Monday Anchor Post: Be Aware Of Your Shoulders And Arms During Triathlon Training

Hi folks,

I recently read an article on the Inkling Media blogsite, which proposed that when blogging one should consider including a regular ‘anchor post,’ just to keep the blogging on track and the readership happy. I thought, “why not give it a try?” so here we are. My anchor is training, stented or not. Today I want to talk briefly about the importance of arm and shoulder position in swimming, biking and running. The little I know of it, anyway.

Swimming: My coach, Eric Bean, recently taught me a great swim drill to help keep my body high in the water and to minimize wasted energy through the use of kicking to maintain ‘leg lift’ in the water. Simply put, you float like a corpse on your belly, but there is nothing simple about it. I found a photo of this drill on the Triby3 Performance Coaching website:

Floating on your stomach, whilst refraining from kicking is a great swim drill. From:

The trick is to adjust your body until your heels clear the water (or you feel air around them). This takes time and practice, relies upon Archimedes’ principle, and the position of your shoulders and arms is a critical component of the exercise. If you lift your head to straighten your spine (don’t turn your head back, just straighten your cervical spine!), and raise your arms until they are level with the surface, your heels will nearly be high enough. Just one more thing, gently throwing back your shoulders, will tip the balance, causing your body to tilt forward, ‘pressing the T’ over the fulcrum of air in your chest. You will find yourself high in the water, and you then take this feeling into your swim. If your pectoral muscles are tight, this will be a challenge, but loose shoulders are worth the work of stretching for almost any sport, especially swimming. Once you master this drill, learn to ‘grab’ the water with a good high elbow arm position, use a front quadrant approach, and roll from the hips. Your swim will improve enormously. Clearly, arm and shoulder positions are critical aspects of this work.

Biking: A good bike fit is more important than almost any other aspect of cycling, just ask Victor. For instance, if your bike is too long you will be forced to hunch forward with your shoulders over tense arms. Consequently, you will you tire rapidly and respond slowly to critical road conditions, having tight shoulder when you come off the bike (and probably a sore back), which will slow down your run. Thus an excellent bike fit, combined with loose shoulders, a relaxed grip, and strong but flexible arms, will set you up, at least in part, for success in this aspect of the sport.

Running: The latest mantra for running is a forward lean, falling forward is what people say, in fact. I have my doubts about the physics of falling forward, except when you are accelerating. A forward lean does appear to promote great running form, and I find that it works for me. This issue was discussed in a recent post in an excellent movie, entitled ‘Run Analysis With Coach Jesse Kropelnicki.’ This coach also pointed out that his runners swing their elbows directly behind their body, which certainly contributes to a forward body lean. I have created a simple demonstration of the effect of arm position on body lean in the following two photos.

When my elbows are level with my trunk I am essentially upright, but it feels as though I am leaning backwards.


Here my shoulders are neutral and my arms are placed in front of my body to give vertical stance, or even a very slight backward lean. I feel as though I am leaning backwards in this position. Hunching the shoulder forward would increase this effect.

With my elbows back there is a slight forward lean to my body, but I feel as though I am upright.




Here my elbows are behind my body, much as I run, and there is a distinct forward lean of my torso. I am not telling you that you should swing your arms behind or in front of your body. I am asking that you be aware of what you are doing. This is not as easy as it sounds.


Your arms and shoulders play a major role in the health of your personal biomechanics. Study what they do, listen to the experts on how to use them, and then find what works for you, personally. That is the true key to success for the older athlete.


-k Your Medical Mind


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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.