In a normal stride, arm swing plays a very important role as it counterbalances body rotation, regulates cadence (steps per minute), increases forward motion, and provides some lift for the runner.
The backward-swing motion of a runner's arm helps to increase forward motion. It does this by counter-balancing the support and push-off actions of the leg that is currently in contact with the ground. In contrast, the forward-arm-swing acts both as a rest period in preparation for the backward motion and as a counterbalancing action for the airborne leg that is in the recovery phase. Without these counter-balancing functions your body would have very little rotational stability.
Though minimal compared to leg action, the runner's arm motion also propels the runner's body upward providing a certain amount of lift. Some runners try to compensate for weakness in their lower extremity by increasing this motion.
Ideally the runner's arms should be able to swing freely at the side of their body in a relaxed, straight motion. The runners arms should swing the same distance back as forward, much like a clock pendulum moving in a straight line with no lateral deviations. This action will have a considerable effect on maintaining a constant horizontal velocity.
Even minor restrictions in a runners shoulders will results in wasted energy, decreased performance, and possibly injury. In many cases the right exercise program will eliminate these problems. For chronic restrictions, a few sessions of soft tissue therapy (ART, Graston, Massage) will help you to increase your performance. (copyright Dr. Brian Abelson)
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