Perfect Your Track Sprint Start

STACK Expert Dylan Spadaccini breaks down form and technique at the starting line of a sprint.

The position of your body during your acceleration phase and top-end speed are crucial in sprinting, but your time won't improve if your start is slow.

The sprint start is intended to propel you into the race as fast as possible. When an athlete breaks technique, his or her speed decreases and he or she has a greater chance of fatiguing sooner.

The best way to work on correct form is to begin by watching experts perform these movements. Some professional athletes spend their entire lives perfecting every aspect of their start, so watch their film to see what they do with every movement. Don't just watch them as a whole; try to break down every little detail from start to finish.

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On Your Mark

One of the things you should look for in the "On Your Marks" position is good angles in the blocks. Body position is everything in a start, and it plays a huge role in how much explosion you are setting yourself up for when the gun goes off.

  • The thigh of your back leg should be perpendicular to the ground.
  • The shin on your front foot should be parallel to the ground.
  • Your arms should be straight but not hyperextended and held slightly wider than shoulder-width.
  • Your shoulders should be slightly over your hands.
  • Both your head and neck should be relaxed in a natural position.
  • Your eyes should be focused on the ground below you.
  • Your hands should form a bridge with your fingers spread apart.

Sprint Start, On Your Mark: Thigh of Back Leg Perpendicular to the Ground  Sprint Start, On Your Mark: Shin of Front Foot Parallel to the Ground

Get Set

When moving into the "Set" position, you are preparing for an extremely explosive forward movement. There are many key points you need to look for. If you are positioned incorrectly, it could be the difference between first and second place. There should be no type of lowering of the body at any time during the "Set" phase—meaning your hips cannot lower, the angles cannot decrease, and your shoulders cannot roll forward before you begin running. When you do these things improperly, getting into the acceleration phase takes more time, because your body will be trying to get into the right position. Focus on getting into your stance and staying completely still until the gun goes off.

RELATED: Usain Bolt's Key to Explosive Starts

  • Your hips should rise slowly and your shoulders should remain where they are.
  • Push your whole foot completely back against the block.
  • Your legs should be positioned to shoot you forward, not up.
  • Your front leg should be angled at 90-100 degrees.
  • Your back leg should be angled at 120-135 degrees.
  • Eyes remain looking down at the ground below you.

Sprint Start, Get Set: Front Leg at 90-100 Degrees, Back Leg at 120-135 Degrees

Gun

Finally when the gun goes off and your acceleration starts, you are combining technique and power to get moving as fast as possible. Good form when pushing off makes your strides longer and improves the speed at which your feet move. Your knees and arms are the most important parts of the acceleration phase. Driving both in unison makes all the difference in a sprint. The higher your arm goes, the higher your knee will rise.

RELATED: Perfect Your 40-Yard Dash, Part 1: The Start

  • Push both feet off the blocks at the same time and explode out as far as possible.
  • Your back leg needs to reach triple extension in the hip, knee, and ankle, maximizing stride length at each step.
  • The angle of the your entire body should be 45 degrees and leaning forward.
  • Your knees should fire up aggressively and your arms should be moving fast.
  • Focus your eyes 5 meters down the track.
  • Stride length and stride frequency should increase with each step.
  • As the acceleration phase progresses (after about 20-25 meters), gradually raise your head until you are running tall and in an upright position.

Sprint Start, Acceleration: Body at 45 Degrees and Leaning Forward

When you break the start down piece by piece, it is easy to understand. It allow you to take mental pictures and try it out for yourself. Once you have a good idea about how the pros do it, you can get to work and try it out for yourself. Remember, practice makes perfect.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: SPEED TRAINING | TRACK & FIELD | RUNNING | SPRINT | STRIDE | TRACK