BOOST YOUR RUNNING SPEED – (for kids and adults)
Running is embedded in most sports, team and individual, court and field.
Fast sprint and acceleration times are two of the distinguishing characteristics of a good athlete.
Whilst we cannot change your genetics, we can help you maximize your potential with sound mechanics and evidence-based coaching protocols. Improving the technique can make a huge difference in the sprint time.
Running is vastly made by using the lower limbs, and one needs stronger legs to run fast (we will blog soon about tips on this body region).
However, one factor that many still ignore is the importance of the upper limbs.
A review of the literature from 2019 (1) has demonstrated how much the arm action and the shoulder range of motion can impact the overall sprint performance.
So much that having a restricted scapulothoracic joint range can result in decreased step length and whole lean body position. Ever tried to run without using your arm? Give it a crack; not as efficient.
Now that we established how Arm action is a critical part to run faster, let’s see how we can get this trained.
With 4 simple steps and practice, you (or your kids) can fix the arms position and instantly feel/see the difference.
STEP 1: SHORT LEVERS
Arm action is taught by initially positioning your elbow joint at a 90-degree angle as it rotates at the shoulder. Why? The longer the lever the slower the movement. If you pick a cricket bat the longer the bat the slower the movement when using it. it’s the same with the arms. A quick motor learning drill, giving immediate feedback, is to sit with legs/torso straight and practice the movement for the arms: if the arms are too stretched, the hands will hit the ground.
STEP 2: TIGHT MOVEMENT
The hand should move from the cheek to the back pocket. When an athlete has good postural alignment, their one elbow will drive back and down, and the elbow angle will open at the hip to almost 180 degrees and then close to 90 degrees when passing the hip into full shoulder extension.
A quick way to help kids remember it: think about eating an apple: “eat it, put it in your pocket” and repeat cyclically.
STEP 3: TENSE-RELAXED
During each action, the hands are open and extended or slightly closed as if the athletes were holding two eggs in their hands. Why? If the athlete runs with closed fists, this creates tension in the shoulders which will make the athlete slower.
STEP 4: STRIKE HARD
As the arm action moves smoothly without tension, athletes should focus 100% of their energy on hammering the hands and elbows backward violently on each stride and not think much about returning the arms forwards. Why? The stored elastic energy in the tendons and fascia of the pectoralis major and anterior deltoid will help perform this forward arm action swing task naturally.
Finally, 2 exercises to increase arm action:
1) The medicine ball first step release (Video 1): this should serve the purpose of increase arm drive extension, supporting the propulsion needed during the very beginning of the Sprint.
2) The plate loaded overhead step (Video 2): it is thought to increase arm drive, which should assist the arm-leg coordination and horizontal propulsion, thanks to the overload of shoulder and elbow joints in conjunction with the lower limbs.
Although there are some limitations in the exercises proposed, such as the potentially significant thoracic extension during the ball and plate movement, the bias for vertical force production, and the absence of counterbalance from (for example) the opposite arm, you should be able to see and feel how arm action contribute to speed and increase the force application and stride frequency.
(1) Macadam P, Cronin JB, Uthoff AM, Johnston M, Knicker AJ. Role of Arm mechanics during sprint Running: A Review of the Literature and practical Applications. Strength & Conditioning Journal. 2018 Oct 1;40(5):14-23.