Sprint Start Mechanics

Posted In: The Classics

  • Mike Young
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    Mike Young on #9760

    I just watched Flo-Jo’s 10.49 race for the first time in a while yesterday and the main thing that struck me was how fast she gets to an upright running position. Ben Johnson had a similar transition to upright running posture. This wasn’t uncommon in that era but these two individuals made especially fast transitions to upright posture. This struck me as a stark contrast to today’s 100m champions who “drive” for 30-40m before they are in a fully upright posture. Obviously, both starts have produced very fast times but there is no one in recent memory who doesn’t at least get to 25m before they are upright. I’d like to hear others thoughts on the pros and cons of each technique and why everyone thinks the start used by Flo-Jo and Ben have gone out of favor.

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    Kebba Tolbert on #32744

    not many sprinters have the general strength parameters that Ben or FloJo had.

    Flo hit .91 from 60-100m in her Seoul 10.54w final which should give some type of indication of what she was capable of had she really hit the accelerator! i’ve seen very few women that could execute technically the way Flo-Jo did.

    i think there had to be something about their supplementation which allowed them to sustain their speed for such a long duration.

    Charlie has talked about some of Flo-Jo’s speed endurance and special enduracne wkouts that are staggering.

    i still think that for most normal people you need to have a distribution to your race.

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    QUIKAZHELL on #32745

    I noticed the same thing when watching flo jo’s race especially. as you said in that time era that technique was not uncommon but my question is if numerous athletes were running very fast times (some even faster than today) for example why was this drive phase phenomenom even “invented?” I actaully though the idea of flo jo getting into an upright position was all my imaginiation but im glad to hear that others see this too and it was not just in my head.

    Mike Young
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    Mike Young on #32746

    I’d imagine that getting to upright running posture so soon would be disadvantageous under the following two scenarios:

      [1]If the athlete had not yet approached their maximal velocity. In this case, the athlete would be putting themselves into a position where it would be difficult to efficiently apply force necessary for forward acceleration.
      [2]If the athlete COULD hit max velocity that soon but then didn’t have the speed endurance to maintain max velocity for the extended duration and length that such a quick accelereration would bring.

    KT-
    I’ve considered the “supplementation” issue you mentioned, but I’d imagine most national class men have greater strength and power outputs than Flo-Jo had and you don’t see them get upright so soon. If we agree that this is the case, then the argument of extreme strength and power output being the cause for the quick progression of body angles seen in Flo-Jo and Ben would be moot because by that reasoning we would see more men having similar acceleration body angles. Putting this together with what you said about “supplement” enhanced speed endurance, do you think that their quick progression of body angles is less than ideal but is masked by their enhanced speed endurance or do you think that if speed endurance permits it that there is an advantage to being upright so soon.

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    jjh999 on #32747

    I know that I’ve sounded like a broken record on this topic, but I think the issue is that with the exception of a few athletes, today’s sprinters are not “truly” driving for 35m. They have rehearsed a torso position that gives the appearance of a John Smith-esque drive phase, but upon examination of the shin angles and lines of force through pushoff, they are really doing similar things to their counterparts in ’88.

    An example: Justin Gatlin. Look at all of his races this year including his rounds before the OG final. He did the “Trevor Graham look at the ants on the ground thing” until the OG final when he looks like he finally just let it happen. If I’m not mistaken, he “comes up” earlier in the OG final than he had all year (Granted, his head is still down too long for my taste…). My point is that these athletes need to let the acceleration phase happen and not pantomime a particular position with the torso. Their predecessors allowed their torso to raise their heads…this generation thinks that the longer that they keep their heads down, the longer that they are “driving”. What you actually see is a decrease in the quality of the acceleration b/c of the abrupt raising of the head near the end of their “drive phase” (pardon me while I wipe the vomit from my mouth…
    :barf: ) which often results in the hips dropping for a stride or two, etc, etc…

    Don’t let the head or the torso position fool you…get your eyes on the shins, pushoff angle and line of force from foot to head.

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    QUIKAZHELL on #32748

    JJ,
    So yare you saying that it appears that many of these athletes are braking at the waist or simply just keeping their heads down?

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    rong on #32749

    JJ

    You hit the nail on the head. The great coaches all say “get your eyes on the track” and look at what is happening where the rubber meets the road.

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    QUIKAZHELL on #32750

    So how are the correct shin angles pushoff angles and line of force from foot to head coached when a athlete seems to be popping up? Since the cue “stay low” will probably cause braking at the waist what should be done?

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    coachformerlyknownas on #32751

    With core strength developing, we tend to emphasize hip extension on push-out and not concern ourselves with “head or chin down” cues. Seems to then happen naturally.

    By the way, with respect to ’80’s acceleration method, does the sprint pattern of Lauryn Williams favor somwhat to Evelyn Ashford (10.76 version)?

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    rong on #32752

    I don’t cue “stay low” at all, infact, I want them to “stand up.” By that I mean I want the straight line from the ankle through the hip through the head before the back foot in the blocks makes its first ground contact. If we are pushing properly, we are “leaned from the ankle” and not at all from the mid section.

    We start in a crouch for the shin angles, not for the body angles. As soon as we are gone from the blocks we need to have proper posture.

    The problem is the 2 most visible models of the last decade MJone and MGreene have the head down stuff going on. Kind of like every kid in the 90s was playing basketball with their toungue out. Had nothing to do with better basketball, but Michael Jordan was doing it.

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    Kebba Tolbert on #32753

    why would you want to worry about head or chin down cues anyway? this would destroy alignment.

    i would agree 100% percent with JJ regarding appearances of driving vs. the reality of driving. if it worke in the 100m you would think that it would work in other areas as well where acceleration is impt (horiz approach jumps and even throws to a degree).

