Why Do Sprinters Have Big Arms? (Here’s 4 Reasons Why)

Have you ever wondered, “Why Do Sprinters Have Big Arms?”

Just about every sprinter you see will have a set of the most impressive arms.

I’m talking, huge bulging biceps and thunderous horseshoe triceps.

It almost seems unfair.

Here you have guys and gals who’s chosen sport requires explosive power and speed, most of which is generated from the lower body.

And yet they display some of the most extraordinary upper bodies you’ve ever seen (especially the arms).

Allow me to explain the sprinter’s arm phenomenon.

Why Do Sprinters Have Big Arms?

There are various reasons that sprinters have big arms, but the most obvious is that the arms do play an important role in sprinting. There is evidence that arm stroke can dictate the running stride. Sprinters also perform a lot of strength training in the gym, and this includes explosive movements, as well as upper and lower body specific exercises. Most sprinters will naturally have high testosterone levels and fast twitch muscles, which lends itself an extremely muscular physique. Plus, don’t forget that sprinters have very low body fat percentages.

1. Your Arms Play a Huge Role in Sprinting

A Sprinter Exploding Out of the Blocks

There is actually much debate as to how much the arms contribute to sprinting, so it’s not exactly clear-cut.

Well, in truth, the “confusion” is more from a scientific perspective.

However, there are more than enough elite sprinters (so people who actually sprint rather than dissect the science of the sport) who will confirm that the arms help a great deal.

In fact, most sprinters will practice just pumping their arms for the allotted sprint time as part of their formal training.

Archie Hahn, the first athlete to win the 100m and 200m at the same Olympic Games wrote about the importance of arm stroke after his retirement.

Archie also happened to repeat his 100m victory at the next Intercalated Olympic Games.

This was a feat not repeated until 1988 when Carl Lewis was awarded the gold medal after the infamous disqualification of Ben Johnson.

Oh, by the way, Archie achieved his successes in the first decade of the 20th century, and his book, “How to Sprint” was published in 1923.

So, it’s safe to say that he knew what he was talking about.

Archie stated that he supported the “role of arm stroke in dictating both the tempo of running stride and the range of motion”.

So, even over a century ago when Archie was competing he knew just how important the arms were for sprinting.

Therefore, all sprinters understand the importance of using their arms and will train them regularly.

In effect, pumping your arms as fast as you can act as a catalyst for the legs.

Plus, you try pumping your arms furiously for 10-20 seconds at a time, multiple times a day, and try telling me you aren’t getting a fantastic arm workout.

2. Sprinters Do a LOT of Strength Training

Now, quite clearly a lot of a sprinter’s training will involve, well, sprinting.

That much we know.

There will also be a huge concentration of stride length, stride frequency, explosive block starts, and of course arm-pumping.

However, as a sprinter’s physique tells us, there’s also a great deal of strength training going on in the gym.

In the main this will involve some of the big explosive barbell power moves.

So, you can expect a sprinter to regularly train cleans, snatches, and jerks.

There will also be various other explosive movements including box jumps, medicine ball throws, basically a wide variety of plyometrics.

But, many of the other “big” barbell lifts will form part and parcel of their workouts, e.g. back squats, front squats, bench press, barbell rows, overhead press, etc.

And let’s not forget the importance of the leg press and walking lunges.

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While much of this training may not primarily target the arms, when you use these lifts regularly and with adequate weight you’ll definitely produce a pair of fantastic looking arms.

With that being said, all sprinters know the importance of arm drive to help spur their legs on, so you can guarantee there’s a lot of arm-specific training done as well.

Asafa Powell Strength and Conditioning Training

3. Sprinter’s Physique is “Genetic”

The one thing most of us hate to hear when it comes to training is “good genetics”.

This is especially true if you feel you haven’t been blessed with them.

However, some people were simply born to be more athletic than others.

Now, I’m not saying that you can’t train to be fantastic at a certain sport or sporting discipline.

But, having great genetics definitely helps.

There’s an interesting story about two Olympic greats, Michael Phelps and Hicham El Guerrouj.

Michael, an elite swimmer, stands at 6ft 4in tall and weighs around 194lbs.

Hicham, an elite middle-distance runner, is 5ft 9in tall and weighs 128lbs.

Michael, like all great swimmers, has a long torso and extremely short legs.

Hicham, like all great middle-distance runners, has a short torso and very long legs.

In fact, it is said that Hicham’s legs are slightly longer than Micheal’s, despite being 7 inches shorter in height.

As elite an athlete as both stars are, if they were to swap sports they would fail miserably.

Their individual bodies are not cut-out for the other’s sport.

Therefore, they were literally born to perform in the sporting events they became world-class athletes in.

When it comes to great sprinters, they have a disposition for high testosterone levels and fast twitch muscle fibres.

Basically, elite sprinters will naturally be more muscular due to their body composition and genetics.

4. Sprinters Have Extremely Low Body Fat Percentage

Something else to consider is that you will typically never see a fat sprinter.

Okay, apart from Sogelau Tuvalu that is.

But, in truth Sogelau is an American Samoan shot-putter.

However, due to not qualifying for the 2011 World Athletics Championship shot put he decided to enter the 100 metres.

You can check out Sogelau’s heat in the video below.

With that being said, Sogelau is an exception, and in the main you will not usually see an ounce of fat on an elite sprinter.

Basically, all great sprinters have extremely low levels of body fat.

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These low body fat levels will make their whole body looking muscularly defined, and this of course includes their arms.

Take Usain Bolt as an example.

Usain Bolt

Usain doesn’t exactly have the biggest arms in the world, but they look extremely well-defined.

There is very little body fat to cover this muscular definition, hence Usain’s arms look even bigger than they actually are.

In effect, the lower your body fat percentage, the more your muscles will show.

Sogelau Tuvalu 100m

Final Thoughts

So, hopefully you have a better understanding of why sprinters have big arms.

Firstly, the arms play a very important role in sprinting.

So, arm-drive and arm-pumping can certainly feel like an arm workout all by themselves.

It’s also important to realise that sprinters do a lot of strength training, so this will add to their size and overall muscular definition.

Furthermore, sprinters will have extremely low body fat levels and are typically genetically geared towards possessing a muscular physique.

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