Is Running With Arms Straight Down a Good Running Form?

Running is one of the most intensive and demanding exercises out there, and although it’s mainly worked by your lower body muscles, the posture and kinetics of your upper body also play a major role in your performance.

A lot of runners spend a lot of time training on proper stride and running form, but they’re often confused about their arm style.

While many people prefer to raise their arms while running, others prefer running with arms straight down.

In today’s article, we’ll walk you through a brief upper body posture form and whether your arm position has an impact on your performance. Let’s dive right in!

Does the Arm Action Affect Your Performance While Running?

There are many misconceptions when it comes to the effect of your upper body and arm action on your running performance.

For example, while there’s a debate on whether arm swinging has a major or minor impact on your running performance, there’s no denying that your upper body still has an impact.

In other words, the claim that arm action doesn’t have any impact whatsoever on running doesn’t make much sense.

This is because our entire body is connected together through a network of joints, tendons, and ligaments.

Arm Action is Necessary to Counterbalance Your Body While Running

The way our musculoskeletal system works is known as “whole-body kinematics”. After all, leg bones and arm bones are both connected to your torso, and both of them will differently affect each other.

For example, if you have upper back problems, you’ll end up running slower because of that connection.

Similarly, if you move your arms in a specific way, it’ll lead to a chain of events that end up affecting your legs either positively or negatively.

What Scientific Research Says About Running With Arms Straight Down

Even studies that claim that specific arm postures may not have an impact on performance couldn’t really establish concrete evidence on whether it doesn’t work.

Not only that, but there are also other studies that suggest the opposite, which keeps the matter debatable at best.

For instance, a biomechanist at Brown University found that not swinging your arms while running actually ends up consuming more energy than swinging.

The reason here is that your legs end up spending more energy to balance your body while running, which might end up making you feel more fatigue, especially in long distance runs like half marathons and marathons.

Is Running With Arms Straight Down a Good Running Form?

Additionally, looking back at professional athletes and runners, you’ll notice that most of them run with specific and consistent arm action, even if it varies between runners.

In conclusion, there are two different schools of thought when it comes to arm swinging and proper positioning while running, and each one of them has its own hypotheses and results.

Yet, both studies only debated the level of contribution of arm swing and never denied the importance of your arms while running.

Running with Arms Straight Down, Is It Okay?

Based on the information above, it’s easy to say that running with arms straight down has its advantages and disadvantages.

On one hand, when you run with your arms straight down, you’ll consume less energy to keep your arms lifted.

But on the other hand, your body will still need to spend that energy in order to compensate for the lack of upper body balance while running.

As a result, the position of your arms doesn’t have a major impact on your performance, but letting your arms loose will affect your performance negatively.

So, it is okay to run this way if you feel more comfortable when running with arms straight down, although it might not be the best for a competitive runner.

How Do Professional Runners Swing Their Arms?

If you take a closer look at how professional and elite runners run, you’ll notice that different runners have a slightly different styles of running.

Since all of these athletes are backed by a team of sports scientists to optimize their performance and correct their posture, it’s safe to say that there’s no specific style that you should stick to if you’re running competitively.

However, the vast majority of professional runners tend to run with their arms locked at a certain angle that ranges between 70 to 110 degrees.

Yet, some raise their hands as high as their chest level while others keep them lower than their waist.

Should You Warm Up Your Arms and Shoulders Before Running?

Warm ups and stretching exercises are extremely important to expand your range of motion and reduce the risk of injury.

A dynamic warm up exercise takes as little as 5 to 10 minutes but it has a large impact on your run in general.

While stretching and warming up before running, make sure that you include some arm swing warm up as well.

Running With Arms Straight Down

Among the best arm joint and muscle warm ups are the arm circles and standing arm swings. Try to start slow and speed your way up while doing them.

6 Important Tips for Proper Arm Action While Running

Now that you know more about the importance of arm swing while running and not running with arms straight down, and how critical it can be while running, let’s explore some of the most valuable tips to help you improve your whole-body kinematics.

With that said, you should keep in mind that these tips are based on the recommendations of professional runners and you don’t have to strictly follow them to bring out your best performance.

