Strength Curve Differences and Starting Block Position.

Just throwing an idea out here.
Could distance from the line and hip height in the blocks be different for athletes with different strength curves?

I thought of this idea today. I am 5’7. With my old start which is not great to say the least I would start 16 inches from the line for the first pedal which is very close and 31 inches back for the second pedal. I would be pretty bunched and I wouldnt bring my hips up very high (Proably angles of 75 degrees instead of 90 and less than 120 in line of slighlty above head) but I had a better reaction to the gun and felt I could deliver more force. All in all I felt in control.
This past season I changed my start (21 iches and 33 inches) so I can achieve optimal angles of 90 and 120 and although it is textbook I have been having even worse starts, feel that I can deliver force and feel uneasy in the set position. I feel totally out of control and I have been working on it for alot of time.
So I decided to go back to my old way in starting for a while.

So back to my question Could distance from the line and hip height in the blocks be different for athletes with different strength curves?

The weaker the athlete the higher the hips generally.

The farther back you put the blocks, the more strength you need to keep yourself from falling on your face. Think about it. If your feet are way back and you lift your hands, it requires a lot of quick explosive strength to drive your CG forward enough to keep you from stumbling at such a low angle of attack.

As your strength improves, you should be able to progressively move your blocks back to a more ‘optimal’ distance.

I think you are slightly missing what Im saying. When I move my blocks close and hips low I feel powerful like im in a low squatting position as opposed to the middle upper portion of a squat.

In regards to block position/start set up, I would think that anatomical differences (leverages [length of arm/torso/femur/shanks]) would play more of a role than where one’s strengths lie along the curve.

I say this becase virtually all lifters will squat more (concentric only) at greater degrees of knee/hip extension, regardless of strength curve. A half squat (concentric only) will always be greater than a full squat (concentric only). The laws of physics.

In my view, setting up too far back or too close will yield unfavorable leverages for optimal start performance. The distances in between will accomodate various lever lengths/preferences.

that is sort of what I was getting at. When I am in the blocks with my old start (hips low, close to the line) I feel like Im in the paralell squat position ready to explode up. And when I start with optimal textbook angles with my hips higher I feel like Im in like an above parallell squat position and I can deliver as much force.

Well, ultimately Charlie is the man I would look to with respect to this type of discussion; however, my experience tells me that ‘text book’ procedures are much like percentages in that they are guidelines. Unless you feel that you are deviating too greatly from what you believe to be optimal, I would be inclined to suggest that you utilize the set up which rewards you with the most efficient starts.

I am curious as to why your starts are a deficiency. Do you attribute this to a deficiency in one of the following:

  1. starting/explosive strength
  2. starting mechanics
  3. reaction time

Possibly a little of all 3.
I think I have decent starting/explosive strength but I am not so sure. I know my lowerbody max strength is lacking. I am 5’7 155 pounds and my bench is around 315-325 Squat is 300-315 and Powerclean is 190x4. Although my squat has gone up from being 225 3 years ago and my powerclean has gone up from 175x3 last year I have had no improvements on the track with maybe the exeption of my long jump.
James thanks for your comments. You always find a way to bring your intelligence into many discussions even the ones you admit to not knowing the most about.

Ok you are relating the squat to the angles for your block starts so I will explain on those lines to you. You will always generate more power in a partial squat position than a deep squat, thats a fact. The deeper the squat the slower it is to accelerate out of the bottom position. Example 100 kg lifted from a deep squat position will generate less power than a partial squat by the same person with 100Kg. This is true for all lifters. Now take what I have typed and apply it to the start. You do not want to muscle yourself out of the blocks so, what choice do you take? You take the high hip choice, this will generate more shallow angles akin to a partial squat which as we know generates a greater amount of power/ rate of change in speed than the deeper squat(akin to a lower hip height in the start blocks).
I hope this helps.

Thanks for the words.

What types of weights are you lifting in DL and GM variations? And have/are you employing any type of plyometric jumps?

Your bench rivaling your squat is definitely a red flag. I can only presume that through the years you focused much more on the bench. Your relative bench strength tells me that you are capable of squatting much more. Certainly, limit strength ceases to be valuable when ESD becomes to great or your speed/power capabilities are lagging. For you, however, we know that the reactive component is being heavily developed by way of sprinting. Thus, by process of deduction I must presume that your starts will improve when you optimize your starting mechanics/reaction time, as well as limit strength as expressed by squatting, DL’s, GMs, etc.

