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How club sprinters can make sure they get out of their blocks quickest

In the “set” position, it is generally understood that the hips should rise above the line of the head. However, this is where things can go wrong, following the misguided concept that they must also lean forward, bringing the shoulders ahead of the hands and putting pressure on them.

This can easily be checked in practice and made visible to the athlete by using a stick or weighted string to drop down from the shoulders.

When the gun goes, it becomes impossible to instantly drive the arms forward or backward without first lifting them off the ground, and like the middle-distance runner, they can lose vital fractions of a second.

However, keeping the shoulders above the hands while still raising the hips places a lot more load on to the feet, where it should be, next to the ground, allowing the arms to react more quickly.

Once this position is established, the coach can look at the leg angles, which may be different from when using the forward lean, and may require moving the block settings to return to the standard of 90 and 120 degrees.

There is now the question of the head position which should be downwards. Looking too far up the track puts strain on the neck and creates tension, which detracts from the relaxed position required. Furthermore, it can result in the athlete coming upright too soon, which then tends to cause over-striding as the athlete tries to get into their running before they have finished accelerating.

Consequently, they have a short period where the leading leg is trying to pull rather than push. The answer is to look down, stay low and have a gradual phased acceleration.

Tips from Ultra Athletics Coaches

» The hip bone should be ahead of the leading foot when in the blocks.

» The hips will come up higher than the head when in the set position.

» The back should be fairly flat.

» The head will be looking down and in alignment with the spine.

» The shoulders are directly over the hands.

Common starting faults

» Looking up too soon causes the hips to drop as the torso rises.

» Over-striding in the first seven steps.

» Having the hips behind the front foot when in the set position.

» Leaning the shoulders ahead of the arms puts undue weight on the hands and delays reaction time.

» Rear arm not driving back to give “equal and opposite” drive to the leg.

» Holding the head up in the set position increases stress and tension in the neck.

» Rising to an upright position too soon and not getting enough benefit from the crouch start.


Ultra Athletics regularly posts usefull tips and articles about fitness, execise as well as running.