Do You Use Your Biceps for Sprinting?

by Adam Cloe, Demand Media
    Biceps are needed for the arm action that allows sprinters to run faster.

    Biceps are needed for the arm action that allows sprinters to run faster.

    Sprinting is a high-intensity exercise that requires the whole body to achieve maximum speed. Although much of the work done in sprinting involves the lower body, the upper body, including the biceps in the arms, are important for sprinting. In addition, the legs have their own biceps muscles, which are also critical for sprints.

    Leg Biceps

    Although the biceps femoris is not the muscle that many people think of when they hear the term "biceps," this member of the hamstring muscles is a biceps muscle because it has two heads. A study, published in a 2005 issue of Medical Science of Sports and Exercise, used a muscle simulation of sprinting and found that during the swing-phase of sprinting, which is when the leg is brought forward, the biceps femoris is activated. The tendon of the biceps femoris helps store elastic energy for use later in the the process of sprinting. This study shows that the leg biceps in particular are key for sprinting.

    Sprinting and Upper Body

    The upper body, including the biceps of the arms, is also important for sprinting. Peak Performance Online notes that the arms are important for two different parts of sprinting. The first time that they are needed is for the start, where driving the arms backwards increases the drive of the legs and also helps sprinters keep their bodies low, which is also key for a fast start. The arms are also important during the finish, where strong arms can help prevent the legs from shortening their stride. As a result, strong arm muscles are important for sprinters. The forward motion of the arms also helps balance the body and provides extra forward momentum.

    Biceps Function and Sprinting

    The biceps of the arms, also known as the biceps brachii, have two main functions, Sams Fitness explains. The first is bending of the elbow, also known as elbow flexion. The second function is forearm supination, in which the forearm is rotated so that the palms are facing forward. It is this first function that is important for sprinters, as elbow flexion helps to drive the arm forward, generating forward momentum and also helping to balance the body when the opposite arm drives backward.

    Exercises

    Because of the role of the upper arms in sprinting, most elite sprinters spend some time doing weight training to strengthen their arms. Any form of weight lifting that requires the elbow to flex will help strengthen the biceps. One commonly used exercise is dumbbell curls, as this exercise focuses on the biceps and only minimally involves other muscles, Sams Fitness notes. As with any form of weight lifting, it is also important to exercise the other muscles of the arm, including the triceps, so that the arms' strength is balanced between elbow flexion and extension.

    About the Author

    Adam Cloe has been published in various scientific journals, including the "Journal of Biochemistry." He is currently a pathology resident at the University of Chicago. Cloe holds a Bachelor of Arts in biochemistry from Boston University, a M.D. from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in pathology from the University of Chicago.

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