PICTURE A (arrows drawn)
PICTURE B (no arrows)
Picture A-technique needs improving-the front arm swing hand should be near her ear and back arm swing elbow should be elevated along with increased separation between hand and hip.
Picture B-adjusted technique-better hand position of front arm swing and elevated elbow of back arm swing along with increased separation between hand and hip.
The Myths of Motion
In many sports, speed is one of the critical fitness components for success. Some people believe that to be fast, you have to be born with speed. Well, I disagree, I believe anyone can run faster if taught HOW to run.
In speed, the arm motion is just as critical as the leg motion.
One area in which young athletes can become faster is by decreasing wasted motion in running. Wasted motion can add seconds to their running which can lead to being tagged out at the base, missing the catch or even missing the tackle. Proper running techniques encompasses more than just leg motion, it also includes arm motion as well. To achieve maximum speed, the arms and legs have to be coordinated contralateral to propel the body in a horizontal direction-forward motion. Poor body mechanics and awareness can compromise maximal speed. Young runners can improve their speed by making minor adjustments to their running technique. Improving/correcting arm motion in running is a simple technique that can improve speed.
Techniques to improve arm motion.
It is critical to understand the importance of proper arm mechanics- which assists with propelling the body in a horizontal direction and also keeps your body balanced allowing forward movement in a straight line. Techniques that I have used to improve coordination in arm motion is first to have my athletes understand the arm and leg motion used in walking(gait). Normal arm motion during gait is forward movement with the opposite arm with the opposite leg. Next, I have them exaggerate their arm swing by having them swing their arms across the center of their body so they can see how difficult it is to walk forward. I want to emphasize here the wasted rotational trunk motion and arm swing in relation to the legs. I also explain that running and sprinting is a continuation of this counterbalance motion. I always like to start with walking and showing arm and leg motion before proceeding to run or do speed work because if they cannot perform coordinated arm and leg technique while walking, then it will be difficult for them to do this at maximum speed.
Coordinating the hand, the arm, and the swing.
When I teach this drill to young sprinters, I like to keep it simple demonstrating the position of the arms. In walking the arms are relaxed and swing, in running the arms are relaxed but positioned at a 90-degree bend at the elbows (maintaining the L shape) and that the motion comes from the shoulder, not the elbow. We expect some elbow flexion and extension on the front (60-90 degrees) and back side(90-120 degrees) of the drill because we want this motion to be relaxed and fluid, not a mechanical process. If you look at any video footage of a world-class sprinter, you will see the relaxation in their face, shoulders, arms, and hands.
During running, the athletes’ hands should be relaxed and should swing from shoulder to hip-another term you probably heard is ear to pocket. I like to use the verbal cue SHOULDER to HIP because on the front swing most young athletes will swing their hand beyond the shoulder-a good front swing is when the hand is between shoulder and ear. With the back arm swing, we want separation between the hip and the hand. Another way is to make sure is that the back arm swing elbow is to the sky. I heard sprinting legend Carl Lewis use the term “elbow to the sky, thumb to the eye” to make sure the arm motion technique was correct.
Trunk rotation and muscle tension can cost critical seconds.
The arms should not come across the front of the body because this will create trunk rotation which decreases speed-loosing critical seconds. In running, we want to keep everything as straight ahead as possible in the sagittal plane. Remember the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and we want to build maximum velocity straight ahead. I sometimes use the example of a fighter throwing a punch. Which is quicker a jab or a hook? A jab is a straight forward punch whereas a hook is more of a curve swinging motion.
Tension in the face, arms, and legs can cause flexion of the muscles which can restrict motion leading to wasted energy. The eyes should be straight ahead, and chin horizontal with a relaxed face. The focus should be on a relaxed rotation of the arms through the shoulder joint and minimal trunk rotation.
The arm motion drill can be done walking and also in a standing position. As my athletes do the drill in the standing position, I will walk around and correct any mistakes. Start slowly with this drill making sure their arms and hands are in the proper positions, then you can tell them to PUMP their arms with a focus on keeping BIG ARMS so that they don’t over flex their elbows. The key here is quality vs. quantity. This drill is simple enough where they can also do this at home in front of a mirror so they can see their technique. Usually, I tell them to do 3 sets for 30 seconds.
Remember that increasing speed can be as simple as improving arm coordination. This takes time and practice. A key point to remember is relaxed muscles and proper form. This should be a fun activity and one of the first adjustments with technique to improving speed.
David Edwards Founder of the DYA Network.