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April 01, 2021

What Do I Do With My Arms?

Written by Dena Evans

Updated by Rosie Edwards.

This month, we touch on a question that comes up over and over with brand new and experienced runners alike.

Form Tip:  Arms

Q:  What should I do with my arms when I run?

A: Anyone who has strained for that extra second or two over the final stretch of a race knows how important your arms can be to your overall running form.  Here are some keys to remember if you have designs on being that person who is coming strong past the others all the way to the line.


Shoulders should be drawn low. Why?  Hunched up shoulders -> tension in shoulders/ neck/ back/ face -> more energy is required to fight your own body and get it moving in the right direction. Think of your shoulders as a wooden hanger: low and straight across, square toward the direction you’re running (wooden hangars don’t bend).


Elbows should hang at an approximately ninety degree angle, close enough to the body to brush lightly = close to the body, but not quite brushing (elbows will be slightly bowed for balance purposes).  Pretend someone has attached marionette strings to the back of each of your elbows and is standing behind you, pulling one at a time.  Your arm swing is a powerful force to help you dictate the pace of the rest of your body, moving forward. So, letting your arms swing back and forth across your body (too far) is at cross purposes with your stated intention.


Hands should be loose.  Pretend you’re loosely holding a ski pole grip or a fat rope. Not squeezing, just holding loosely.  As you are swinging your arms at full flight, look for your thumb in your peripheral vision as your arm swings forward.  The opposite thumb should be just brushing where your pocket would be if your shorts had pockets.  If your thumb is brushing at your waist or above, you are probably hunching your shoulders and/ or not getting an effective drive when swinging your arms.  Drop your hands to help ease that tension.


When jogging easily…..sure you don’t have to be swinging your arms down the street like Usain Bolt in the drive phase of the 100 meters.  However, you do want to keep a loose handle on what is mentioned above.


Shoulders low and squared up - wooden hangar


Elbows at 90 degrees and brushing north and south  - marionette strings pulling from behind, just not as pronounced a motion as when you are in full flight


Hands loose