The upper body plays a major role in endurance running performance. The arms basic function in running is for balance but they also control the rhythmic motion synchronised with the lower body. With a tall body posture and high hips the shoulders should be relaxed in a neutral position. This posture will ensure effective blood circulation to the muscles and unimpeded oxygen intake. With relaxed shoulders in a neutral position the arm swing occurs from the shoulders. Finally correct posture together with a strong and stable core will prevent any excess rotation during the running motion.
Ensuring correct and efficient arm movement will improve running technique and in turn will enhance running performance. The arms should be bent at approximately 90 to 110 degrees and able to swing backwards and forwards powered by the shoulder muscles. The arm movement must be in a straight line and not across the body. Driving the arms strongly backwards will result in efficient running. The rhythm of the arm swing works in conjunction with leg stride driving the body forward. Arm swing dictates the speed/cadence of the legs. When at optimum/cruise speed, the forearms should be parallel to the ground during mid-swing.
Staying relaxed at all times aids efficient running. The hands play an important role as they control tension in the upper body especially around the shoulders. Hands should be in an unclenched fist position, with the fingers either lightly touching the palms or the thumbs touching the knuckle of the index finger. Smiling will relax facial and shoulder muscles.
Move arms quickly – stride rate increases
Slow arms down – stride rate decreases
Short choppy arm motions – make shorter steps
Exaggerate arm swing – go forwards with long strides
Examples of good arm technique