Technique > Upper Body and Waist > SHOULDERS

Figure 1.
Marinelli Study
race walking in slow motion
By moving in the opposite direction than the hips on the same side of the body, the shoulders serve as a counterbalance to hip movement and make hip movement easier.
SHOULDER LOCATION: The shoulders should be relaxed, held generally in a lower (rather than a higher) position, and should definitely not be allowed to rise as one walks faster (a very natural tendency). Many writers suggest you either visualize your elbows being very heavy, or visualize trying to let your elbows touch the ground at the bottom of each swing. Be careful that you do not add tension to your shoulder during those visualizations and, most important, do not slouch to get the desired result.
SHOULDER ROTATION: The role of the shoulder rotation is to provide a counter-rotational, balancing mechanism for the hip rotation. It is used to different degrees by different race walkers. While one does not "walk" with one's shoulders, a change in the amount, aggressiveness, and timing of shoulder rotation can have a significant affect on hip rotation. The location of the swing-side shoulder will generally match the location and motion of the stance-side hip. The value of shoulder rotation can be seen and felt in two conditions: (a.) when an exhausted race walker uses more extreme shoulder rotation to "help" the lower body propel the body forward, and (b.) when one tries to race walk with hip rotation but NO shoulder rotations--or conversely, with shoulder rotation but NO hip rotation.
SHOULDER DROP: The role of shoulder drop is to provide a balancing mechanism for changes in hip elevation. It is also used to different degrees by different race walkers. Instead of following the general looping pattern of a hip, each shoulder rises at the extremes of rotation (farthest front and farthest aft) and dips to a normal position mid step. While some walkers drop their shoulders to the same level when swinging the arms forward and aft, other walkers drop their shoulders more when more aggressively swinging the arms forward.
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