Adarian Barr was one of the first coaches to say that the hands were the most important aspect in setting a PB in the 100 meter sprint. He was willing to help anyone who listened, to the point where he got banned from a popular Track forum for “advertising”.
At the time, coaches were over analyzing stride rate, stride frequency, and ground contact the point of nausea.
The hands and arms are important. If you want quick hands, see my training article on how to use a speedbag.
Even in the 100 meter starting blocks, I often wore a watch on my left hand with my right foot in the rear blocks. This way, I would focus on having my left hand exploding when the gun went off. The left hand initiates the (posterior) chain reaction.
I asked Lee Taft from http://www.basestealing.com his opinion, and here was his response.
For many years, I have spoken about how important the hand speed is to an explosive start in base stealing. There are other sports where this concept applies as well, but none, in my opinion, are more important than the action of the hands when jumping.
I mention the hands, but obviously they are attached to your arms; so the arms must move quickly as well. The point is that I want the base runner to put his focus in the hands getting started. In other words, don’t tell him to have the shoulders move first and let the lower arm and hands follow behind. The hands should initiate the action.
Here is an excerpt from my Base Stealing Manual on the importance of the hands:
Arms and Hands
The arms are bent and the hands are relaxed. Once the player decides to take off, the arm action is actually the first movement by milliseconds. The arms cannot be left behind. If they are, the player will be slightly delayed in getting into the acceleration phase of the steal. By focusing on the hands moving first, the legs will drive harder and quicker, and the upper body will turn to face second much quicker. Every little bit helps!
The arms will go from the relaxed position in front of the body immediately into the running action and in opposition of the leg action.
The right arm gets driven back (as the shoulders turn) while the left arm drives forward in the up position of acceleration.
The shoulders and upper body rotate with the arms and set the body up for an optimal acceleration position.
If the arms are slow to rotate into the running position, the upper body gets "blocked" and doesn’t rotate as quickly. This hinders the power and effectiveness of the first step of acceleration.
When the arms and hands rotate quickly this action causes a reaction of the left leg to push quickly and aggressively into the ground. This is extremely helpful in gaining a big jump. So get the arms and hands moving quickly!
When coaches teach their players to rotate the arms away from second, or hold the arms long, or whatever other fancy technique they use, the effects are harmful to the first move from a biomechanical and force production standpoint.
Theses actions can delay the arms from getting into the running position as quickly as possible.
When the arms must rotate from a farther position than in front of the body, there can be a rotational force of the arms that spins the body away from second base. Don’t allow the arms to get away from the body and create a centrifugal force. Try to keep the arms moving in as straight of a line as possible.
Finally, when a player is taught to rotate the arms toward the second base to get into the running arm position as soon as possible, the action reaction between the movement of the arms and the reaction of the left leg pushing into the ground is greatly diminished.
For more information on base stealing, visit Lee Taft’s http://www.basestealing.com