Arm swing & Running Economy

"The arms drive the legs!", I can still hear coach Bisinella's words ringing in my ears, as we pushed hard around the bend into the final straight of a 400m repeat. 

That lesson, along with many others learned on the track have carried over to my distance running & will serve you well when it comes to running economy & importantly when racing. 

This excellent article will shed a little more light on the subject of running economy & arm swing, click here


In running your arms work in sync with your legs as counter levers keeping you balanced and limiting trunk rotation as you run.  When running easy paced they act passively in doing this which suits long distance running where energy conservation is crucial. However when the pace quickens and you're looking to extract that extra few % out of your legs, ironically it's your arms that can make a big difference in getting you going & keeping you there!

As you increase your running pace for tempo work or pushing up your pace for racing, your leg speed, cadence, knee lift & stride length will all increase. Along with that, & importantly knee drive increases in amplitude & force, leading to stronger glute activation and downward force as you push yourself forward and away from the ground.

And this is where the arms come into play.

Focus on pushing your elbow back as your opposite leg pushes down through the ground. Simultaneously the other arm reaches forward in time with the opposite knee also coming forward. 

Understanding this relationship can help you add extra impetus to the whole mechanism as you focus a little energy into the arm swing to pick up your cadence and pace.  

Think elbows pushing back and hands moving forward. Avoid your hands crossing over the midline of your body which creates unnecessary & unproductive trunk rotation.  

Try this on the track, in accelerations, tempo running & when trying to maintain race pace when you're battling fatigue.

When you're pushing through the final stages of your race, think cadence, drive & arm swing!  




Rohan Armstrong

Passionate Running & Osteopathy