When running, we tend to think about the movement of our legs, but have you ever given much thought to your arms? Granted, obviously, we don’t run on our arms but make no mistake because the way that we carry our arms can have a massive impact on our running.
So, we will give you a few tips and hopefully make running a little more comfortable and easier for you.
What do the arms actually do when running? Surely, they helped provide balance and rhythm. There is also a direct correlation between the movement of our arms and our cadence and stride length, and it can also help to provide propulsion force during running.
A lot of you will have felt this when walking and probably not even realize you’re doing.
If you were to slow down the movement of your arms, that will decrease your cadence and slow your cadence down, if you were to increase the movement and the speed of your arms, that would increase your cadence. If you were to over exaggerate the movement of your arms, it’s going to increase your stride length or vice versa if you make that shortened choppier, it’s going to decrease that length of your stride rate.
Also, if you were to get to a hill, you might use your arms to help drive your legs up the hill. As we mentioned already, all of which you probably do when walking and give very little thought to you just do it.
It’s no different for running. Understandably though, many concerned that excessive arm movement is wasted energy and inefficient. Therefore we end up seeing runners keeping their arms quite close to their sides and restricting the amount of arm swing.
Whereas a fact, it’s been proven that an excellent rhythmic arm swing can help save somewhere in the region of 3 to 13% energy expenditure.
Let us run through some key areas to help you.
You want to think your arm like a pendulum, swinging back and forth from the shoulder joint. If you were to look at the extreme and straighten your arm right out and swing that back and forth, you can see, obviously, the length of that pendulum has extended out, we’ve got a longer lever, and it takes longer for it to travel back and forth. That will have a direct impact on your cadence and stride length.
If we compare this to a sprinter, they tend to hold their arm around 90 degrees or more because they want to cover as much ground per stride as they possibly can as they’re almost putting out that maximal effort per foot strike.
Obviously, in endurance distance running, we want to be a little bit more conservative and efficient, so we want a slightly shorter stride length. To do that, we want to reduce the pendulum or length of that pendulum and lever.
We’re looking more like a 90 degree or less, so here is an example: what we do is brush my hand just past the bottom of the ribs, and this leads to what we call the lateral movement of the arms. In other words, do we want our arm to just go back and forth in a very linear fashion, or do we want them to come across the body to a degree?
Well, there isn’t really any set perfect technique here, and even in the elite world runners, we see a complete mix of arm styles and how they’re carried. What we definitely don’t want is the hands to be coming across the center line and by the centerline or a vertical line down through our body.
If our hands start going cross that centerline, it’s going to start affecting our balance and our rhythm and therefore resulting in a loss of energy.
To help you out here, what you should do is bring your hands up, so it’s almost touching your upper chest and just below my collarbone. Now following on from that, some runners mistakenly focused on driving the arms forward in an attempt to aid that propulsion forward.
However, what we tend to see from this, is the arms just kind of staying forwards and not going back enough, then the arms should come across the body, across that centerline as we discussed.
A lot of momentum is actually created by the arm or the elbow driving backward. That sounds quite odd, but what actually does is puts your body into a more upright and forward position.
It enables you to land your foot underneath your body far more easily and then also enabling you to propel yourself forward all whilst keep yourself obviously nicely balanced.
One way to improve this arm swing is actually to focus on our hands. So keep an eye out for your hands and what they’re doing when you are running.
If you can see your hand throughout the whole arm’s movement across the entire swing, you’re probably keeping them far too far forward. Ideally, what you want them to do is actually disappear outside of your peripheral vision.
In terms of the hands themselves and how we hold them, many runners end up clenching them and keeping their hands far too stiff. That’s going to have an impact on tension through our arm. If we want to keep our arms nice and relaxed and have a nice, efficient swing with the arms, we want to keep the hands really relaxed too.
Also, you should lightly hold your fingers together. You can either put your thumb inside that grip or just on top. Finally, if you’re feeling pain, soreness or tightness in your shoulders, in your upper back or even into your neck, it could be because you’re holding your shoulders too high and storing quite a lot of tension in them.
We found some of those tips useful. Do not underestimate the importance of your arms while straining. The key is to keep them relaxed and use them as you do when you’re walking.