Arm Mechanics

Introduction

Most athletes don’t realize how big a role the arms play in generating speed. To increase speed, the athlete needs to increase their arm speed. But simply moving the arms is not enough. The arms must be moved correctly. 

There are three main components to proper arm mechanics. First, the movement must occur at the shoulders, not the elbows. Second, the arms must move from front-to-back. Third, the athlete should try to maintain a 90degree angle at the elbows (it can be difficult to maintain that short lever, especially in the back position, but that should be the goal). Last, the athlete should maintain loosely cupped hands.  

The good thing is- fixing the arm mechanics is relatively easy and can have an immediate payoff. 

It’s important to remember that practice and repetition are key. Your athlete should practice moving their arms (correctly) when they go through the drills in this course, when they’re at practice, and when they’re in a game. Your athlete needs to learn that when their feet are moving, their arms should be moving. This must become second nature. 

Arm Mechanics - Teaching Drill

Purpose: To help your athlete realize how big a role the arms play in generating speed.

Steps:

  1. Have your athlete get into a an athletic stance with their arms relaxed and extended at their sides. 
  2. Then instruct your athlete to lightly jog in place. Have them do this for :05-:10 seconds. 
  3. Next, while they are still jogging in place, instruct your athlete to drive their arms from front to back as fast as they can (as if they’re sprinting). Have them do this for about :05 seconds. 
Coach’s Notes: There is no need to repeat this drill. It is simply a technique I use to teach athletes how big of a role the arms play in generating speed. Hopefully, your athlete now understands the arms’ role in speed production.

Arm Mechanics (Beginner)

Purpose: To teach your athlete proper arm mechanics. 

Steps:

  1. Have your athlete get on the ground with their knees hip-width apart, chest up, and a tall back.
  2. Instruct them to bring one arm forward and make a 90-degree angle at the elbow and keep the other arm back with a 90-degree angle in that elbow. This is the starting position. 
  3. Say, ‘Switch’, at which point your athlete will bring the back arm to the front while moving the front arm to the back. Note that they should try to maintain this 90-degree angle at the elbows as they drive their arms. 
Common Mistakes:
  • Chopping at the elbows
  • Crossing the body with the arms
  • Creating fists with their hands (punching the air)
  • Rotating at the hips 

Coaching Cues: 

  • ‘Move your arms at the shoulders’
  • ‘Move your arms front-to-back’
  • ‘Open up your hands’
  • ‘Keep your hips square’ or ‘Don’t rotate your hips when you drive your arms’

Coach’s Notes: This is a ‘Beginner’ Drill because it eliminates two joints from having to be stabilized during the movement- the elbows and the ankles. If your athlete can perform this drill properly, then advance them to the Arm Mechanics (Advanced) Drill.

 

Arm Mechanics (advanced)

Purpose: To teach your athlete proper arm mechanics. This drill has a more real-world application as it is performed while standing. 

Steps:

  1. Have your athlete get into an Athletic Stance.
  2. Instruct them to bring one arm forward with a 90-degree angle at the elbow and move the other arm back with a 90-degree angle in that elbow. This is the starting position. 
  3. Say, ‘Switch’, at which point your athlete will bring the back arm to the front while moving the front arm to the back. Note that they should try to maintain this 90-degree angle at the elbows as they drive their arms. 
  4. Then have them repeat the movement a second time. That’s one repetition. 
Common Mistakes:
  • Chopping at the elbows
  • Crossing the body with the arms
  • Creating firsts with the hands (punching the air)
  • Rotating at the hips and / or knees and / or ankles

Coaching Cues: 

  • ‘Move your arms at the shoulders’
  • ‘Move your arms front-to-back’
  • ‘Open up your hands’
  • ‘Don’t rotate as you drive your arms’ 

Coach’s Notes: Remember, this is a drill that needs to be practiced; repetition is key. This is an ‘Advanced’ Drill because now the athlete must perform the movement while maintaining stability at the knees and ankles (in addition to the hips).