If you subscribe to my youtube channel, you might have seen this about a week ago.  It’s a video of me sprinting with some frame by frame commentary and analysis.  The point of the video is to show how the arms and legs are intricately linked.

Too often, we all try and work on running form in isolation (which is why Drills are no good), when in reality we need to look at it as a whole.  The various segments of the body do not work in isolation as if we were doing butt kicks.  Instead, it’s an entire integrated whole where the various segments interact and can influence subsequent movements or other segments.  In addition to isolating segments when doing form work, many also isolate segments when analyzing form.  Most of us coaches have a checklist of things that should be happening (footstrike, arm angles, shin angles, body position, etc.) and if one of those things is incorrect, we focus solely on that segment.  For instance, if the runner is reaching out with his lower leg and heel striking, when we work on form we focus entirely on getting the foot down sooner.  Instead, the foot being out in front could be a symptom, not the problem.  Often times, what comes out as being visually “incorrect” is often a symptom of a problem elsewhere.

In this video, I’ll show one example of how the arms and legs interact.  In this case, an incorrect lower leg movement is a symptom of something going on in the arms. If we only focused on the legs, I couldn’t correct it no matter what I tried because it isn’t the cause, it is merely a symptom.  That’s why we need to take a whole body approach to movement.


Get My New Guide on: The Science of Creating Workouts


    1. RICK'S RUNNING on May 21, 2010 at 5:41 pm

      I agree 100%, that everything is connected.
      I had a problem with my feet pointing inwards.
      In the end I found the cure to my problem, basically I was tilting my head forward [looking down] which lead to me leaning forward at the waist, which lead to me tilting my pelvis [sitting down] and this in turn lead to my knees rotating inwards and hence my feet pointing in!
      So good posture and running form starts at the head and works it's way down

    2. foomiler on May 22, 2010 at 3:53 am

      Hey Steve, I believe part of yr asymmetry in arm/shoulder movement is linked to curve running. In running tangentially on the turns we tend to keep the left shoulder higher and trunk rotating more to right side in order to facilitate hip extension and proper foot touchdown on the inner left leg. This keeps the right arm closer to the trunk while the left tends to swing out more and stops its cycle way earlier than the right. This is due to repetitious curve running which over time throws the trunk off its neutrally centred position, and the arms and shoulders have to compensate more on the straights. Just my point of view, though from looking at track runners.

      I think the key is to re-adjust the trunk by first getting the shoulders/chest/upper back to line up on the frontal plane from the front and the back, whenever one comes off the curves. Do this by linking also with the lower abs/back such that u work at maintaining a sort of inverted triangle from the two shoulders down to the navel/low back. Ensure that this "inverted triangle" faces the front as a flat structure, not rotated right more as is the habit when one comes off the turns. Hope this makes sense and helps.

    3. Anonymous on May 25, 2010 at 12:17 am

      Steve, I substitute a swim (about 40-45min) in place of my second run (35-40min) perhaps once or twice a week. Just wondering your impression of this. Do you think it would be better for me to just do my 2nd run, or is this substitution a decent thing to do? My 2nd run is typically an easy recovery run, and I thought the swim is a nice way to let my legs have a short break from the impact of running. Without going into more details, I'll just say that I've ran at the US champs a few years now, and am currently running about 85-95mi/week.

    4. stevemagness on May 26, 2010 at 11:55 pm

      Thanks for the comments guys.
      Rick- Yep the head is another good example of how everything is connected. It's amazing how one little thing can throw everything off.

      Foomiler- thanks for the great info! Very infromative, and I agree. The constant curve running by track runners does cause some changes in the mechanics.

      Anonymous- Thanks for the comment, glad to have high quality runners contributing to the site. I think substituting swimming for a secondary recovery run is fine. With your mileage and likely background, the short secondary run serves mainly to enhance recovery. It basically helps return the body to homeostasis.

      So, I think it's a fine idea as you'll get the benefits of a short recovery run without the mechanical damage from the pounding. Now, if you started to do this 4-5x per week, it probably wouldn't be a good idea as it would take away from your running and you'd be sacrificing some accumulated easy running, which is crucial for long term changes.

    5. Barefoot Johnny O on February 25, 2011 at 11:43 pm

      Steve, Excellent vid! I have learned a lot from your site. I wonder, how much of your imperfect gait (torso twist to the right after left step) might be due to imperfections of the body, (i.e. unequal leg length; hip problems, etc). I wonder, because I think I have many imperfections – or more properly – "unique traits."

      Thanks again for the site. I have paid much more attention to my arms (not crossing my mid point and such) and I pay more attention to my form. A continual effort.

    Leave a Reply