Exit angles during start

Hello everyone.

I’m interested to know how you guys coach an athlete to exit the blocks at a good angle.

Too many times I come up far too vertical (not enough horizontal push against the blocks).

I tried to fix this by looking forward to a point on the track about 5m ahead of the line during the set position.

Still having problems getting a smooth transition out of the blocks (some days it’s perfect, great angle and the next few steps land behind COM and feel smooth - some other days it all just turns to crap).

I’m trying to get some better consistancy in my starts - in a race, I only get one chance. Please give me some advice.

By the way, I am confident this is not a strength issue.

Me too David . I seem to be either too low and stumbling , or popping up . Again I don’t believe strength is the issue .
First be sure ur body angles are correct ( check the archives ), but don’t look ahead as this will increase shoulder tension and if anything will bring u up sooner .
I’ve been practicing falling starts to try and get used to a more extreme angle on take off - this can help , as can starting on an incline .
A coach looked over my starting form b 4 xmas and said that my first step was too big , and that I needed to get my foot down quicker and take smaller steps. Trouble is when you get advice from someone u don’t know u don’t know if ur getting help or more damage .
Any other tips for me an David ?

David, gloopzilla is right, looking forward is what’s causing you to pop up. I’ve had this same problem myself, and Charlie helped me with it at the NC seminar.

It’s really hard to address this without a coach right there to give you instant feedback. However, the key is to keep your head in line with your spine. Some of this has to do with your foot spacing in the blocks, which will influence how straight your back is and the position of your head.

Here are some pointers that will help you find the right position in the blocks and proper foot placement:

  1. Make sure your arms are straight down to the ground when you’re in the set position. This sounds simple, but if you’re looking at your own arms, your perspective is slightly scewed, so there’s a tendency to lean forward to make them look straight to you. So you really need someone to look at you and tell you when the arms are straight. Hint, you’ll feel less weight on them. Better to lean back than forward.

  2. Keep the head in line with the spine. This is easy when you’re on your mark. But when you rise up in the set position you have to make sure that the head stays in line and moves down as the hips move up. The mistake I made was to raise my hips while keeping my head still, which threw my head out of alignment with my spine and caused me to pop up at the start.

  3. When you hear the start signal, flick the lead hand forward. That’s it. Don’t try to do anything else. And don’t muscle the lead hand movement. Flick it, don’t drive it. I had this lesson drilled into me by Charlie during reactions drills. I was trying to drive the hand like I had seen Ben do in slow motion, and Charlie told me to think of a cat trying to catch a buttefly. The cat doesn’t wind up and muscle the movement. Instead, it’s a quick flick. When I followed his advice, the difference in speed was dramatic. And I was startled when I applied this to the starting blocks. When I heard the signal all I did was quickly flick my hand without any sense of power and the next thing I knew I was two feet in front of the blocks.

Hope this helps.

When coming out of the blocks, focus on the lead arm to be long and flick the wrist/hand up at it’s peak height. The longer arm will keep your front leg pushing on the block longer (triple extension) and will also give you a better angle coming out of the blocks. If you focus on this easy cue, it should help keep things in line. The problem with blocks, is that many coaches over complicate things by not looking at how the body reacts synergistically.
Just how Flash explained. (I posted this and then read his post) Sorry.

I think If you look at your feet in the set position its almost impossible to pop up!!! But you definently, definenlty you do not want to be crunched up. Well then again you never know. All depends on the athlete…look at Ben.

Wasnt it the russian sprinter Borshorv (sp)who claimed that the key to his fast start was total relaxation at the set and begining of the race. Just my two cents worth.

Another piece of advice is don’t spend too much time training with starting blocks. One of the best drills to develop your start is a diving med ball throw, landing on a high jump mat. Charlie said he used this drill with Ben and Desai early in their careers and they quickly became the best starters in the world with virtually no practice in the blocks.

