Back Strengthening For High School Runners

The homestretch of a cross-country race is not a lot a test of who has the most running endurance, however of who has the very best running economy. In the last 100 meters, with shot hamstrings and buckled legs, your body is required to utilize alternative muscles to get across the goal: strong arms to drive your stride, stable hip flexors to keep your legs in line, and a strong core to make the most of air circulation and keep you upright and efficient.

Crossing over to non-economic running– or “striking the wall”– is often a significant shift, marked by a high slowdown of pace and exaggerated body language.

To prevent striking the wall, runners need to much better their running economy by strengthening their bodies– not simply their legs. Structure upper body, core and back strength, as well as reinforcing hip flexors and glutes, will help power you through the goal.

Here are a 7 exercises that Saucon Valley High School cross-country coach Ed Kolosky of Hellertown, Pennsylvania, utilizes to develop strength. Each relocation is shown by Christi Marraccini, Head GO Coach at NEO U in New York City.
Upper Body

” As runners, we tend to just think of our legs,” says Kolosky. “Really, it’s our arms that do all the driving. When you’re sprinting up a hill or at the end of a race, strong arms are essential.”

Simply as essential is a strong arm swing. Kolosky notes that lots of new runners swing their arms inefficiently, letting them cross diagonally over their torsos rather than in straight, chin-to-hip motions. “Our goal is always to lengthen our strides,” Kolosky says. “We wish to run smarter, not harder. When you swing your arms throughout your body, you’re closing off your stride.” With tight, explosive arms, runners’ strides lengthen smoothly.

For upper body strengthening, Kolosky takes his runners to the base of a hill. He has his athletes run 10 sprints up a 300-meter hill and then gradually jog pull back. Prior to each repeat they do five pushups. Kolosky sets the rate for the pushups, ensuring it’s a slow, efficient workout. Kolosky says the complete range of motion can last up to 8 seconds. The circuit achieves 2 things: it enhances runners’ upper bodies and builds running economy– the runners are taught to concentrate on their kind while fatigued when running the uphills.