How to Hold Your Arms and Hands
- Touch your thumb to your middle finger with a firm but gentle pressure. This will keep your hands and forearms relaxed but not too loose. Relaxing is very important to good running form. Don’t make a fist (too tight) or let your hands and arms flop around (too loose).
- Your arms are mostly for balance. Swing them front-to-back, not side-to-side. It is very common to rotate your arms left and right – it ends up turning your entire torso, wasting energy and knocking you off-balance.
- Drop your arms. Your hand should be at your hip or slightly behind your body at its lowest point. This depends on how bent your arm is at the elbow. The exact amount your arm bends is up to you (I prefer about 90 degrees) as long as you keep your arms relaxed. At its highest point, your hand should be somewhere around an invisible line that extends from your chin (don’t actually touch your chin – you’d be rotating and not moving forward if you do). If you’re having trouble picturing this, look to a picture of a sprinter for guidance.
- Stay with your cadence. This comes naturally to most – keep your arms swinging in rhythm opposite to your stride. The helps maintain balance.
- Your arms can give you some extra power – but it’s not worth it. Using your arms to generate power feels like it helps you (especially when racing, or on hills). In reality, it does next to nothing except waste energy and make you more likely to rotate your torso.
The goal of your arm and hand movements is to maintain your balance. When moving correctly, your arms can help you maintain your momentum as you move forward. However, when moving incorrectly (side-to-side), your arms and hands can give you balance problems that only modifying your stride can correct. That’s the last thing you want to do if you’ve ever spent time adjusting your stride.
If you are not used to keeping your arms moving forward, this will feel very unnatural and stiff at first. Most people have at least a slight torso rotation when they run without even realizing it. This isn’t the worst thing ever – but it does make you unnecessarily tense and wastes some valuable energy maintaining your balance. As a result, your stride lengthens to keep you upright, slowing your cadence and causing you to land on your heels, both of which are bad for your form and for can cause injuries.
This is an article in a series about learning good running form. These articles are presented as quick-hitting, easily digestible tips which you can immediately begin to work into your form without worrying about too many things at one time. To see the entire series, click here.