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The arm action in athletic walking can vary from athlete to athlete. The elbows of an athletic walker are bent at an angle between 90 degrees and 45 degrees. The elbow angle must be fixed, but with the muscles relaxed, throughout the arm swing. The arm forms a short pendulum and will swing more quickly than if it were held straight. The arm is driven predominately backwards & forwards, not from side to side.

The hands trace an arc from just behind the hip at the level of the waist band to the sternum. The hands should not cross the center line of the body. The arm movement is low & relaxed. There should not be tension between the shoulder blades nor hunching of the shoulders at the end of arm swing.

WATCH FOR: Excessive side to side arm swing tends to cause side to side motion of the center of gravity and wastes energy. This is caused by incorrect motor skills learning.

WATCH FOR: Elbow angle too tight (less than 45 degrees.) This may lead to a shortened stride and a bouncing motion which wastes energy. This tends to get worse as fatigue increases. It is caused by incorrect motor learning or loss of concentration.

WATCH FOR: Elbow angle too large. Leads to a slower stride rate. This is caused by incorrect motor learning.


An athletic walker’s hands should be relaxed. However, they should not dangle or flop with the arm swing. The wrist should be straight while the hand should be held in a loose fist with the fingertips facing the hips as the arm swings past. If an athletic walker is having trouble holding their hand in a relaxed manner, then they should make a fist, holding it loosely, then place their thumb between their index finger.

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