We all want to run as efficiently as possible. In order to do this, we need to cut down on any movement that doesn’t contribute to our feet moving forward. Does this mean that arms and upper body movements should be minimal, or nil? Or does activity of our upper body contribute to the lower body?
This brings us to Tyler’s story. He is a high school runner looking to make a splash this fall in cross country. His coaches had been in touch with me about his form, more specifically that he seemed to have a lot of excess arm motion. By the time he and I were able to meet up, his form has improved a lot with utilizing some of the drills covered here, but appreciate the change would likely have been more dramatic if we were starting from scratch!
Here is footage of him initially.
Again, it’s not too dramatic at this point, but he has excessive upper body movement side to side (frontal plane), as well as an asymmetric arm swing. Is this affecting his efficiency? Or deeper still, are his arms tattling on issues further below? With excessive upper body movement, it’s usually a sign of core or hip weakness, so we need to sort that out more.
Here is a simple drill for testing hip stability with side to side movements. Notice that with landing on the right side, his hip stays more rigid, and doesn’t load as gracefully, than the left.
Here is a simple exercise to build strength in the hips during the loading phase of gait. As strength improves, it will make it easier to keep the upper body more efficient. He is holding bricks, but any object with a little weight will work!
We also used the bricks for form drills to increase the lever arm of his upper body. This forces his hips and core to dial in more effectively.
After all this, here is the new and improved Tyler!
Again, the change isn’t as dramatic as it would be, but there is still improvement. By teaching the hips to load properly and using the drills to force his core to stay more centered, his form is more efficient. The best way to tell is watching his arms, as well as hips and shoulders to contrast how much side to side movement is taking place.
In ideal running, there should be brief but minimal side to side movements. These should be taken care of in the hips and lower core. If the upper body has swaying side to side, it’s a good bet the hips are misbehaving. On the flip side, if we can use our upper bodies effectively, it can act as a lever to help propel our lower bodies, which will make as more efficient runners.
With further constant attention to these things, Tyler will continue to make excellent gains. Great job Tyler!