a barbell or two dumbbells in front of you with your palms facing your legs. Keeping your elbows straight, shrug your shoulders and lift the weight so it slides up the front of your thighs. Relax your shoulders, lower the weight and repeat. Shrugs strengthen your upper trapezius, which covers your upper back and part of your neck. Many runners feel fatigue in this area at the end of a race. Strengthening these muscles can help reduce that fatigue.

Tips and Precautions

As a teenager, your ligaments, tendons and bones are still growing so they injure more easily. You’ll need to be careful not to lift weights that are too heavy or to use improper form. If you are unsure of proper form for an exercise, ask your coach or a trainer for assistance. Do two to three sets of each exercise, completing eight to 15 repetitions during each set.