Many thanks everyone .
Is there anything in what this coach said about my first step being too long that needs to be addressed ?
I don’t think I’m overstriding or deliberately leaping .
I definately like the cat / butterfly idea Charlie’s hit the nail on the head .

Flash could you expand on this. A diving med ball throw. Are there any diagrams in either of his books of this. Is this similiar to med ball accelerations.

It’s really simple. Stand in front of a high jump mat, which should be roughly waist high. Hold the med ball about chest height. Then squat down quickly and do an explosive squat throw, but unlike without the mat, you can really launch yourself forward at a sharp angle (about 45 degree) and land on the mat.

Important point: keep your eyes shut when you land on the mat and don’t open them until you stop jiggling on the mat, otherwise you’ll get dust and crap in your eyes.

Derek had a couple action photos on the old forum showing both Charlie and myself doing this at a seminar.

Flash I can honestly say I have never heard anything like that but Im sure Ill be trying this in the near future. Now you jump with the ball and through it at the same time…I really need to get those tapes. Are they still available?

If your front leg is coming out too far, this would be corrected in the sweep of the hand up on the lead arm. This would cause you to be a bit taller, so therefore no stepping out should occur.

I have a video of the drill that flash is talking about. I am going to try and upload it to the site so all can see. It is a great tool for blocks.

I feel like the eyes should look down at slightly behind the line. That way you dont compromise the posture. I wouldnt recommend looking down the track in set position. This may cause you to step out.

Thanks for your help and advice everybody.

I will practice some starts before SE tomorrow, I will let you know how I go.

By the way, during the set position even though my head will be straight in line with my back, where should my eyes be looking?

When I look straight down my head tends to drop a bit when I leave the blocks. Would it be better to still look forward while keeping the neck straight in line with the spine?

Originally posted by gloopzilla
A coach looked over my starting form b 4 xmas and said that my first step was too big , and that I needed to get my foot down quicker and take smaller steps.

This is what you want to achieve in the end, but is not the correct cue that you need in order to achieve this. If you are thinking about where your feet are landing you won’t be leaving the blocks too quickly. What you need to do is get your settings, angles and pressures right and then do as Flash says and go out with your arm. If your settings, angles and pressures are right your steps will be right (and fast).

Thanks DC
I think Im gonna have to get someone to check me out over a period of sessions to correct any faults .
Fortunately I’ve been ok in one of the two races I’ve had so far this season getting to 40m first which surprised me . mainly because of quick reactions and remembering the arm flick .
The other I was too low and nearly went arse over tit and I think it was pride and desparation that pulled me thru .
I want to get to the stage where I can forget it completely .

Hey all,

I think that athletes and coaches make the start WAY more complicated than it has to be. If you begin with the philosophy that the purpose of the start is to put the athlete in the optimal position to ACCELERATE (not be the first to 20, 30 or 40) and set up the maxmial velcocity phase of the race, then you follow the mechanics from there.

In order to accelerate from a standing start (i.e. overcome inertia), force must be applied. The position of the torso at block exit is an important factor in this force applicaton. You must allow the torso “unfold” upon block exit. As the force is applied to the front block and arms are driven in opposite directions, the torso must be allowed to rise NATURALLY. If this is allowed to occur, the athlete will be in a position to drive and push rather than fall and stumble-which is what happens when coaches use the old, “Stay LOW” cue.

Like I said, the physics of the movement really dictate what is going on, if you begin to mess around with worrying about where your foot is hitting, you’ll be in trouble (to borrow a thought from CF-you’ll be sprinting with the forebrain rather than the hindbrain). Often the problem lies with improper set position, improper force application to the blocks and not allowing the torso to rise upon block exit.

Charlie gave me the best cue to think about for running a race from the blocks: flick the hand and pump the arms. That’s it.

Flash, that’s great as long as your settings, angles and pressures are right.

Think of it like launching the space shuttle. If you haven’t put the shuttle in the right position for take off its not going to be pretty.