Arm Motion Technique for Faster Walking

Arm Motion for Walking Faster
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When you want to walk faster, using the correct arm motion can make a big difference. Some coaches say your legs only move as quickly as your arms. If you currently don't use any arm motion while walking, simply adding arm motion can significantly speed up your brisk walking pace. If you already use arm motion, you will want to be sure you are using the right technique. You want vigorous, but smooth and fluid arm motion that doesn't waste effort.

The Wrong Arm Motion for Walking

The first step is to forget all of the images you have seen of a power walker pumping their arms in big swoops, punching the air in front of their face. Or, they may keep the arm motion at chest level, but swing their arms back and forth in front of their body, with elbows protruding, and endangering passersby. This is called chicken winging. A lot of that motion is going to waste and is not helping to increase walking speed.

You also may notice people who walk with their arms straight at their sides. Sometimes you see them walking briskly with elbows straight and giving paddle motions with their arms. This might remind you of penguins. This is also an inefficient form of arm motion.

It only takes a visit to the gym to see these different styles of arm motion being used by those on the treadmill. It may be noted that even these inefficient forms of arm motion are better than holding onto the handrails.

The Right Arm Swinging Technique for Fast Walking

Here is how to use powerful arm motion that will help you walk faster.

  • Bend your elbows at 90 degrees. Straight arms won't speed you up. 
  • Avoid clenching your hands or holding any objects in them. Your hands should be relaxed with your fingers in a partially closed curl.
  • Hold your elbows close to your body. This will help you save energy that is wasted by "chicken winging."
  • Now for the tricky part—when does your arm come forward? If you close your eyes, your body will start doing it right. Your arms work opposite of your feet. When your left foot is forward, your right arm is forward, and vice versa. To balance your body while you walk, the arm on the same side of the body as your forward foot goes backward in opposition to the foot motion. Now exaggerate this natural movement a little, so your hand is reaching towards your back pocket (or the location of where a pocket would be).
  • Now your forward foot goes back, and the arm on that side comes forward. You want to ensure this motion is straight in the forward direction. 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 go slightly diagonally, but any substantial diagonal motion is wasted effort.
  • Keep your forward hand low. It shouldn't come up above the level of your breastbone, or you are wasting effort.
  • Don't over exaggerate the backward motion of your arms, either. Reach for that back pocket, but don't overextend yourself to the point of leaning, or getting bent over.

Practicing Good Arm Motion

Before you start your walk, you should stand with a good, straight posture. Loosen your shoulders by doing a couple of shoulder rolls forward and backward. Do a shrug to ensure your neck and shoulders are relaxed, and your chest is open. This will allow you to use a natural arm motion.

You may find it difficult to use proper arm motion when you are walking at a slow speed. Your body isn't in a rhythm that allows natural arm motion. But when you speed up to a brisk walking pace, your arm motion should naturally come along.

Using Arm Motion to Walk Faster

You will find that you speed up once you are using the correct arm motion. After you are comfortable with using arm motion, you can help your feet move faster by consciously swinging your arms faster. Your feet will naturally follow suit. This can help you pick up the pace when needed.

By being able to walk faster, you will be able to raise your exercise heart rate. This can be the difference between a walk that is considered moderate-intensity exercise and one that is not. It is recommended that you achieve 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise to reduce your health risks.

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By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.