How often do we see athletes performing running arm drills in positions inconsistent with arm action during acceleration or max velocity?
Actually, quite a bit.
The problem is, we have been taught wrong from the get-go. How many times have you heard “arms should always be at 90 degrees”? I am here to tell you that is not correct. Just watch athletes who run correctly and notice how their arms move.
During acceleration, especially the drive phase, an athlete needs to overcome inertia. They need to PUSH hard down and back into the ground. Relative to sprinting, the foot contact is much longer, and it takes time to finish the ground contact.
The arms can help this if you let them. If the arm that swings back is allowed to open up and lengthen (longer lever), it aids in the PUSH time of the opposite leg. As a matter of fact, as the arm strokes backward, it begins to open up violently right of the bat- right from when it leaves the chin level on the front swing. This early opening action helps to time up with the long drive (long lever) of the push-off leg- the opposite leg.
Now, if we look at the front arm, it squeezes down into a tighter, smaller lever. The elbow bends a lot, and the forearm moves toward the bicep. This positioning and action aids in not over rotating the thorax, but it also quickens the front arm stroke to time up with the opposite front leg, which is also a shorter, quicker lever.
If the arms stayed at 90 degrees all the time, then the legs would never be able to push longer and hard enough because the quicker the arms pass through its swing cycle, the legs must somewhat match it, or coordination becomes uncoordinated.
Another common mistake made by coaches is to have their athletes sit on the floor and swing their arms. Again, a strong arm back is long and low as it passes back past the hip. If the athlete used the proper arm swing while sitting, they would hit their hands into the ground every time. It would be best to put the athlete in a half-kneeling position, so they can use proper levers to execute the arm swing.
There is much more about running arms that we could address, but I think you get the “SWING” of things!
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