An efficient runner will accelerate without thinking about it. If you try to run harder, you’ll tighten up and slow down. How many times have you tried to move your legs faster in order to beat out an infield hit or tried to “kick it in” after rounding third only to tighten up and slow down? Have you ever tried harder, but didn’t get to the ball? Speed is not about trying harder. You can’t force your legs to move faster. Use your arms and your legs will automatically move faster.
Why will moving your arms increase leg speed? Because your arms and legs work together. When you walk, jog and run, one arm moves backward as the opposite leg moves forward. Newton’s Law of Inertia says that resistance to movement is proportional to mass. Since your legs have 3 to 4 times as much mass (weight) as your arms, it takes 3 to 4 times as much force to make your legs move than it takes to make your arms move. Therefore, in order to accelerate, move your arms (less resistance) and your legs (more resistance) will follow.
The player in the attached photo, for example, is 6’ 4” tall and weighs 230 lb (104.6 kg). His arms make up approximately 5% of his mass and his legs make up 16% of his mass. His arms weigh 11.4 lb (5.2 kg) while his legs are 3 times as heavy (36.8 lb; 16.7 kg).
Try this simple experiment to see for yourself how this concept works.
• Mark off a 75-yard straight-away at 25-yard intervals.
• Step #1: Jog 25 yards at half-speed and move your arms forward and backward from the shoulder going “cheek to cheek” (face cheek to butt cheek) at half speed.
• Step #2: Repeat Step #1, but this time increase the speed of your arms to 75% when you reach the 25-yard mark and run an additional 25 yards at 75% of max.
• Step #3: Repeat Step #2, but this time increase the speed of your arms to 100% when you reach the 50-yard mark and run an additional 25 yards at 100% of max.
What happened? Did your legs move faster? Did you get up on your toes and feel like you were sprinting? Did it feel like you were exerting less effort with your legs? Of course you did. Speed is not about more effort. It’s about more efficient use of effort.
Repeat this drill 3-5 times per week for a couple of weeks and you will run more efficiently and reduce the stress on your legs. This drill is not just for position players. Pitchers, especially starters, run more than other players. If they can reduce the stress on their legs during conditioning it should help improve stamina late in the game.
Note: Bigger players have more mass and more inertia. One arm of a 250-pound athlete (114 kg), e.g., will weigh about 12.5 lb and his legs will weight 40 lb each.
Gene Coleman, Ed. D., CSCS*R-E, FACSM*, consultant for the Texas Rangers