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How to use your arms to improve your running

If you could improve your running efficiency  – without any extra effort – wouldn’t you do it?

It may seem counter-intuitive, but good arm technique is an easy way to improve your running efficiency. I’m a slow and tired runner so I pay attention to technique (hey, I need all the help I can get!). I also pay attention to the technique of other runners and I am constantly amazed at how few use their arms properly.  They clench their arms tightly to their chest, or swing them horizontally across their chest.

This wastes energy and makes the body more vulnerable to injury (all that sideways torque is hard on the joints!) It also doesn’t capitalize on the forward, pendulum rhythm that proper arm technique creates.

Four elements to proper arm technique for runners

Here’s a summary of how to use your arms properly to improve your running – courtesy of coaches past whose names I unfortunately can’t recall (being firmly in the grip of middle-aged mental-pause!)

  • Start with a deep breath and roll your shoulders, releasing tension
  • Bend your arms at a 90-degree angle (like a capital “L”). Keep them bent.
  • Move your arms up and down from the shoulder, brushing your hands against your hips
  • Imagine that you’re holding butterflies in your hands

There. That’s it!  Amazing, huh?  (Feel free to send money to express your gratitude!)

Practice this technique standing still before your run. It’s a good warm-up and will remind you to break bad habits.

Check it out

For a demonstration of proper arm technique for runners, check this presentation on proper running form by  Jonathon E. Stewart for About.com (The photo above also captures proper technique – I just wish it was of me!) Jonathon mentions arm technique around 1.5 minutes into this three-minute presentation but watch it all – it’s all good info.

Worth getting up in arms about!

One coach told me proper arm technique improves running efficiency up to 15 per cent – all without any extra effort!  Now that’s worth getting up in arms about!

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