Instead, you can regard them as rough guidelines for the standard arm posture and adjust them slightly to strike a good balance between comfort and performance:

1. Keep your Elbows Bent at a 90 Degree Angle If You Prefer Raising Your Arm

As previously mentioned, most runners out there will maintain a steady angle of around 70 to 110 degrees, depending on their body measurements and posture while running.

By keeping your elbows bent at a 90 degree, you’ll minimize your arm swing. This way, you’ll disconnect your arm swing speed from your cadence speed, and therefore run faster.

Since 90 degrees is a good middle ground between 70 degrees and 110 degrees, it’s a good starting point while adjusting your swing.

After that, you can either increase or decrease the angle to suit your build. The best practice here is to keep your hands at a level where it passes by your bottom rip while pacing.

2. Adjust Your Elbow Momentum so That It’s Driven Backward

While swinging their arms, a lot of people focus on putting the momentum to push their hands and elbows forward.

However, this method overlooks the elbow’s placement while swinging, which ends up causing friction with your sides and even irritations.

Not only that, but swinging your arms this close to the torso makes it easier for your spine to rotate side to side as you run, increasing the potential of back pain in the long run.

Instead, focus your momentum on driving your elbow backward. This technique opens up your chest and may even improve the way you breathe while running.

3. Don’t Clinch Your Fists While Running

Clinching your fists while running doesn’t improve your performance and only makes it a lot harder to control your arm’s swing.

Instead, when you keep your hands relaxed while running, you encourage your shoulders to be relaxed as well.

A good way to train yourself to keep your hands relaxed while running is to imagine that you are holding an egg in your hand while running.

Keep in mind that holding gadgets like your phone while running will make it a lot harder to relax your hands and shoulders.

4. Avoid Flailing and Swinging Arms While Running

Although there’s no problem in swinging your arms while running, excessive swinging can be a problem while running.

A lot of new runners end up swinging their arms across their body, so they end up rocking their torso left and right.

Besides not having any actual evidence that such a technique help in increasing your speed, it can dramatically affect your endurance and increase the risk of serious injuries that can keep you off the track for weeks, as it puts your spine under a lot of pressure, leading to back pain in the long run.

Instead of swinging your arms side to side, try swinging them up and down so that your spine doesn’t rotate with every stride.

People Running

5. Start the Swinging Motion from the Shoulder

While swinging your arms, avoid initiating the move from your elbow. Instead, use your shoulders to lift the arms.

When you do this, you put an adequate level of pressure on your elbows and remove the tension on your neck and back while swinging. It also helps in keeping your arms in a fixed position and a locked angle while running.

While other tips are relatively easy to execute, this one can be a little challenging at first. However, with consistency and incorporating them in your arm swing drills, it should become second nature to you.

6. Consider Exercises to Strengthen Your Upper Body Posture

In many cases, runners will start using their arms swing in order to compensate for their lack of upper body strength while running.

In order to avoid this problem and keep your shoulders relaxed with your elbows fixed at a 90 degree angle, you should do some exercises and weightlifting training in order to strengthen your upper body muscles.

One of the best exercises, in that case, is the seated arm swing drill. In that drill, you’ll sit on the ground with your legs in front of you and start swinging your arms as if you’re running while maintaining a proper form.

What’s great about this exercise is that you’ll be able to remove the impact of your lower body strength and focus only on your upper body posture.

You may also incorporate small weights in every arm in order to strengthen all the muscle groups involved in the swinging motion and the locked elbow position.

You can do this drill every other day 6 to 12 times on an interval of 10 to 15 seconds and 15 seconds rest between sets, and you’ll noticeable observable improvements within a few weeks!

The Bottom Line

This wraps it up for today’s guide that walks you through everything you need to know about running with arms straight down, and whether it can impact your running performance.

As you can see, when it comes to arm swing, there’s a huge debate on whether positioning actually matters. In fact, if you’ve taken a closer look at how elite athletes run, you’ll notice that each of them will have a slightly different version of arm positioning.

For that reason, the best course of action here is to run the way that keeps you comfortable, and follow the previously mentioned tips if you don’t optimize your arm swing for slightly better performance.