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Does Pumping Your Arms Faster Make You Run Faster?

author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
Does Pumping Your Arms Faster Make You Run Faster?
Driving your arms gives you speed. Photo Credit: Gary Faber/Photodisc/Getty Images

Hone proper running form to get an edge in your next competition. You may think proper form deals only with the lower body, but how you pump your arms directly affects your performance as well. Train your arms to pump faster to directly impact your running speed development.

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Role of the Arms

The arms keep the torso from rotating out of control during your run. This means you can focus optimal energy transfer through the hips. Pumping your arms helps you accelerate and reach maximum speed.

Arm Focus

While you still have to pay attention to foot plant and lower body mechanics when you run, you should also check in with your arm action. Bend your elbows and pump them front to back with particular emphasis on the drive back also going down to keep the shoulders relaxed. The angle of your front arm should be about 60 to 90 degrees, advises trainer and coach Patrick Beth, while the back arm should be angled at 90 to 120 degrees. Relaxed hands mean loose arms that can pump quickly. If you make fists, the tension travels all the way up your arm, making a quick pump nearly impossible.

Common Mistakes

If your pump drives your arms across the front of your body, you'll actually impede your speed. Arms that cross the midline of the body mean the hips are also rotating, which wastes energy and makes you fatigue early. You may need to focus extra hard during training to keep the arms from making this crossover movement, but the payoff at races will be worth it.

Training for Proper Arm Form

The more you practice proper arm form, the more natural a strong arm pump will feel. Practice driving your arms back and forth as you balance on the balls of your feet to simulate sprinting. Do this in front a mirror to observe your form and confirm that your hands are relaxed, shoulders are down and arms aren't crossing the midline. Observe the angle of your arms, aiming for as close to 90 degrees as possible. Pump for 30-second intervals at varying levels of intensity. Simulate a moderate-pace pump, a quick pump and an all-out acceleration pump for two or more sets, resting about 30 seconds between them.

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