No matter what your fitness level, running form is important. Elite athletes focus on form to improve performance and efficiency, but good running mechanics can also help prevent injuries in anyone. As a kid, you probably didn't think about running form, but subtle changes in your foot landing, posture, stride length and arm position can help you feel better and optimize your training. Running requires your whole body working together to generate forward motion.
Even though most people focus on the lower body when running, it takes good arm and upper-body positioning to run well. How the upper body moves is related to what the lower body does. By keeping your fists unclenched and your upper body as relaxed as possible while keeping good posture, the rest of your body will be less tense. Your arms should be at an angle that's no more than 90 degrees, and, for optimal efficiency, your hands should not drop below your waist or cross over your chest while running.
Coordinated movement of the arms and legs when you run is the result of signals from your brain. This means that when you swing your arms, a signal is sent to the muscles in your legs resulting in coordination between the two. In other words, when you swing your arms, your legs respond. As you raise your right arm while running, it's your left leg that will be lifted up in front of you. In order to increase your speed, try swinging your arms faster. If you're trying to keep to a certain pace, it's helpful to know that rhythm can be controlled with help from your arms.
Arm and leg coordination while running helps with balance. Keeping your arms rigid as you are moving forward increases body twisting, which makes it harder to keep going in a straight line. Swinging your arms will help you move forward more efficiently and fluidly. For optimal running form, lean forward very slightly at the hips, keeping your back straight. Your arm movement as you move forward will prevent you from falling and help you maintain balance, so that there is less risk of twisting your ankle or hurting your back.
Good running form allows you to move forward faster and more efficiently. While it's fine to do training drills that focus on specific body parts, remember that running requires more than just your legs. Keep your arms in mind, even when the activity focuses on your lower body. For example, when you are doing high knee drills, use your arms to drive your knees up higher. While doing butt kicks, don't let your arms drop down motionless by your sides; pump them to keep forward motion.
- Running Sports Essentials: Mobility, Potentiation, Core Strengthening, and Stretching; Bobby McGee
- Journal of Neural Physiology: Neural Coupling Between the Arms and Legs During Rhythmic Locomotor-Like Cycling Movement
- Running Planet: Running Form for Distance Runners
- American College of Sports Medicine: Moving the Arms to Activate the Legs
- Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images