Last Updated on March 11, 2013 by Jimson Lee
I have to admit, I am still a kid, and I still enjoy connecting the dots.
I wrote about the proper use of the arm and hand action in at least 5 articles (see below for the links).
And I wrote about the importance of fascia in past articles More on Stretching – Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) and More on Stretching and Movement (Part 3).
So what does Fascia have to do with sprinting arm mechanics, and more specifically, how can it be used to make you run faster?
Yes, believe it or not, there could be a connection, based on David Weck, whose claim to fame is the invention of the Bosu Ball!
Arm Mechanics and Fascia
In last January’s Men’s Heath, there was an article titled The Revolutionary New Science of Speed.
The article is about David Weck who developed a theory about how "spiraling" your arms could make you run faster, based on Fascia.
You can read the printer friendly article instead of going through 6 pages. Plus it’s easier on a mobile device!
Below is a snippet of the relevant portion:
Weck believes in an arm swing that turns outward as the arm moves forward, and inward as the arm moves back. The arms stay close to your sides, and the fingers wrap tightly at the top—and then unwrap and extend at the bottom. His explanation for this seemingly trivial instruction—after all, how could corkscrewing your hands and fingers have any effect on your running speed?—is based on the supposed downstream effects of tightening one long network of connective tissue known as fascia. One example of fascia is the opaque membrane covering a chicken breast when you peel back the skin. You probably don’t give it much thought when you eat meat, and early anatomists ignored it as well. But if anything is clear about physiology, it is that the body doesn’t waste materials.
"Bending and internally rotating your wrist with your fingers spread uncoils the spring," says Weck. "Your connective tissue is a unitary structure spanning the body, so what happens at your hands impacts what happens everywhere else."
You can imagine the fascia, in this view, like a chain-link fence. If it’s loose, a pull on one end has to take up the slack before that pull causes movement at the farthest point. If that chain-link fence is purposely pulled tight, however, as fascia is with spiraling, movement on one end will be transmitted through its entire length without delay.
"It is absolutely true that movement of the arms when you run will have an effect on the fascial bag, and it’s all one fascial bag," says Thomas Myers, author of Anatomy Trains , a book dedicated to the subject. Myers calls fascia a "bag" because he has dissected enough of the stuff to view the interlocking bands of tissue as nothing more than the sack that holds us together. Like Weck, he believes subtle movements of our fingers may play a role in how precisely our legs move, because of the networks of fascia and nerves that link them.
"Just look at someone punting a football," says Myers. "You will see the person’s fingers usually in very precise positions. Splinting two fingers together could change how the foot strikes the ball, and that could change the direction of a punt." To understand this strange connection, try running with your hands open. "Fascia absorbs and distributes biomechanical forces," Myers says. So even though your hands are far removed from your hips and legs, he says, running with them open will tire out your legs and back sooner than running with them closed will.
But you don’t have to be a fervent believer in the all-powerful actions of fascia to see a potential biomechanical benefit in spiraling your arms. The movements also seem capable of translating to changes in what is happening in your back and hips. "If you pronate your hand while it’s back, you help your hip flex on that side, which is what is happening when your arm is at the back of the swing," says Weck. "It will lead to the internal rotation of the upper arm, and the ‘recoil,’ for lack of a better term, of your lats, biceps, and pecs as they prepare to help bring the arm forward again."
Here Weck has some supporters in his argument. "Rotating your arm outward at the top of your swing is in fact going to stretch your lats," says the University of San Francisco’s Dalcourt. "Your lats are on your back, but they connect to the front of your arm. Why are we set up this way? One reason is that lifting and externally rotating your palm stretches the muscle and helps create potential energy. Also, your lats blend in with and lift your pelvis." All of which is why Weck believes supinating your arm enables your opposite-side hip to rise more easily, while pronating your arm enables your near-side hip to rise more easily.
How to Run Faster (with your Arms)
There are several articles on arm action here on the Blog… everything from the Asafa Powell’s Jamaican Sprint Success to Adarian Barr’s instructional video below:
- Tom Tellez How to Run Faster (with your Arms)
- Arm action in sprinting
- Arm action in sprinting: Is this product crap?
- Stealing Second & Third Base: Secret are in the hands
- Arm Action: Work together, not pump up & down!
Speed skaters arm swing or asymmetrical arm swing.
I have a dvd coming out that explains fascia and tension and movement.
Covers muscle activation also.
Jimson Lee says
@Adarian, can’t wait to see it!
Interesting article. I think it’s natural to swing like this, but too much can contribute to timing and rythym issues, as well as posture. I think observing children(no coaching) could tell alot about natural movement. It definately is seen in hurdling.
Jimson Lee says
@Al, someone once said, the best running stride can be found in a pre-pubescent girl, as it’s the most natural running form. So there is a lot of merit in watching children’s technique and what is natural. The 100m is complicated enough!
Damond Trowbridge says
Is there video of this anywhere? I’m having trouble visualizing it.