    Or maybe a better point is that if it were such a superior position for force production and application wouldn’t you want to see it the wt room w/squats and cleans too…. just doesn’t make sense.

    to answer mike’s questions… I think Flo-Jo’s speed endurance capabilities allowed her to “get-up” sooner and maintain it longer. but she also had higher top end speed than anyone, too. And the fact that she ran .91-.92 from 50m mean that she probably never hit “top” speed.

    Flo said in 88 that was try to take the best of Ben and the best of Carl and create a new model. If the Bulgarian women had finished in 88 (she was at 6.96 at 60m and 7.90 at 70m) it would have been interesting.

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    jjh999 on #32754

    [i]Originally posted by QUIKAZHELL[/i]
    So how are the correct shin angles pushoff angles and line of force from foot to head coached when a athlete seems to be popping up? Since the cue “stay low” will probably cause braking at the waist what should be done?

    “Feel the feet behind you.”

    “Push the track back behind you.”

    If the athlete is “popping up” as you say, they need to continue to push back. The “popping up” sounds like a rush to go to the frequency and “spin” as I call it.

    Another note, Tellez preached very adamantly about allowing the torso to unfold upon block exit. Why? Balance. If the torso is allowed to unfold, or allow the angle between the torso and the hips to increase, the athlete will be in a slightly better position to apply force rather than be forced to “spin” and save themselves from falling without any momentum building taking place.

    Mike Young
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    Mike Young on #32755

    Nice points everyone and I agree with what has been said about the chin / head tucks as well as the need for correct postural allignment. My original point however was not specifically looking at either of these so much as it was examining the direction of the application of forces during early acceleration assuming posture (head, spine, hips, etc.) is correctly alligned. The reason I asked is because from a biomechanical perspective I would think that a progressively decreasing forward body angle (with correct posture) should be present until just prior to the attainment of maxV. The reason I think this is because having the feet behind the athlete’s center of mass is unquestionably the best position to apply accelerating forces….one can’t accelerate forward unless forces are applied in the opposite direction! So if the sprinters in question (Ben, FloJo, and others) are not reaching maxV until 50-65m, then it would seem to me that they are coming out of this advantageous position too soon given the fact that they appear to be almost completely upright by 15m. Having said that, I am of the belief that the angles of the body relative to the track, specifically that of the trunk, should be roughly in line with the direction of force application to the track so that the ground reaction forces can be transmitted through the long axis of the body for efficient propulsion. If an athlete is accomplishing that objective and has low push angles, it is necessary for them to be applying huge impulses to the track so that they have enough flight time to be able to get their feet behind or underneath them in spite of having such low push angles.

    KT-
    Given what you posted above, do you think FloJo, Ben, etc. would have benefited from lower push angles since they were upright by 15m yet not reaching maxV until 50-65m (thereby indicating that they weren’t in the best position for acceleration despite still having a lot of accelerating to do)?

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    Carl Valle
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    Carl Valle on #32756

    Great points all, but let’s also look at fatigue rates of various muscle groups such as quads and hamstrings. If an athlete is able to stay down longer even if it slower they may preserve some CNS pool for the later part of the race IN THEORY. This will get into JJ’s research with lactate and perhaps get into some other angles (no pun intended).

    If you could look at Ben’s race you must look at his head position not as an alignment debate, but on how he is able to handle each jarring strike by absorbing the loads. Calvin Smith has an obvous tilt from side to side but that is a red herring because his head jerks FORWARD with each step. This may be a relaxation issue since the right fibers must relax at the right time to aborb while some fibers must contract to neutralize undwanted torso forces. Ben was getting therapy three times a day and this will never happen again because athletes aren’t into that stuff. The volumes charlie was able to do with his athletes were very high since they all had waldemar at their disposal.

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    Kebba Tolbert on #32757

    [i]Originally posted by Phoenix[/i]
    Great points all, but let’s also look at fatigue rates of various muscle groups such as quads and hamstrings. If an athlete is able to stay down longer even if it slower they may preserve some CNS pool for the later part of the race IN THEORY.

    Are you trying to say that having the head down may be a CNS sparing technique? HOW?

    [i] Ben was getting therapy three times a day and this will never happen again because athletes aren’t into that stuff. The volumes charlie was able to do with his athletes were very high since they all had waldemar at their disposal.

    it wasn’t **just** the therapy that allowed him to handle those training loads. If running is your JOB why wouldn’t you get therapy 3x/day if that was what it took to get the job done?

    [i]Originally posted by Mike[/i]
    KT-
    Given what you posted above, do you think FloJo, Ben, etc. would have benefited from lower push angles since they were upright by 15m yet not reaching maxV until 50-65m (thereby indicating that they weren’t in the best position for acceleration despite still having a lot of accelerating to do)?

    i don’t think so…. i think their unique combination of power levels, speed endurance, and supplementation allowed them to have that steep of an acceleration curve that early in the race.

    i think, however, that the transition (15-40m) is an area where there are still gains to be made. when you watch Ato and Maurice in their prime when thety were both near WR territory they were doing thing diff than anyone else in transition… they pushed very low for several steps and then were buying time on the track (to apply *more* force)by having their foot slightly out in front from 10-30m or so. I don’t know if anyone else could handle that type of stress and it may part of the reason why they ended up so beat up.

    people do tend to forget however that Ato was in some big sprint wars from 95-2000. Donovan, Linford, Frankie, Bruny, Maurice and others like Leroy, Oba, Drummond.. it was hellish.

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