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How to Walk Faster: Arm Motion

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Updated October 05, 2012

Walking arm motion by Zhen Wang of China

Walking arm motion by Zhen Wang of China

Photo © by Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images
Some coaches say your legs only move as fast as your arms. Simply adding arm motion can greatly speed up your walking. You want vigorous but smooth and fluid arm motion that doesn't waste effort.

The first step is to forget all of the images you have seen of a powerwalker pumping their arms in big swoops, punching the air in front of their face. A lot of that motion is going to waste. Here is how to use powerful arm motion that will actually help you walk faster.

  • Straight arms won't speed you up. Bend your elbows at 90 degrees.
  • You don't want to clench your hands or hold any objects in them. Your hands should be relaxed with your fingers in a partially closed curl.
  • Hold your elbows close in to your body. You don't want to flail your arms around like chicken wings, that is wasted energy.
  • Now for the tricky part - when does your arm come forward? If you just close your eyes, your body will start doing it right. The arm on the same side of the body as your forward foot goes backward in opposition to the foot motion, to balance the body. Now exaggerate this natural movement a little, so your back hand is reaching towards your back pocket (or where one would be).
  • Now your forward foot goes back and the opposite arm comes forward. You want to ensure this motion is straight forward, not coming forward and crossing your body diagonally. Instead, it is like the motion of a choo choo train or extending a hand in a handshake.
  • You don't want the forward hand crossing the center point of your body. It can diagonal slightly, but any substantial diagonal motion is wasted effort.
  • Keep your foward hand low, it shouldn't come up above the level of your breastbone or you are wasting effort.
  • Throw out all of those media images of speedwalkers and powerwalkers flinging their arms out and raising their fists in the air with each step. All of that is wasted energy that won't make you faster.
  • Don't exaggerate the backwards motion of your arms, either. Reach for that back pocket, but don't overextend yourself to the point of leaning or getting bent over.

Next Page: Foot Motion

How to Walk Faster
Intro
Shoes
Baseline
Technique
Head and Torso
Leg Motion
Warm-up and Cool Down
Drills and Workouts
Stretching

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