Shoulder Rotation: The Secret to Longer Stride length sprinters, Faster Running
By Adarian Barr
This article is guest blogged by two authors: movement specialist and Track and Field coach Adarian Barr of Next Level Athletics and Fitness, and Alysson Bodenbach, a 5th-year senior 400m runner at Michigan State, majoring in Kinesiology.
Adarian Barr’s other contributing article was Staying Low on a 40 Yard Dash or 100 Meter Start and Lolo Jones & Justin Gatlin: The Jamaican Toe Drag Revisited.
Shoulder Rotation for Longer Stride Length, Faster Times
Whether or not core stability is directly related to shoulder rotation is something that coaches will debate for years to come.
Unfortunately, our likely source of information, scientists, isn’t always our best answer to our questions.
In the past, scientists have said that it was impossible to run under a four-minute mile, and running faster than 9.69 seconds in the 100m dash was out of the question. However, athletes around the world have been breaking barriers left and right, proving scientists wrong.
When it comes down to running fast, the preference for a longer stride length or faster turnover is often questioned. For example, if we take Usain Bolt, you will notice that his stride length is predominantly longer than the average sprinter.
Of course, he is tall, which is to his advantage; however, stride length genuinely gives him the edge over his competitors. He can cover the same amount of ground (100m) with fewer strides than his competitors. Now, frequency plays a role, but nothing is more significant than his stride length.
So, how does one go about achieving a longer stride length?
And can see the perfect examples in slower races such as the 800, where and can easily scrutinize body position and rotation.
Not every runner will practice this technique. However, in elite runners such as Alysia Montano (800m), her shoulder rotation is most definitely visible.
Some will argue that the amount of rotation in her shoulders is due to a lack of core stability.
But it’s hard to argue core instability when she is running a personal best of 1:57.34.
800m runners aren’t the only athletes to use shoulder rotation to help propel them forward. If we were to slow down the 200m dash, you would see the same thing happen. Shoulder rotation works in direct relation with hip rotation, which is directly correlated with speed.
You can either let your arms swing back and forth and neutralize the torque created by your glutes, or you can use the torque designed to enhance the power produced by your glutes. Our arms may act as a counterbalance, but we don’t want them to work as a counterbalance against our hips.
When discussing the alternative option of pumping the arms back and forth, we ultimately aim to increase stride frequency. Stride frequency alone is not enough to increase speed. But when paired with shoulder rotation in the correct amount, an increase in speed is likely.
For example, Allyson Felix is an excellent 200m runner but struggles in the 100m. Her problem relies on the fact that her stride length is too long for the 100m. But for that same reason, her stride length is perfect for the 200m. Finding the ideal balance is the key to any race.
Runners such as Bolt and Montano have inevitably perfected shoulder rotation utilization, bypassing any knowledge set forth by scientists. They have broken down barriers and for that have been rewarded. Now obviously, shoulder rotation is not the cure-all to all speed problems. But this minor change in a runner’s form can go a long way when executed properly.
Olympic Sprinters: Why Should I Toe Drag?
Today’s Sunday Article is Guest Blogged by Coach Adarian Barr and Mrs. Alysson Bodenbach.
Written by Adarian Barr and Alysson Bodenbach
Toe drag out of a block start is becoming more and more common amongst elite sprinters.
- Usain Bolt on the second step.
- Justin Gatlin on the first two steps.
- Asafa Powell on the first two steps
- Lolo Jones has recently switched from a drag on the 3rd step to the first two steps.
As a sprinter develops, they are taught to drive out of the blocks with both legs. But maybe we should be taking a note or two from the block start of a swimmer. At the same time, swimmers drive off of one leg and never bring a knee through.
Therefore this means that they create enough explosive power with one leg, then the other leg becomes irrelevant.
While instead of bringing one knee through like sprinters. Swimmers drive the body forward off of one leg, leaving the leg suspended behind them. Yet regarding sprinters, the toe drag can work to a runner’s advantage just as much as a swimmer’s start can work to their advantage.
Also, driving off one leg and leaving one leg behind you creates the same explosion that swimmers have already perfected. Hence toe drag creates tremendous power and explosion as the glutes contract over a more extended period, allowing the sprinter to achieve maximum force application.
Dragging the toe also drives the hips down the track setting up a pattern to create maximum horizontal velocity.
Another bonus of the drag is that your feet stay low to the ground creating less braking action.
Since the athlete’s hips are driving horizontally with their feet remaining close to the ground, the athlete can stay low as they don’t have to raise their body to bring the back leg through; hence the toe drag starts to work for the athlete.
Furthermore, the athlete must alter their arms swing from a back and forth action to a side to side as the shoulders get involved in creating torque.
While According to theorists, the most critical benefit of dragging the toe is the inevitable ability to create more incredible top-end speed. After seeing some of the world’s most elite sprinters successfully execute the toe drag.
While it is safe to say that dragging your toe does indeed make the block start faster, Adarian Barr (movement specialist, trainer, and track and field coach) of Next Level Athletics and Fitness has been teaching this sprint start to his athletes with great success.
