I'm 3 weeks in to the Southwestern College Track practice. I seriously thought I know how to sprint 3 weeks ago. I was wrong. My shoulders and hip flexors are feelin' it because I'm now using these major powerhouses. Having strength, power and speed in your upper body allows for a faster turnover, or cadence, in the lower body. So, moving your arms faster, and of course in the correct position, will force your legs to keep up.
Holding your arms at 90 degrees is most efficient. An angle greater than 90 creates a longer pendulum swing and slower motion. If you go less than 90, you’re recruiting from the biceps, and basically wasting energy that can be used elsewhere.
However, as sprinting has evolved we are learning more.
Try this out:
With your shoulders relaxed, bend your arms to 90 degrees. Bring your hand up towards your nose (the “upstroke”), and then quickly push your arm back (the “down-stroke”) as if you’re trying to point the back of your elbow skyward. The down-stroke is key. A down-stroke that goes past your lateral line (the outside of your hips) and past your glute is ideal. This movement needs to be hard and fast. In fact, the down-stroke is more important than having an equal upstroke, in terms of cadence.
Once you feel like you have that down, add this next element, which Usain Bolt has taught us. Keep the hard down-stroke at 90 degrees, and then shorten your elbow joint to 60-70 degrees on the way up. With this slighter shorter angle on the up-stroke, you can move your arms faster. And when you move your arms faster, your legs will turn over quicker to keep up.
Using the mantra “down hard, quick up”, is definitely helping me get use to this new technique.
Check out the video to see what I’m talking about. And please don’t be too critical, I’m still learning!