Coach to Sprinter: "I want you to lower your arm stroke to bring your knees up"

My daughters sprint coach (she runs 100m/200m/400m) wants her to lower her arm swing and says in doing so it will bring up her knees…I explained to him in an email, that it would effect her power/stride and included a Tom Tellez video:

Today at practice, the Head coach repeated this…that she needs to lower her arms and it will bring up her knees… the arm swing they are looking for is what xc runners use, …more of a back and forth swing, not chin and pocket as my daughter has been taught for the past 4 years…
The Head coach and Sprint coach are also the Head coach and assistant coach for xc, track is more or less an extention of the xc season.

Her arm swing is not perfect, she has been working on her arm mechanics over the past few years, but I don’t think it is anything that would require radical change either.
She is now age 14 and a Freshman in High School.

Here is a video of her running her 1st open 400m this year, a couple weeks ago, she is in lane #6:

When I picked her up after practice today, she said the sprint coach kept asking her “Who’s your coach?” over and over…she said she didn’t get what he meant. I’m assuming he didn’t like my email too much…guess I’m just going to have to talk with him in person.

Am I just confused and missing something?

Your thoughts and suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Looks like a case of “nothing broke, why fix it?”

I’m not much of a believer that everyone needs to run with the same style and mechanics. If you have to think about how you’re running, you probably won’t be going as fast. If posture is good and the foot is striking below the hip, there’s not a lot more needed. I also would say that knee “lift” is more of a byproduct of putting force into the track, sort of bouncing up there instead of pulling up there – and arms don’t control that; they just balance that action. Arms rise to correspond with higher knee lift. The faster you go, the likelier the arms are to drive higher. Lowering the arms is what distance runners do – but they don’t do it to change their stride; it’s just a result of putting less force into the track than sprinters IMO.

This is especially confusing why they are addressing this at the END of the season, while her 100m/200m speed has slowed consistantly up to now.
Her 1st 400m on April 7 was:

Her second 400m on April 26 was:

Her 400m time gets better, while her 100m/200m time is consistantly getting worse…

Except…this past Saturday…she ran a 1:02.82 400m…

This is because the Tuesday before, she had the Flu and missed school/practice, then on Thursday 26, it was a “League” meet, so they ran her in the:

4 x 100m
4 x 400m

She said her legs were gone after running the 400m and she did not do well her last 2 events obviously.

Then, only 2 days later for the last meet on Saturday, she just didn’t have enough time to recover.
She said she didn’t feel her “normal” energetic and excited self before running the 400m Saturday… she said she just didn’t have much energy or stamina.

Each week they normally run her:

4 x 100m
100m or 200m
4 x 400m

Some of the arm action in the past few meets I believe has alot to do with fatigue.

Here is a video from the April 26 (lane #5):

Here is one from Saturday (lane #6):

One thing to keep in mind is that Tellez is discussing top speed mechanics with maximum range of motion in hips and arms.
That’s not how your run a 400, especially young girls for whom the 400 is almost a middle distance event.

If you look at the videos, her thumb does not reach near her face, her arms are lower than when sprinting the 100m/200m and in the video, her arm swing range is generally the same as most the other runners…
Also, most coaches I have read or talked to recommend on the last 100m of the 400 to over emphasize arm swing and knee lift as this will be needed because of fatigue, as the arms and knee lift won’t be getting enough movement.

Rich121 if you are so worried about how your daughter is being coached can’t you remove her from her current situation and either have her coached elsewhere or coach her yourself. I am just not sure what it is you after from this forum as from what you have relayed to us the coach is going to coach in his style regardless of what your input is.

In theory…

…the coach is right!!!

Watching your vid, the arms do appear a little locked round the elbow IMO

The idea of ‘opening’ the arm I’d done so to allow a greater leverage and indeed greater rom to be used…
Mostly taught for coming out of the blocks…

However, type in you tube…
Usain bolt top speed mechanics (for some stupid reason my iPad won’t link) you will see what I presume the coach trying to explain but you can visually

Hope that helps

I remember being curious about this coach’s arm cues earlier on, as I think her elbows are coming too far back. Focusing on driving the arms down should clear this up. Spike, if you don’t like a dad taking an interest in his kid’s coaching, don’t answer his questions.

That is also what we have been working on in the past…I would tell her it almost looks as if your driving your arms up, think of pounding pegs into the ground with your hands, and we have also talked about her arm back/side motion…

I may have misunderstood…

Anyone know of a good video that would help my daughter understand this. as she doesn’t seem to understand when I explain to her?

Here is a much better “side view” showing her arm mechanics.
She is running the 4th leg of an exciting 4 x 400m relay a couple weeks ago…she is wearing blue/white one piece uniform…great finish, just ahead of the poor girl who did the faceplant while crossing the finish line.

