Tips To Run Faster Using Proper Running Techniques
Before I show you the speed training drills, I want to give you some tips to run faster using the proper running mechanics or running techniques.
The terms “running mechanics” and “running techniques” both mean the same thing and you will see it used interchangeably throughout the sports world and in this speed training blog.
Running mechanics and running techniques simply means the proper and most efficient way to position your hands, feet, head, elbows, wrist, etc. to allow your body the maximum efficiency and biomechanically advantageous running posture.
Throughout this section, I will be sharing with you various tips to run faster by reducing:
- Unnecessary and unwanted “muscle tension” throughout your body.
- Unnecessary and wasted “motions” in your arm swings and leg movements.
- Unnecessary and wasted “time” in your body movements
- “Disharmony” in your body movements.
Unnecessary “muscle tension” is any kind of muscle tension in the body that restricts or hinders a fluid movement of the human body.
Unnecessary “motion” is any motion of the arms and legs that are not needed to help you run faster but is a complete waste of time.
Wasted “time” is any movement in your body that produces a delayed reaction or response.
The human body is designed to work together as one harmonious unit. It is not designed to work independently.
“Disharmony” in your movements occurs when the muscles are not working together in harmony to move your ass faster.
In other words, your arms and legs are NOT designed to work separately from each other but in harmony with each other as one unit and not as two separate units.
Some trainers will tell you that the arm swings lead the legs or the legs lead the arm swings. Neither one is correct.
The correct way to look at it is to understand that the arms and legs move together at the same time. Neither one leads the other.
Always keep this concept of “body harmony” in mind during your workout to run faster.
Let’s now take a closer look at how you can reduce unnecessary muscle tension, motions, time, and disharmony in your body by learning proper body positioning.
What To Do To Run Faster With Proper Body Positioning
Below is a list of recommendations on what to do to run faster with your arms and legs by developing proper body mechanics in your running starting from your head and going down all the way to your feet.
1. Head Position – Your head should be kept in a “neutral” position during your run. To determine your head’s neutral position, simply tilt your head back as far as you can and then tilt it forward as far as you can.
Make a mental note of the distance that your head tilted forwards and back. Your neutral position is approximately half way between the forward tilted position and the backward tilted position.
Initially when you start your run from the starting line, you can lower your head slightly below the neutral position, however, after you get into stride, you want to get your head into a neutral position as soon as possible.
2. Jaw Position – Your jaw muscles should be kept in a loose and relax position so that it does not create unnecessary muscle tension. Muscle tension is the biggest enemy of speed and agility.
When your jaw muscles are tight, it begins to “infect” the neighboring muscles such as the neck and traps and causes them to tighten up and have unnecessary muscle tension.
Once the unnecessary muscle tension spreads into the neck and shoulder region, it will then spread into the chest, lats, and arms which are the primary muscles used to swing your arms.
Once the arms and upper body muscles tighten up, they can no longer swing with ease and fluidity and will begin to slow down. The faster your arms can swing, the faster your legs will move so you never want to do anything that creates unnecessary muscle tension.
3. Hand Position – Again, your arms and hands should be kept as relaxed as possible during your run in order to minimize unnecessary muscle tension which can cause you to slow down.
Pay careful attention to your finger positions as you run and make sure they are not tight and stiff.
Tension in your arms usually comes from having a tight hand. Having a tight hand usually comes from tense fingers.
This is why I suggest you pay attention to the muscle tension in your fingers during your workout to run faster so that you will make sure your arms do not produce any unnecessary muscle tension to slow you down.
There are several finger positions that you want to use that will help relax your hand thereby reducing the muscle tension in your arms:
- Slightly Curved Hand– This is a good starting hand position for everyone looking to run faster because it is one of the most common hand positions available and very easy to maintain while you are running. You can use this hand position with all your fingers touching each other or slightly apart. This will not make much difference. Some athletes like to run with their fingers completely open and others just keep it slightly open. This is just a mater of personal preference. Keep in mind though if you open the fingers up too wide, it will start producing tension in your hand so always be aware of where the muscle tension is being created in your hand.
