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To run fast, you need good leg movement. No surprise there. However, runners tend to forget it’s a full-body motion and that arm swings play an important role in your running mechanics.


Arm swings help your forward propulsion and balance when you run. They are the reciprocal reaction of leg movement. The backward motion of the arm swing helps the opposite leg to push off the ground and, in turn, sets your speed.



  1. Relax your hands. When you start to clench your fists that tightness spreads through your forearms, biceps, shoulders, neck, and face. Once you tighten up and lose range of motion in your arms, your stride shortens.
  2. Swing your arms. Speed is a product of stride length and stride frequency, which are determined, in part, by the motion of the arms. If you are lazy or passive with your arm action, you limit your potential for speed.
  3. Watch your arm angles. Your front arm angle should be between 60 and 90 degrees at the elbow, and your back arm should be between 90 and 120 degrees at the elbow. Outside of this range, you’ll run slower and get tired faster.
  4. Lock your elbows. Elbow angle should only change slightly, as a result of elastic response.
  5. Maintain your arms’ range of motion. It should generally be hip to cheek. That is, the hand clears the hip in the back and comes up to about cheek height in front. If you go beyond that, in either direction, you risk injury to the muscles.

In my next posting I will provide exercises to build better arm swings.