Well, I think if she was my daughter, I’d like to see her run like this “girl”:

If your high school coaches think they know better than two of the all-time greats (athlete and coach), you might inquire with the AD exactly what certifications said XC coaches have that qualifies them to be coaching sprinters. As a sprinter, I don’t see anything particularly wrong (excepting side motion stuff) with your daughter’s arm motion. What I do see in some of those videos of some of the other girls are people swinging their arms like cross country joggers with coaches that likely don’t have a clue about sprinting. Maurice Greene said something in one of the old HSI videos about driving the arms like pounding nails, and that’s what I would try to get across. You particularly DO want to concentrate on arm drive during the later stages of the race, because that’s how you keep your leg turnover up.

Watch Sanya up close. Notice particularly the sharpness of the arm movement, and how she varies the stroke length depending on how hard she’s pushing. There’s nothing wrong with cutting down a bit on the stroke in the middle of the race to save a little energy (which really might be what they’re trying to get across but expressing it wrongly), but notice how Sanya gets her hands up during acceleration in the beginning, and again during the drive to the finish.

Let me go on record as being a huge fan of this young lady, she is a fighter! She really dug deep for that finish. Her technique doesn’t need to be messed with either, it looks good. She is going to run club track after the high school season is over, correct? These high school coaches should know when to leave well enough alone.

Thanks for the great video, my daughter is a huge fan of both Sanya Richards, Allyson Felix and loves to watch/learn others too.
Many times a week I have to remind her to finish her homework as she sits and watches their videos on the computer, sometimes for hours at a time… and checking their stats etc. She truley loves the 400m.
For her birthday (July) I am saving to get her to the Olympic Mens/Womens 400m tryout finals in Eugene, Oregon. Which, is good timing too, being at the end of June. That would be the ultimate b-day gift for her. We only live about 300 miles away, so not too far to drive.

T-Slow, I will show her your comment, it will make her day!
Thank you.
Yes, she will be doing summer track, both AAU and USATF. She hasn’t been with a club for 2 years, as we couldn’t afford the travel/time (300 mile round trip) and was only doing the Saturday practice during school… though while with Seattle Speed, she was running her fastest 100m/200m sprints.

The past 4 years I have tried my best to help her for Middle School track, AAU/USATF track and last June she did well with her first/last time competing in the Hershey meet. Running the 800m.
I have had the time to be able to spend with her, as I had medical issues (that are much better now) and was not able to work.
I feel very, very fortunate to have been able to have that time, and even when working (hopefully soon!!!) I will still spend as much time as I can to help and enjoy the time with her.

She had another meet last night.
There were only 3 schools in the meet, so not alot of recovery between some events, such as, she ran the 4 x 100m @ 4:43PM and then started in the open 400m @ 4:53PM (time of each is on video), leaving less than 10 minutes of recovery before running the open 400m. After the 400m, she ran the 200m, then finally, the 4 x 400m. By the time she ran in the 4 x 400m, she was already fatigued.

Here is the 4 x 400m video, I zoomed a little closer so as to see arm mechanics better, she is running the 4th leg:

She also learned not to change her strategy in the 400m.
She was expecting to be running against a certain “rival”, but the school didn’t put her in the race and put another girl in who is a very good 300m hurdler…My daughter thought she wouldn’t need to start the 400m so quickly (which really confused me as to why but we got that out of her head for the future)…but found out differently.
She “assumed” that the girl would “die” in the final 100m…but, instead, she found herself trying to play catch-up.

Great “lesson-learned”, and still, she got a personal best of 1:00.4
She has Districts next week, then Regionals.

Here is the video of last nights 400m, she is in lane #5:

Yeah, I’m a fan, too…

I showed one of our female sprinters both of your daughter’s latest races which she fully enjoyed (wishes she could run the 4 like her) and thinks each one has been an improvement over the last.

Thanks for the support hornblower and TMSSF.

Last week @ the District Championships she PR’ed with a 1:00.35 and qualified to go to the Regional meet this weekend.

Today, she PR’ed again and finally getting sub-60… she ran 59.92.

She placed 3rd in her Heat, and 5th overall for the day.

Only the top 8 are running in the Finals tomorrow and of those, only the top 3 finishers go to the State Championship meet next weekend.

a video of the race, she is in Lane #8:

Cool. Going <60 is also a proud accomplishment for a young female.

She jokingly asks why we didn’t start her in school a year later, as most everyone is a year or more older than her in her grade (she will be 14 until mid-summer).
“I would be one year faster”…then she laughs…

Congrats to Keana! It’s no joke to run a PB all by yourself in the wilderness of lane 8. She should be incredibly proud of herself to run a 59 FAT! I wish I could say I was surprised, but we could all see it coming- she is a fierce racer. Please pass on congrats!

She races again tomorrow? Can she do anything regenerative? Contrast shower? That along with some light shaking massage should help her feel a bit refreshed. Charlie’s advise about massage was bang on; “Put your mind in neutral and rub.” It’s amazing how good you can get in a hurry!

Keep us posted on what happens tomorrow- not that the result matters as long as she runs her usual gutsy race. She already has tons to be proud of for running a PB today.

Rich, will you be training her yourself for outdoors? If so, can you get a little group going? You could control the program, which is a huge bonus. I bet there are lots of kids whose parents don’t have the time or energy (or who aren’t around) who could benefit from your passion for track, and it would make training way more fun for your daughter.