Furthermore, Adarian Barr (movement specialist, trainer, and track and field coach) of Next Level Athletics and Fitness has been teaching this sprint start to his athletes with great success.
- A ‘second skin’ for sprinters (todayonline.com)
- Olympic DNA – Birth of the Fastest Humans by Dr. Rachael Irving (prweb.com)
- Usain Bolt vs. 116 years of Olympic sprinters (theverge.com)
By Mike Toal
How to Improve Your Speed
This article gives an overview of the essential techniques required to enable an athlete to run faster.
To increase any athlete, speed means improving on one or both of the following elements:
1. Increase the number of steps an athlete takes per second, i.e., their cadence.
2. Improve the effectiveness of each time they make contact with the ground.
Increasing cadence is most easily improved by reducing the amount of recovery time between strides. This means reducing the time it takes to get the foot off the ground and back on the floor.
Often athletes compensate for their lack of knee lift by either over striding (taking larger steps beyond their center of gravity) or pushing out more behind them in an attempt to increase their power and, therefore, stride length.
The problems with these techniques are as follows:
- It increases the recovery time, which results in a lower stride rate.
- Increases the load on the hamstrings (increasing the injury risk)
- Decreases knee lift as the hips sink low to enable a long recovery time. This results in less powerful foot contact.
Now we’ve identified the problem – how do we fix it? Ultimately, how do I run quicker?
This can be identified by improving seven areas.
By Aaron Thigpen
(video by Adarian Barr)
Downhill sprinting is a form of assistance or “over-speed training.” And they were forcing an athlete to move their legs faster than they could typically generate. However, I don’t have novice athletes run downhill. Therefore, reserving it for elite caliber athletes who have a full mastery of their sprinting mechanics.
Here are my reasons:
While the athletes gain greater than normal speed as they run down a hill, you will see the following improper running mechanics.
- Landing on their heels
- Jamming the toes into the ground (braking)
- Leaning or pulling the shoulders backward
- Getting arms & legs out of sync
- Short choppy strides or flicking the feet behind them
- Falling forward out of control.
These are all-natural responses once athletes start to achieve above-normal speeds. And repeated runs like this do nothing but ingrain improper movements and increase the risk of injury to the knees, back, and hamstrings.
To read the full article, click here
Curve Running Complex Meets Simple
The third article on Curve Running is contributed by Coach Adarian Barr and 400m NCAA runner Alysson Bodenbach. Follows the brilliant article on Toe Drag and Shoulder Rotation.
By Adarian Barr and Alysson Bodenbach
Proper sprint technique has become a highly debatable topic as new technology develops. Athletes are running faster than ever before, but can speed be attributed to something other than genetics?
One topic that is often discussed amongst athletes and coaches alike is body position on the curve.
Most runners are taught to “lean into the curve” without any clear direction or support as to why this method is effective…or is it? You are not alone if you were taught to learn from your ankles, drop your left shoulder, run tall, and tilt your chin down until you reach the straightaway.
It is not uncommon for an athlete to feel bombarded by all of these cues and experience instances of slipping or a loss of maximum potential about stride length. As sprinters, the goal is to cover the most ground in the least amount of time.
If an athlete is not reaching their possible maximum stride length, how likely is it that they will reach their maximum potential?
Running the race curve does not need to be as complicated as many coaches make it out to be.
There is no need to cue an athlete with several different points to focus on; instead, they should focus on one or two and run the curve to their maximum capability. With that being said, running the angle comes down to a straightforward cue: squatting.
Humans are comprised of joints and mobile hips for a reason. Squatting on the curve allows for increased mobility of the hip joints, allowing the runner to swivel in the direction they are trying to go.
Greater hip mobility also allows the runner to step over the knee and drive/push around the curve. Regarding the head position, there is no need for a particular cue in addition to the squatting signal because it is already taken care of. When a runner squats on the curve, their head is inclined to stay neutral as a forward lean is created.
In the case of 400-meter runners, curve running is beneficial and practical. Setting up a race should go as follows: squat curves, stand up on the backstretch to increase leg turnover and stand up almost to full extension on the home stretch.
The runner will have better control of their bodies with fewer cues to focus on winning a race.
So what exactly are the true benefits of squatting on the curve?
The most significant point we would like to make is in the case of stride length. The runner who covers the most ground in the shortest amount of time will win the race, so a runner can make a specific change (squatting on the curve).
Instead of several changes (lean into the turn, chin down, dropping a shoulder, running tall, and the list goes on), they should have a higher chance of success.
When it comes to running the curve, the equation’s answer does not need to be complicated by any means. Running is meant to be simple, and with efficient cues, it can be. Squatting on the curve has proven to be one of the easiest ways to increase stride length without really thinking; instead, the work is done for you.
New technology has allowed coaches and athletes to make the appropriate changes in their training; now, it’s time to look at squatting as an ancient science with increased function. It’s time to open our eyes to something that can and will work for runners and coaches alike. stride length
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