Understanding what your body is doing when you run is important to increasing speed and demonstrating the hard work you put in to develop your conditioning. Many sports are played with a ball at your feet or in your hand, the need to push off of, block, or stay in contact with an opponent, or even a racquet or stick in your hand which makes typical linear speed mechanics difficult to execute. However the understanding of the principles of proper body alignment may give you an edge when you need to separate yourself from the rest of the field.
There are many factors involved in helping you reach your maximum speed. Technique is one of the most trainable factors. Focus on one check point below at a time. If you try to change too much, too quickly, it will most likely be overwhelming to you. Try to point out the good things that you are doing, and then introduce one new check point to work on at a time. When that aspect is mastered, add another correction.
Check Point 1: The Head and Eyes
When sprinting, focus your eyes straight ahead.
Check Point 2: The Shoulders and Back
The shoulders are back (shoulder blades pulled together) while maintaining an arch in the lower back.
Check Point 3: The Hands
The hands should be relaxed, not loose, with the thumb placed on the forefinger and can be held in a variety of ways depending on which way the athlete feels most comfortable. Whatever grip you prefer is okay as long as it is relaxed and does not create any tension that might tighten up the movement of the upper body.
Check Point 4: The Arm, Shoulder Rotation and 90° angle at the Elbow
The path that the hand travels is easily taught using the “chest to hip pocket” cue. The hand should not cross over the mid line of the body.
Check Point 5: The Arm and Breaking the Angle (Hand below Hip)
As the hand travels backward, it should be pushed rather forcefully, yet relaxed, back to just above an imaginary pocket on the back of your pants. If you were wearing jeans, you would be in a position to put something into your back pocket. The hand may be slightly higher than the pocket, but it should travel backward far enough that it is slightly behind the body. NOTE: The arm does not straighten completely. It should always remain bent.
Check Point 6: The Wrist
At the end of each upward motion of the arm, the wrist should be cocked as it comes up to sternum level. As the hand travels past the hip, the wrist should be “cracked” backwards as if cracking an imaginary whip.
Check Point 7: The Glutes
The glutes must be underneath the upper body versus being rotated back and out of alignment with the spine.
Check Point 8: The Foot Placement
The foot should make contact with the ground directly below the hips. Draw a line from the bottom of your pelvis to the ground, the foot should make contact less than a foot in front of that line (depending on the size of the athlete).
Check Point 9: The Foot Strike
As the foot strikes the ground, the ankle will be slightly extended and will fully extend during the push off. Flex the ankle after the push off and keep it flexed as the knee drives upward. The foot will roll slightly from the outside to the inside as it contacts the ground and pushes off.