Run Taller and Stronger With These Shoulder-Strengthening Exercises

Strong shoulders will help improve your posture for better running form and efficiency.


If you find yourself struggling to run tall with upright posture — especially in the later kilometres of a run — it’s time to practice some shoulder-strengthening exercises. Doing so will not only improve your posture for more confident running, but also help you with a more powerful arm swing, which can contribute to performance improvements overall.

That’s why we tapped Samantha Rothberg, certified strength coach and triathlete to design this shoulder-strengthening workout to help you improve your upper-body strength.

The Benefits of Shoulder-Strengthening Exercises for Runners
The key to running faster is running more efficiently, and to achieve this you’ll need to hone in on your running mechanics, particularly what’s happening with your arms and shoulders.

“The faster and more powerfully you can swing your arms, the faster you can move your legs. Working together, this combination allows you to run both faster and more efficiently,” says Rothberg.

As you swing your arms, you use the deltoids and rotator cuff muscles, which are the muscles of your shoulder, Rothberg explains. This means you need to keep them nice and strong—and the shoulder-strengthening exercises below will do just that.

“Strong shoulders are necessary for acceleration, too,” Rothberg adds. “In terms of form, strong shoulders help keep you vertical and prevent you from running in a hunched-over position, which can hurt your back and neck.” That hunched posture can also rob you of energy, which is why so many coaches remind you to “run tall.”

5 Shoulder Exercises for Stronger Running Form

How to use this listComplete each exercise in the order listed below for the number of reps described. Do 2 to 3 sets, aiming to eliminate rest between exercises and resting as needed between sets. You will need a set of light dumbbells, a medium to heavy weight dumbbell, and a yoga mat is optional.

1. Y-I-T Raise

Samantha Rothberg
  1. Lie facedown with legs straight.
  2. Extend arms overhead in a “Y” shape.
  3. Keep core engaged to lift arms off the ground, pause, then lower back down in one slow and controlled motion. Repeat. Do 10 reps.
  4. Bring arms overhead to form an “I” shape.
  5. Keep core engaged to lift arms off the ground, pause, then lower back down in one slow and controlled motion. Repeat. Do 10 reps.
  6. Bring arms overhead to form an “T” shape.
  7. Keep core engaged to lift arms off the ground, pause, then lower back down in one slow and controlled motion. Repeat. Do 10 reps.

2. Lateral Raise

Samantha Rothberg
  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart and hold light dumbbells at sides.
  2. Raise both arms up and out to the sides, until weights are at shoulder height.
  3. Then lower both arms down back down by sides.
  4. Repeat. Do 10 reps.

3. Half-Kneeling Overhead Press

Samantha Rothberg
  1. Start kneeling with left foot forward and both knees bent at a 90-degree angle.
  2. Hold weight in right hand racked at shoulder with right elbow bent and palm facing ear. Place left hand on left hip, or on stomach for more stability.
  3. Press dumbbell straight up, so bicep is by ear.
  4. Bring arm back down to shoulder.
  5. Repeat. Do 8 reps on each side.

4. Push-Up

Samantha Rothberg
  1. Start in the high plank position with shoulders stacked directly over wrists.
  2. Inhale, then bend elbows to lower chest to the floor.
  3. Exhale, slowing straighten elbows to push back up to high plank position.
  4. Repeat. Do 8-10 reps.

5. Split-Stance Single-Arm Row

Samantha Rothberg
  1. Start standing in a split stance, right leg forward and knee bent, and left leg straight. Hinging at the hips with a flat back and hold a dumbbell in left hand, right arm out straight and held at shoulder height.
  2. Pull elbow toward left hip to lift dumbbell up toward ribcage.
  3. Straighten arm to lower dumbbell back down.
  4. Repeat. Do 8 reps on each side.

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