- Tai Chi Hand– I got this hand position from studying the Chinese martial arts called Tai Chi. It is an extremely effective way of eliminating unnecessary muscle tension and maintaining a soft and relaxed hand. The correct way to adopt this hand position is to imagine yourself holding a softball or tennis ball in your hand with all your fingers gently gripping the ball except for the index finger. The index finger is kept almost straight but not touching the ball. The slightly extended finger is used in Tai Chi as a “relief valve” to direct and eliminate the unnecessary muscle tension “energy” in your hand.
- Straight Leopard Hand– The leopard hand is a hand position used in Chinese Shaolin Kung Fu to strike the soft tissue areas of the neck. This hand position is good for runners who use an an open hand/finger position while running and do not want to get their thumbs caught up or jammed into their sports uniforms (such as in American football). If you decide to use the Straight Leopard Hand, make sure to bend and tuck in all your fingers at the first and second joint. Your thumb will not be bent and will simply rest on top of the index finger. Be sure to keep your fingers tucked in gently and avoid a tight grip. Again, be careful not to create any unnecessary muscle tension.
- Bent Leopard Hand– The Bent Leopard Hand is very similar to the Straight Leopard Hand. The only difference is that the Bent Leopard Hand is bent at the knuckles. Everthing else is pretty much the same as the Straight Leopard Hand. As always, if you decide to use this hand position, just make sure there is the least amount of muscle tension as possible.
Remember, I’m putting emphasis on your hand positions because unnecessary muscle tension in the hands will cause you to tighten your arms, which reduces your arm swing speed, which in turn reduces your leg stride speed.
Obviously, there are a few “unproductive” hand positions that you want to avoid as much as possible because they create a lot of unnecessary muscle tension in your hands.
- Hyper Extended Hand – The Hyper Extended Hand is a hand position whereby all your fingers are extended and all the joints of your fingers are hyper extended. Obviously, you want to avoid this hyper extended hand position because it produces a tremendous amount of unnecessary muscle tension in the hand that will definitely slow down your arm swings.
- Hammer Fist or Hammer Hand – The Hammer Fist or Hammer Hand is another Chinese Shaolin Kung Fu technique that is good for martial arts but extremely counter productive for running faster.
The Hammer Fist is not conducive to running faster because the hand position creates too much unwanted muscle tension and will naturally slow down your arm swings.
In your workout to run faster and on your search on what to do to run faster, make sure you pay careful attention to your hand position and make sure you don’t carry any unnecessary muscle tension that can potentially slow down your arm swings.
4. Arm Position – When you bend your arms to run, be aware of the angle of your arms. The wider the angle of the bend in your arm, the bigger the arc of your arm swing. The smaller the angle of the bend in your arm, the smaller the arc of your arm swing.
You want to avoid a big and wide arc in your arm swing motion because it is unnecessary and a waste of motion.
I recommend that you bend your arm so that it is an acute angle (90 degrees or less) in order to prevent any wasted motions.
If you examine closely all the solutions I provide on what to do to run faster in this speed training blog, you will notice that all the tips to run faster that I share with you are either to reduce unnecessary muscular tension, wasted movements, or waste of time movements, etc.
By maintaining an arm bend of 90 degrees or less you will be making significant improvements in all three areas.
5. Back & Torso Position – For many years, many speed coaches thought that you had to lean slightly forward with your back and torso in order to run fast.
However, after the Olympic sprinter, Michael Johnson came along and set new world speed records on the track while running with a straight back, it made everyone in the running community perk up and realize that it was possible for someone to run faster with a straight back position.
Nowadays, there are many athletes that have imitated Michael Johnson’s “straight back” style of running.
I recommend you use what I call a “neutral back position” where your back/torso is not fully straight like Michael Johnson’s straight back position but also not dramatically leaned forward either.
I learned the “neutral back position” from my study and practice of the Chinese martial arts called Wuji Chuan (aka, Wu Chi Chuan).
The neutral back position is the optimum position for your back and torso because it contains the least amount of unnecessary tension.
This effective torso position has been used by many samurais and martial artists to move with lightning fast speed especially when wielding a long distance weapon such as a spear or sword.
You can determine your body’s “neutral back position” from a sitting or standing position.
Simply sit or stand straight and puff your chest as far forward as you can like a rooster or peacock. Then suck your chest in as far back as you can and round out your upper and mid back area like a cobra.
Basically, you are pushing your chest as far forward as you can and sucking it in as far backwards as you can.
I recommend you do it slowly and feel your entire back and notice where your back and torso produces the least amount of muscle tension.