I believe, that based upon your somatotype and height that you are the type of sprinter who will benefit greatly from strength development. More so than a taller lanky athlete.

Remember, cleans will never rival DLs, or limit pulls, with respect to their capability to develop the posterior chain.

Increases in absolute strength largely correlates with increases in speed strength; the caveat being that speed strength training methods must be employed concurrently with limit strength development methods. And in your case, they are. So keep getting stronger and I believe that you will observe improvements in your start.

Here’s my take on what is trying to be communicated. We all know much more can be lifted in a partial range of motion, we aren’t really talking about moving an outside weight so it doesn’t apply. Quik try this bend down in a squat position around parallel (similar to your old starting position) then perform a measured vj (w/ no counter movement of course). Compare this to a jump from a higher squat position. This may give you an indication of where you can best generate power.

good point. Youve given a very good example.
Dont know why I feel better like I mentioned in the starting blocks however.

Good idea. Remember to hold the bottom position for 2- 4 secs before the concentric phase (to remove any potential generated by the stretch). The partial position does apply because you have a mechanical advantage, thats why you can lift more and so it also still applies in an unweighted position which is still loaded because you are still applying force isometrically against blocks.

You also have to consider that block settings can affect your stride pattern, and what you may percieve as less powerful may not be the case.

Sorry for my lack of biomechanics knowledge, but could you clarify this? I would’ve thought it’s the opposite.Thanks.

What is a somatotype? Could you also expand on why a shorter athlete would benefit more from strength developement. I have some guesses to why, but i am stabbing at the darkness, so to speak.

This may be a RFD problem. When you are in the lower position and your angles are all more acute, then you have more time to deliver force as it takes a while for your limbs to uncoil.

If you are in a start position where your limbs are relatively more straight, you are in a biomechanically more efficient position for strength (this is why you can 1/4 squat more than you can full squat), but you have less time to develop that strength since your limbs have to move through less of a range of motion to straighten out. Make sense?

Somatype is just like ecto/endo/mesomorph…I just figure a taller athlete is at a disadvantage usually leverage wise for stuff like benches and squats, but are at an advantage for jumping and sprinting. So they’re normally weaker in the weight room and therefore increased strength would be more likely magnified on the field. While shorter athletes have shorter ROM and better leverages in the weight room, but are not as efficient in something more reflexive like jumping off one leg. Think high jumpers.

But again, I don’t know crap about biomechanics, so hopefully James or someone could clarify that statement.

I think the reasoning James is getting at is that (feel free to correct me if I misinterpreted your post James!) the athletes should play to their strengths. Meaning that as you said, taller, lanky athletes are at a biomechanical disdvantage in the weight room and would probably be wasting their time if they soley focused on strength training via weights because they are probably not going to get the training stimulation desired due to their disadvantage. But a shorter athlete would be able to obtain the training stimulus needed, ex. lift a weight heavy enough to challenge the system, due to their relative advantage.

There are three somatotypes

Mesomorph- Generally, short to medium height. Muscular limbs, broad shoulders heavy boned. High muscle mass. Low body fat. Normal leg torso proportions

Ectomorph-Generally tall slender body type. long limbed in proportion to torso. LOW body fat. Slightly muscled.

Endomorph-Any height GENERALLY. Relativley high body fat to muscle, but can be highly muscled.

These are general discriptions. Within each population group or sport group people will have traits of each body type. The predominant characteristics will determine what group you fall into.

Olympic weightlifters and a sizeable amount of sprinters are mesomorphic-extreme being bodybuilders.

Beach volleyball players, tennis players and many sprinters are ectomorphic. Extremes being found in basketball (before strength training).

Line backers, some rugby players and the extreme being sumo wrestlers are endomorphic.

Of course training can affect the somatotype.

In past studies, the sprints were dominated ectomorphs but its switched. Athletes who are ectomorphic have had to develop mesomorphic traits. Ectomorphs have an advantage in keeping body fat down. Mesos’ have andadvantage in acquiring power/strength easily. Endos’ in gaining weight and strength.

Of course Track is a weight limited event that demands power to some extent so ectos’ and mesos’ dominate. Whilst the field events welcome all types (discus, shot put) depending on the event chosen (high jump favours the extreme ectos’)

Yes you are right.
The block clearance is time limited (250-300ms) so the ramp of the force is more important than the final peak force. If I am able to develop 2 units of power in 1 sec but you develop the same amount in 2 secs then I win.

So it makes sense to be as strong as you can but then to apply the new found strength in the shortest distance or shallowest angles possible (1/4 squat).