To run faster – believe it or not – the arms play a significant role in sprinting and speed development.
We cannot disregard proper arm mechanics within your speed-training program; your potential will be limited. Speed comes when the whole body is in sync, and the arms dictate that action.
The role of the arms is to stabilize the torso so that power can continue to be efficiently transferred through the hips. It is this ability to transfer power effectively through the center of mass that not only improves rate of acceleration, but also facilitates reaching maximum velocity, maintaining those top speeds and reducing the rate of deceleration in a full speed race.
The arms both directly and indirectly influence the ability to run fast.
Specifics of arm movement:
When running fast, it’s very important to keep your hands relaxed. Think about holding a potato chip in each hand. No matter how hard you run, no matter how tired you get, you can’t clench your hands so that the potato chip breaks. This is a reminder about how loose your hands should be at all times when sprinting`. When you clench your fists tightly, that tightness spreads through your forearms, biceps, shoulders, neck and face. Once you tighten up and lose range of motion in your arms, it reduces stride length, therefore decreasing your speed.
It is important to get a full range of power with the arms. Speed is a product of stride length and stride frequency. Stride length and frequency are determined, in part, by the motion of the arms.
Believe it or not, when running – even walking – we are going against gravity. So the more force applied to the ground, the further we can ‘throw’ ourselves ahead, upward etc. Resist Gravity and Run Faster.
Force applied to the ground is the main component of running fast. Numerous studies have shown that the average human has the same leg speed as elite sprinters. So what makes the elite sprinter run faster? Force upon contact…as well as other factors is what determines speed.
A recent study titled, Technical Ability of Force Application as a Determinant Factor of Sprint Performance, by Morin and colleagues, took a close look at sprint performance using 12 subjects including 2 sprinters. What they found was that speed was determined by high amounts of net horizontal force, which is calculated by subtracting braking forces from propulsive forces. The orientation of the total force applied onto the supporting ground during sprint acceleration is more important to performance than its amount.
Now, what does all this science mumbo jumbo apply to training for speed. We want to run faster, correct? Well, this study concludes what I always determined to be true in speed development. Now in my previous post I suggested that the squat is the king of all exercises…and it still is. The squat is a foundation builder. In my belief, until you can squat 1.5 to 2x your body weight, you should not undertake any other training methods. Now if you are at the elite level of squatting, you need to incorporate sprint speed development exercises.
Any form of hip extension exercise involving the posterior chain is a speed developer (hamstrings, lower back and glutes). The Glute-Ham raise, Hyper-extensions, Reverse Leg presses, Hip thrusters (also known as Butt Blasters) are some of the exercises that will help develop this.
Run Faster Training Philosophy
My training philosophy is to super-set a Posterior chain exercise, as stated above, with 15-30 second blasts of jumping rope. Why? Well, unlike most trainers out there who believe the calf muscle is not an important part of running speed development, I believe otherwise. When running, the first body part to hit the ground and absorb shock is your calves. Calf muscles that are trained to spring back powerfully will propel you forward and farther without wasted energy. See your legs as pogo sticks. Power and Spring trained as one.
What I do believe is that training calves for size will slow you down. Heavy calves are like ship anchors. Most elite sprinters are thin calved, and despite that most can still lift enormous weight using their calf muscles due to the powerful spring action in their calves. My Speed Training Philosophy: Strength and Spring = Speed
Superset the glute-ham raise (video below) with 15-30 sec jump roping (alternate styles of jumping. example: start with two legged, then one legged, then side to side, double rope swings etc. 15-30 second blast) Do about 3-4 sets at least twice a week.
I increased my speed tremendously doing a posterior chain exercise super-setted with jumping rope way before I incorporated more advanced techniques.