You will notice that the point of least muscle tension is somewhere in the middle of your chest being pushed all the way and your chest being “caved” all the way in.
In your workout to run faster, you can vary the lean of your torso (either slightly forward or slightly backward) and feel which is the best position for your back and torso area that produces the least amount of muscle tension.
7. Abdominal Position – One of the first skills I had to learn when studying the Chinese martial arts of Wuji Chuan is to breath naturally with my stomach instead of the chest.
Most athletes in non-Asian countries tend to breath “unnaturally” by using their chest muscles.
It’s very easy to identify when someone is breathing unnaturally with their chest because you will see them “huff and puff” and observe their chest rising and falling.
“Natural” breathing is done with the diaphragm and abdominal muscle.
If you observe most adults when they are not sleeping, you will observe them breathing “unnaturally” by lifting and lowering their chest.
However, if you take a moment and observe an infant or baby breath while they sleep, you will notice that all babies breath “naturally” by inflating and deflating their stomachs!
Likewise, if you observe an adult sleeping, you will observe that they will revert back to breathing naturally with their stomach.
Breathing unnaturally with the chest is a cultural and conditioned habit. It is not a natural thing to do and no mammals in nature breath with their chest except humans.
The chest is designed to “hold and contain” air but not to “suck in or expel” air.
Sucking in air and expelling air is a function of the diaphragm and abdominal muscles.
The chest area is made up of a ribbed cage and is not designed to expand or contract so it is a very inefficient way of breathing while trying to run faster.
Breathing with the diaphragm/abdominal area is a much more efficient way of breathing because of 2 reasons:
- Less Muscle Tension – The abdominal area has no ribcage to prevent it from expanding and contracting so breathing with your stomach reduces a tremendous amount of unnecessary and unwanted muscular tension in the upper body.
- Full & Deep Breathe – The chest area can not expand as far and easily as the stomach because it is restricted by the rib cage so your breathes will always be “shallow” and “empty”. In other words, you can not truly “fill up” your lungs with air because your lungs can not expand completely. Breathing with the stomach allows complete expansion of the lungs thereby allowing you to fill up your lungs completely in each breathe.
In sports where you have quick spurts of speed such as in American football, soccer, basketball, etc. you “may be” able to get away with sloppy breathing (using the chest) but in endurance sports such as marathons, triathlons, tennis, etc. it is extremely critical that every breath you take is a full and complete breath that produces the least amount of muscular tension as possible.
This is why I recommend you learn how to breath using your diaphragm and abdominal area.
How To Incorporate Proper Body Positioning In Your Workout To Run Faster
Now that you understand about proper running mechanics, let’s now take a look at how to incorporate proper body positioning in your workout to run faster.
Do not be overwhelmed and think that you have to apply all the proper body positions in your tips to run faster immediately.
I recommend you use a step by step learning process called “small chunking”.
Small chunking is where you take the first concept or strategy that I previously shared with you that you can “easily and immediately” apply and use in your workout to run faster and practice it first.
Once you get the hang of one particular body position, then you can move on to the next “small chunk” or tips to run faster and work on applying it.
There is absolutely no need to “rush” your learning. You do not have to apply all the tips to run faster immediately, work on one new body positioning element each week or every other week and within 2-3 months, you will have applied all my body positioning tips to run faster in your speed training.
What Can I Do To Run Faster? – Summary
In this section, I have addressed your question of what can I do to run faster by showing you the various body positions that will improve your running mechanics and running techniques.
You should now have a better understanding of how to reduce any unnecessary and unwanted muscular tension and movements that will slow down your arm swings and leg strides.
You should also have a better understanding of how you can increase your speed simply by reducing body movements that eat up a lot of time to execute and how to get your body to work in harmony as one machine instead of independent body parts working together.
This was a long section but I hope that it has provided you with many solutions and insights to your question of, “How do I run faster and longer?”
Make sure you apply the tips to run faster that I have share with you in this section.
Don’t be one of those procrastinating athletes that read this section and think that they are great concepts but never apply them!
Remember, you get faster by practicing and training to run faster and not by thinking about running faster!
In the next section, I will give you more answers to, “How do I run faster and longer?” by increasing the strength of your legs.
- Go back to the previous section on “How Can I Run Faster With Speed Drills?“
- Go to the next section and learn the “Powerful Leg Workouts To Run Faster“