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 Bodenbac, a 5th-year senior 400m runner at Michigan State, majoring in Kinesiology.
Shoulder Rotation for Longer Stride Length, Faster Times
Core stability in relation to shoulder rotation has been a hot debate amongst coaches and runners alike, especially during this Olympic season.
Whether or not core stability is directly related to shoulder rotation is something that coaches will debate over for years to come, but unfortunately our likely source of information, scientists, aren’t always our best answers 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 of a longer stride length or faster turnover is often in question. If we take Usain Bolt, for example, 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, the length of his strides is truly what gives him the edge over his competitors. He is able to cover the same amount of ground (100m) with fewer strides than his competitors. Now of course frequency plays a role, but nothing is more significant than his stride length.
So, how does one go about achieving a longer stride length?. The perfect examples can be seen in slower races such as the 800. Where body position and rotation can easily be scrutinized.
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 created to enhance the power created 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 are ultimately looking to increase stride frequency. Stride frequency alone is not enough to increase speed. But when paired with shoulder rotation in the correct amount and increase in speed is likely.
Take for example Allyson Felix: she is an excellent 200m runner but struggles in the 100m. Her problem relies on the fact that her stride pattern is simply too long for the 100m. But for that exact same reason, her stride pattern is perfect for the 200m. Finding the perfect balance is the key to any race.
Runners such as Bolt and Montano have inevitable perfected the utilization of shoulder rotation, 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.
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. While swimmers drive off of one leg and never bring a knee through.
Therefore this means that they create enough explosive power with one leg than the other leg becomes irrelevant.
While instead of bringing one knee through like sprinters. Swimmers drive the body forward off of one leg leaving 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 of 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 longer period of time allowing the sprinter to achieve maximum force application.
In addition, dragging the toe also drives the hips down the track setting up a pattern to create maximum horizontal velocity.
While another added bonus of the drag is that your feet stay low to the ground creating less braking action. Due to the fact that the athlete’s hips are driving horizontally with their feet remaining close to the ground.
While the athlete is able to stay low as they don’t have to raise their body up to bring the back leg through. Hence in order for the toe drag start to work for the athlete. Furthermore, the athlete must alter their arms swing from a back and forth action to a side to side action as the shoulders get involved to create torque.
While According to theorists, the most important benefit that can come of dragging the toe is the inevitable ability to create greater 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.
There are seemingly countless athletic qualities that enable sprinters to run fast, but one that is often not considered is the contribution of elastic strength.
Before getting into what elastic strength is, what it can do to help sprinters run faster, and how to improve it, let’s break down three basic components of sprinting: stride frequency, stride length, and ground contact time.
Sports Exercise Articles – Stride Frequency
Stride frequency refers to how quickly an athlete changes their ground support from one foot to the other. Ben Tabachnik, Ph.D., is the Russian sprint coach who popularized the use of parachutes for sprint training in the U.S. In the book he co-authored with Rick Brunner, Soviet Training and Recovery Methods, Tabachnik says that the most important time to develop speed and quickness is between the ages of 8 and 13. Neurologist Harold L. Klawans, M.D., would agree with him.
The most important time to develop speed and quickness is between the ages of 8 and 13.CLICK TO TWEETIn his book, Why Michael Couldn’t Hit, Klawans said that to master athletic activities with a high skill component, those activities must be performed while the brain is maturing. Regarding his book title, Klawans explained that because Michael Jordan didn’t focus on baseball during his early years, he was not able to achieve a high level of skill (at least, compared to basketball) when he took up the sport professionally in 1994.
Citing research on violinists, Klawans said scientists “…found that those fiddlers who started playing early in life (age thirteen or younger) activated larger and more complex circuits in their brains than those who started learning to play their instrument later in life. Those who hadn’t started by thirteen never caught up. The circuits they activated were smaller, less complex, and more restricted. The time frame during which their brains could be guided to select those circuits had come and gone and left them forever without that ability.”
The lesson here is that if parents want their kids to be able to run fast, they should encourage them at an early age to participate in sports that require them to sprint.
This article gives an overview of the essential techniques required to enable an athlete to run faster.
To increase any athletes 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 ground.
Often athletes compensate their lack of knee lift by either overstriding (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 the 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?
We have a problem in sports. Coaches consistently use the wrong term when discussing the quantity they covet most. Tests like the ten, twenty, and forty-yard dash are actually tests of acceleration not speed. You only need to look at world-class sprinters to realize that top speed is not even achieved until approximately 60 meters. As coaches our interest is not in top speed but, rather in acceleration, the zero to sixty of the auto world. How rapidly an athlete accelerates will determine success in team sports, not what the athlete’s absolute speed is. running sled (Photo credit: bionic teaching)
Downhill sprinting is basically a form of assistance or “over-speed training”. And basically forcing an athlete to move the legs faster than they could normally generate. However, I don’t have novice athletes run downhill. Therefore it pretty much should be reserved 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 as well as increase the risk of injury to the knees, back, and hamstrings.
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Curve Running Complex Meets Simple
This is the third article on Curve Running is contributed by Coach Adarian Barr and 400m NCAA runner Alysson Bodenbach. Follows on from 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 from all of these cues and experience instances of slipping or a loss of maximum potential in reference to 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 curve of a race does not need to be as complex as many coaches make it out to be. There is no need to cue an athlete with several different points to focus on, rather they should be able to focus on one or two and run the curve to their maximum capability. With that being said, running the curve comes down to one simple 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. In regards to the head position, there is no need for a special cue in addition to the squatting cue because it is already taken care of. When a runner squats on the curve their head is inclined to stay at neutral as a forward lean is created.
In the case of 400-meter runners, curve running is especially useful 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 when they are trying to win a race.
So what exactly are the true benefits of squatting on the curve?
The biggest 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 if a runner can make one simple change (squatting on the curve) instead of several changes (lean into the curve, chin down, dropping shoulder, running tall, and the list goes on) they should have a higher chance of success.
When it comes to running the curve the answer to the equation does not need to be complex 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 having to think, rather 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 old science with increased function. It’s time to open our eyes to something that can and will work for runners and coaches alike.