row, row, row your elbows?

I am going back and forth with several coaches about arm functions while sprinting.
Here are the three theories:
:cool: (I have read CF thread on mechanics of arms should have the hands drive down and not back which would risk a slower recovery) :cool:

  1. Pull elbows in tight towards body and have a slight pinch on that angle to move arms faster. This is the form of arms throughout the 100.

  2. Then there is the CF model which states drive arms down because the negative force (opposite of sprint direction) will take care of itself.

  3. Mo Greene model: Drive arms back forcefully like hammers (open handed) and seek to maintain a 90 degree angle through the drive phase; then transition to a loose fist or hand but continue to drive elbows and forearms backwards which encourages an elastic response in the other arm to raise to chin level.

All 3 are obviously successful but I know which one I teach.


My first thought is one that has been expressed here repeatedly, namely that these instructions are meant to be suggestive cues applied to specific cases (i.e individuals) with an aim to make an athlete feel like he is doing a certain action while in fact he may be doing something else (or at least doing something more than what he feels he is doing).

Another way of seeing this is that if any of these instructions where to be perfected by the athlete (as in actually doing the prescribed action and nothing else) the result would be disastrous and a different cue would be needed to fix it.

Edited to add that the third “method” mentioned looks more like a description of what is actually happening as opposed to a description of any cues John Smith might use to make sure it happens.

Good point here Thor. I am curious as to where sonicB heard about Mo’s “method.” As Thor mentions, what seems to be happening to someone watching, and what is actually happening are oftentimes very different things.

Thank you. Helpful response

I agree with Thor that “these instructions are meant to be suggestive cues applied to specific cases”.

This is how Mo describes it in the HSI videos in the episode ‘Drive Phase’:

Mo: “You always wanna keep your arms at a 90 degree angle, relax the upper part of your body”

“Relax 'em and pump it 90 degrees.”

“Keep your hands open and hit down like you’re slamming a hammer.”

“Down, so that’s how you wanna hit it, so you come down bamn, hit [or; head?] down.”

It’s all about details.

Thanks acooper; I did not want to quote it because I read it a heard it a couple of years ago and have not been able to find it since.

Yes it is in the details; so what do the details suggest to you?:
“backwards, back, down”

Cues they are…, but it is more than that when doing such actions give a desired effect. How would you draw the line between cues and what is actually occurring from a mechanical standpoint?

Well seeing as the CF model and John Smith model both state to drive the arm down that would be a good point to start i would say. The only thing i would add is that you should open the arm (straigthen the elbow) at the bottom of the swing so the hand and fore arm are at peak velocity at the same time as the opposite (support) leg’s ground contact period.

Mo’s explantaion then seems spot on. I suppose it you could describe it has hitting down with follow through.

Okay, good.
Now, There is also the theory releasing the elbow angle some might cause slower recovery of the trail leg during the race. My belief is that if the runner is cued to tuck the pelvis, (during MV phase), this helps to quicken the recovery and balance out what the “open-elbow” angle may cause.
What I have also noticed is when I have cued my sprinters to use the "hammering down and back during the final 5-10 of the race, it works well to resist the forces of decelleration if done in a relaxed manner.


One of the problems that I see when coaching athletes to “drive their arms” is that they have a tendency to extend the elbow which creates a swimming motion. I prefer to coach my athletes to imagine that they are standing against a wall. I coach them to drive their elbows through the wall.
By driving through the backward phase of the arm cycle, we can activate the SSC and allow the arm to swing forward in a relaxed state.
I feel that this coaching cue will help the athlete create great arm drive while still maintaining the proper elbow position.
Pete McLean, MS, CSCS
Ridgefield High School

Sorry to bring up an old thread again but : What do you mean by tucking the pelvis in?

I mean not letting the hips lag back too far by keeping them under the COM.