Running mechanics – low arm carry

I am reading through the 3 books from Eric Goodman and comparing it also linking it to the knowledge from books and coaches I acquired in the last 2 decades. It is the same old, same old, however I am absolutely loving the explanation, as it gives a another type of framework to explain to athletes to why it is necessary to be able hold tension, but relax in the meantime. How we need to have a constant and efficient equilibrium between tension and extension, between torque and relaxation, between internal and external rotation and so on.

This time, we talk about a relaxed low arm carry. As coaches, we explain that, because the forearm is released and chill, we engage less biceps, less triceps, less shoulders and use way less energy. Also we tend to fall into a cringed position less likely. In the meantime a relaxed lower arm elongates the length of the arm comparing it to a bent chicken wing position of t-rex arms. The movement of the arms control the movement of the legs. Not only talking about cadence, but stride length too. A longer pendulum swing means, longer stride. Keeping the cadence static, higher stride length means, faster speeds.

However, there is this idea of creating space in body, by natural organisation of all tissues. So when our shoulders are too rounded forward , we have too much tension on our back, especially on the strongest muscle the latissimus dorsi. That tension completely blocks the back of the ribcage from expanding. I don’t want to go down the rabbit hole, but this position also puts extra tension on the spine and athletes with rounded shoulders + frozen scapula have also often a neck forward position, putting stress on the cervical spine.
Then we also have this back shrugged type of athlete, putting the tension now on the pecs, blocking the front of the ribcage from expanding. Often we see these athletes running with a snappy “sprinters” stride, no heel touching the ground with high elbows and horizontal forearms, short strides and a very curved spine with the pelvis tilted backwards, rotated forward. This is actually why they have a short stride, as the tilted pelvis leaves you with little chance to lift the knee high, but extend the heels high backward.

The upper body organises the lower body and the lower body has the same effect on the upper body. Controlled tension on the pelvis will help putting the feet into a correct position, but a torqued feet will tilt the pelvis to neutral too. Also a centered shoulder sitting right in it’s socket, will put the spine into a natural curve, effecting the angle of the pelvis. The body actually wants to be in a very equilibrium to combat gravity and to dissipate it’s pull laterally.


So, no matter that we are rounded forward or backward, our ribcage is under tension from the back or the front, leaving us with half the expansion range. Our belly and the diaphragme are both extremely important for breathing well, that is true. However, the flexibility of our thoracic cage is also as important. The more our lungs can expand and fill up with air, the more we can breathe in and out. I don’t have to talk about running and breathing I guess ! No air means no aerobie, neither VO2max…

This leaves us with a neutral centered shoulder, neck and head sitting on top, a relaxed scapula and a no tension pec. Guess what, the only way to have a relaxed un-tensed low arm carry when running is in this position. The moment you do something else, arm position and elbow angle change straight away ! The body knows it’s ways ! When the coach shouts, drop your arm every single 400m, I completely understand now, that he should use different cues like: Don’t round your back, stop shrugging or make the athletes understand funny cues like “chicken wings”, “camelbak” and so !
(By the way, one of my runners once shouted back, that is better to run with a camelbak, than with a cameltoe ! We were all killed by laughter ! )

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