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Upper Body Training for Athletes

What sort of training should an athlete do for their upper body? Do all athletes need upper body training? Some athletes don’t necessarily use their upper body in their sport, so can that athlete skip upper body training?

Upper body training is an important component for many different athletes. The most obvious example is high-contact sports such as wrestling or football, where you use your hands to move another person physically.

Another good example is swimming, where the upper body is used to help project an athlete through the water. Many ball-handling sports also have a high upper body component, where the goal is to move a ball using the upper body (soccer being an exception).

Does that exclude soccer, cross-country, and non-throwing track and field events since they don’t use their upper body? Here’s a thought experiment for you (but feel free to give it a shot for real): how fast could you run 50 feet with your arms straight and taped to your sides? How would it look??

I hope you answer that you’d be much slower and look much more awkward than if you could use your arms to swing your upper body to oppose your lower body leg action. So, any movement an athlete does has an upper body component.

All athletes, therefore, need some amount of upper body strength. The more they use their upper body to move someone or something, the more strength they may need. In addition, the more often they need to complete a movement (think a pitcher in baseball or a hitter in volleyball), the more strength and endurance that athlete needs to produce force many times over.

Those “overhead” athletes (throwing/hitting sports along with swimming) are at a higher risk of a shoulder overuse injury without a proper upper body strength base. By getting the upper body stronger and more resilient, they can reduce (but not eliminate) their injury risk.

A well-designed and well-rounded strength training routine that incorporates upper body training is appropriate for all athletes. The more an athlete uses the upper body in their sport, the greater the need for strength training.

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