Think of your arms as levers. A shorter lever is faster, more efficient and better for running. You want the arm to form at most a 90 degree angle, but cutting that in half and having about a 45 degree angle is optimal. Your hands should be relaxed like you’re holding a potato chip or a butterfly that you don’t want to break or injure. Now draw an invisible line down the middle of your chest, and don’t cross that line with your arms as you swing them.
Let’s talk about your elbow briefly. (See graphic below.) You should thrust your elbow back, but then let gravity bring it forward. You want to exert as little energy as possible with that forward swing. In running, the less energy expended throughout the total exercise, the more energy available toward the end of a race. So the arm/elbow thrusts back because you’re fighting gravity, but then just let the arm drop and swing forward. Don’t let the elbow pass in front of the stomach/body, unless you’re sprinting. Your elbow should stop just before it passes the stomach/body, and thrust back again at that point. Why? An overstride is often connected with an overswing of the arm. Now whether the overswing of the arm causes the overstride of the leg or vice-versa, that’s a great question, but it’s good to examine all those areas and figure yourself out. Experiment!
I suggest you do some experimentation with yourself and your athletes if you coach. Every great coach experiments. In fact that’s what separates poor coaches and good coaches from great coaches: a willingness to experiment. Take your slowest runners, the ones who you care about, but the success of your season isn’t riding on their performances. Implement these principles with them and see what happens.
Do this: Get your good arm swing going while you’re standing on two feet, then just stand on one foot and monitor the twisting of the body as you swing your arms. Swing your arm aross that line I just told you not to cross. Notice how the torque increases. Pay attention to where you feel it most. Chances are you’ll feel it in your ankles, knees, hips and back. This is not the primary cause for running injuries, but running related injuries are not a result of one single issue. They are usually a result of a few factors combined.
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