Balancing the stride: Improving upper body mobility for running

You wake up to a beautiful day, put on your running shoes, walk out into the sunshine, and you’re ready to take on the outdoors and reach your fitness goals. Your pace is faster, and you have a new spring in your step. You thought it was going to be an amazing run until you felt a sudden pang in the shoulder. Runners are prone to cramps and catch in the upper part of their body. This can lead to injury. It is important to have upper-body mobility and flexibility, even though the majority of your running power comes from your middle and lower body.

Many runners ignore the importance of flexibility and mobility in the upper body. Focus is placed on the lower body to build endurance, speed, and strength, ignoring the vital role that the upper body plays in the biomechanical system that results in running stride.

Running: The upper body’s role

Running is a visual sensation of legs pushing us forward. The lower body’s strength and endurance are important factors in a runner’s performance. There’s also an underappreciated aspect – your upper body.

Pramod Deshpande is the coach of Jayanagar Jaguars, a running club in Bengaluru. He says that “the upper body represents about 40% of a runner’s effort.” The arm movements are important for running. The arm movements determine the runner’s speed. They also affect stride and cadence.

The upper body’s mobility is crucial to a runner’s form, efficiency, and performance. Not only is it important to have a strong core, but also a sculpted arm; you need to achieve a balance of stability and mobility.

A mobile upper body allows for a coordinated and smooth running motion. The arms counterbalance the legs as they push off the floor, keeping the body in balance.

The arms should be in their ideal position. Deshpande says that if they reach their maximum position, leg movement could be disrupted. The synchronization of the arms and legs is crucial for optimal running mobility.


Your arms will be able to swing back and forth in sync with your stride. This helps you conserve energy and improve your forward momentum.

Maintaining proper alignment and posture is made easier by maintaining upper body mobility.

It is important to keep your body upright while running. This will maintain the center of gravity. When you start to hunch, your leg movements will become wavy. That’s not good,” Deshpande says.

You can keep your torso upright by having a mobile upper body. This will prevent unnecessary slouching. This alignment is optimal for efficient breathing and oxygen intake, which will increase your endurance.

Mobility is also important in preventing injury, as well as the form and alignment of the upper body. You are more susceptible to injuries as a runner. These include strains, sprains, and muscle imbalances.

Deshpande says that the rotation and mobility of your spine are vital. The mobility of the shoulders and arms is crucial. The rotation of the spine will maintain the straightness of the body. “Our pelvis rotates when we run. It is important to keep the shoulders straight and with the least amount of rotation.

Running with a more mobile upper body

We have been taught to perform static stretches prior to running. Muscle activation that increases mobility makes more sense.

Deshpande says that static stretching is counterproductive, as we need blood to circulate through the muscles. Warm-up exercises are a good alternative to stretching. Stretching is inadequate if the body has not warmed up enough.

You can do a light jog, followed by dynamic stretches and exercises that focus on mobility. “Besides warm-ups which can improve the mobility of parts such as the glutes and ankles, the shoulders, elbows and necks, you can also perform those that work on rotating the joints through the angle rotation,” says Deshpande.

Strength is what the upper body requires more than flexibility to keep it straight and upright. As a runner, you should focus on strengthening your upper body, especially in relation to your core, says Deshpande.


  • Running becomes more efficient when the upper body is mobile. This allows arms and legs to balance and coordinate their motion.
  • Improved upper body mobility can help to improve posture and alignment when running. This reduces strain on joints and muscles.
  • The range of motion in the upper body increases, leading to a faster stride, better arm swing, and longer stride.
  • Exercises that target the shoulders, chest, and upper back can improve upper body mobility.

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