Block Starts- Simple Guidelines


One of the biggest gripes I have is short sprinters with bad starts. If you run the 400m just be legal and consistent, I don’t agree but understand. Still, in the 100m or 40 yard dash the start is everything. Not only does it set-up the run and have heavy time influences, it is perhaps the least athletic component in terms of mechanics. Clearing the blocks and starting is a different component, but getting into the blocks and being in proper angles is engineering and asking someone to be a temporary statue, something we should all be able to do consistently. Exploding out and sprinting is another story, but getting into proper angles should be fundamental. Reaction time and other aspects are beyond this blog but I think most coaches will agree that setting up an athlete based on body structure and power abilities is the majority of the set-up. Here are some random suggestions. I am gong to do my level 3 thesis on block starts and much of the information below will not be included in it because I am focusing on what the research says and not applied coaching.

Practice Starts- The biggest mystery are those frustrated with starts but never invest any time into them. The false assumption is that you must put in hours and hours to get better. Any time one does a rep one can do three point starts and get use to overcoming inertia in some way. A few starts (6-8 15m) during practice twice a week can reap benefits over the season. 10-15 minutes tops. Choose one primary issue to fix and some secondary issues will resolve themselves. Video with a camera phone and time when possible.

Butt High to Fly, Butt Low is Slow- Getting the hips high needs to be purposeful and consistent. A high pelvis allows the legs to be roughly 90 and 120-130 degrees. Other angles have been used but I don’t see a valid reason with newtonian physics besides orthopedic issues like back problems. A low pelvis is seen currently in experiment with some people, but it’s because it masks the inability to keep the heel recovery low, something that the toe drag style is trying to ensure with very pronounced heel drop.

Medial Lateral Adjustments- Some athletes like the one on the right (Justin) have pronation and corresponding hip structures that force him to adjust his pushing with lateral steps. I was under the belief from sports science experts that the cause was from the departure angle being to acute for the athlete, but after seeing the slow motion it’s clear that the problem is more foot structure. The result is often adductor pulls or groin issues, but therapy with real corrective work can remediate some of the horizontal loss. Orthotics are limited because foot strike changes during the entire race, so a very specific appliance must be made to help the athlete in the majority of the issue. I would focus on a compromise of both acceleration (forefoot) and postings to keep pronation at safe norms and not trying to fix one area. We are talking millimeters and using cut materials for minimum weight. Some athletes when viewed from behind can’t keep the feet straight down on the block pedals, and are externally rotated. Look for hip capsule issues or structure as you can’t change bone and it’s too late if it’s Morphological from wolfs law over the years. Manage the issue and I have yet to see this change unless it was a strength problem with those with good alignment.

Arm Synchronization- The lead arm should be fast but long. It doesn’t matter how fast the arm is until the lead leg starts recovery because one has to wait for the leg to alternate and switch. I see a lot of short arm strokes and slow acceleration because the first three steps are mistimed. Combining fast movements and patience is a weird composition but that is what one needs to do. I always teach swinging the arm forward instead of up after sending my sprinters up to Toronto, as it coordinates better with most athletes I work with. Hitting target positions and not rushing it while being explosive takes reps and reps. I don’t even start addressing corrections until a few weeks since it’s a very individual approach.

I am a Tellez guy with starting blocks. I don’t like over coaching the blocks and believe that repetition is underrated.

Carl Valle

Carl Valle

Track & Field Coach
Carl is an expert coach who has produced champions in swimming, track and numerous other sports. He is one of the foremost experts in the fields of nutrition and restoration.
Carl Valle

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