Runners often focus on lower-body joints like the hips, knees, and ankles, and train the muscles that cross them, like the glutes, hamstrings, and calves. But elbow drive is a critical, overlooked aspect of good running form, says Margaret Schwarz, CSCS, a Tier 3+ trainer at Equinox in New York City.
Elbow drive initiates from shoulder flexion (your arm moving forward) and extension (your arm moving backward), she says. It propels you forward, stabilizes your core, and dictates how quickly your legs move.
If your elbows jut out or your forearms cross the midline of the body as you swing them back and forth, you’re wasting energy, Schwarz says. Instead, they should reach straight back when the opposite leg and hip move forward, and straight ahead when the opposite leg and hip move behind you.
To get used to how it feels, exaggerate the motion while marching in place with high knees or while doing split-lunge jumps. Keep a 90-degree bend in your elbows at hip-height and relax your shoulders and fists, notes Schwarz.
If you initiate elbow drive with intention, you’ll be a faster, more efficient runner and last longer on your feet, she says.