Good Posture For Efficient Running

By Greg Laraia, ATC


Running isn’t all about the lower body. Yes, you run on your legs, but what about the upper body? What about your spine? Think about this for a second: if you hunch over or extend backwards at your spine does your core work? Can you take a deep breath in? Do you feel comfortable in this position? I doubt your answer is yes to any of those questions, so why would you run like that?  


For optimum comfort and efficiency, while running you should be in a neutral spine to allow for optimal oxygen intake, with a solid core contraction and an open chest. 


If you hunch your shoulders forwards your arms will fall into a slight internal rotation, leading to a fair amount of cross-body arm swing. If you try to run with your arms across your chest where is your momentum going? Most likely aide to side. Try it, make a fist and point one finger straight then pump your arms across your chest, which way do they point? Exactly. Now open up your chest, slightly pinching the shoulders back and see what happens. You should get a more forward and back momentum ideally moving you forward vs side to side. 


If you hunch your shoulders and either round your back or arch backwards, try taking a deep breath. What happens? It’s difficult! You cannot take a full inhale/exhale because your lungs are now limited in expansion. Again, open up the chest, keep the core active, and slightly pinch the shoulder blades. You can now breathe comfortably again!


While you’re working on your posture, it’s important to remember not to get too locked up; you’re not a robot! Allowing some spinal rotation from left to right will create an elastic spring affect. However, too much rotation can lead to inefficiency by promoting more motion side to side than straight forward. Control of the rotation is key especially if you are only rotating one way. That opens up an entirely new can of worms.


If you are having issues with keeping the chest open or if you feel like you are too tight to hold that position, try this: grab a foam roller and lay on it vertically, then open your arms out s\ like your body is a capital T. You can either hang here for 2-3 minutes or you can use your arms to make a “snow angel” on the ground. Gliding your arms up and down along the ground creates space in the shoulder capsule and chest. 


Before you start your next run, find a neutral spine and open up your chest. Pinch the shoulders lightly back and think about keeping the chest open and about standing tall the entire time. Keeping an engaged core and neutral spine will put you in more efficient posture and allow you to use your body to its fullest potential.