How to improve blocks start in athletics


This is a follow up article on Time Trials in Training: Run Alone or in a Group?

My early days with Coach Dennis Barrett were always in a group to simulate a race condition. Some of us didn’t use starting blocks because our Club only owned two! As an Alan Wells fan, I would say “screw it” and get down on all fours on the track.

Some sprinters are psychologically dependent with starting blocks. With proper spikes and synthetic tracks, I feel you can still get an effective start without them. And my indoor 400 meter Dartmouth Relays proved it, as you are not allowed to use blocks on the oval events.

In the video, note how the sprinters go down on all fours with NO BLOCKS! Who says you need blocks to run fast? Especially for a 300 or 400 meters, though you should always run the first 5 or 7 steps the same way whether it’s an indoor 60m sprint or 400 meter dash.

In Asafa Powell’s 300m (fast forward to the 2:08 mark), he runs 31.60 and splits 200m in 20.28...

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The SDAC Sprint Page

This page contains information relating to sprinting and is suitable for any athlete who wishes to improve their speed, strength and power. While the information is quite general, it become more relevant to athletes who are beginning to favour the sprints over other events, are showing competitive promise and who are interesting in training to improve their performances.

The page attempts to answer many common questions that are asked about sprinting and includes links to external instructional videos and articles. Official rules relating to things like sprint spikes and starting blocks are also included.

How does a developing athlete get faster?

Sprinting is a skill and it also requires strength. Getting faster is actually more simple than you might think. You need to practise the skill – by sprint training, and you need to get stronger – by strength training. While there are several technical elements that are important to...

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Courtesy of Gary Hall Sr., 10-time World Record Holder, 3-time Olympian, 1976 Olympic Games US Flagbearer and The Race Club co-founder.

Part I Track Starts

Nearly all swimmers today use a track start with one foot forward and the other back on the starting block. With the introduction of the back wedge on the top of the block in 2009, virtually all swimmers adopted the track start. Regardless of the type of start used, the favorable angle of the back wedge increases the potential force from the feet using the track start. The only swimmers that I do not recommend using the track start are older Masters swimmers that have trouble with balance and equilibrium. They are better off with both feet forward on the edge of the block.

There are two distinctly different types of track start, weight forward and weight back (or slingshot). With the weight forward start, the majority of the swimmer’s weight is placed on the front foot with the toes wrapped over the edge...

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Many people have memories of competing in athletics, or "track and field", in school. Some competed in running events, such as sprints and longer-distance races, or jumping events, such as high jump and long jump, or throwing events, such as discus and shot put. While most people give up athletics after leaving school, a few go on to become professional athletes who compete in top meetings around the world. Many people enjoy watching these highly-skilled, super-fit athletes when they compete in major competitions such as the IAAF World Championships in Athletics and the Olympic Games.


As long ago as the 8th century B.C., athletics events were being held as part of the original Olympic Games in ancient Greece. Some of the events from that time, such as javelin and discus throwing, are still part of modern athletics. In 19th-century England, athletics competitions were being held in military and public schools such as the Royal Military College in Sandhurst...

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I just completed the first draft for the updated Bud Winter book The Rocket Sprint Start. The original version was from 1964, so I think a new version is overdue!

Since this will be a detailed book on starting block styles (i.e. angles) and techniques, I had to add the section on the Moye Starting Blocks because it is relevant.

I think a lot of coaches and athletes don’t know the difference between “quick” and “powerful”.

Last month when I was watching the Marc Magiacotti’s 100 meter videos, he showed an easy drill for showing athletes the difference between “quick” and “powerful” where quick = slow, and powerful = fast. Another one of those “ah-hah” moments.

You see, you can be quick, but not fast. You can be fast, but not quick.

The Moye Starting block is named after the invertor Charles Moye from Akron, Ohio in 1989.

The Moye Starting block (or the Moye starting position) concept is simple. The angles of the blocks are much...

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This article is about starting blocks used for track and field/athletics. For other uses, see

Starting block


Starting blocks are a device used in the sport of track and field by sprint athletes to hold their feet at the start of a race so they do not slip as they push out at the sound of the gun. For most levels of competition, including the whole of high level international competition, starting blocks are mandatory equipment for the start of sprint races.[1]

The invention of starting blocks is credited to Australian Charlie Booth and his father in 1929.[2]

Prior to their invention, runners would dig holes in the dirt track. Trowels were provided at the start of races. This was not the most consistent or stable system. It also was destructive to the track surface with the holes having to be filled for subsequent runners. When George Simpson became the first person to run 9.4 seconds for the 100 yard dash in 1930, his record was disallowed because he...

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By Mike Rosenbaum

Updated May 25, 2016.

Good starting block technique is vitally important in sprint races. The following discussion of starting block technique is adapted from a presentation by Dan Fichter of Wannagetfast Power/Speed Training at the 2009 Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association seminar.

The importance of a good start on the rest of the race:

The start affects the smooth execution of the whole race. The faster you accelerate at the start, the more potential you have for top-end speed and the easier it is to get to your top-end speed.

On the keys to becoming a good starter:

What makes a great starter is, number one, how you react. Number two, how explosive you are. And then position and all that comes into play later.

On preparing to enter the starting blocks:

Before you even get into the blocks, you need to have a vision in your head of what it’s going to be like. Observe some races and listen to...

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When sprint athletes start using starting blocks the initial problem they and coaches experience is determining the correct settings for the front and rear foot blocks.

Position of foot blocks

Technically, the distance between the front block and the starting line should be approximately 55-60% of your leg length. The distance between blocks should be shin length, which is about 42-45% of total leg length.

A simpler and equally effective spacing is to start by placing front block two foot-lengths from the starting line and the rear block another foot length between the front and rear blocks. Spacing can be adjusted from there based on performance over the first 7 to 8 strides of the sprint start.

Many books recommend that the ideal angles of the legs in the "set" position in a sprint start using starting blocks are:

Leading knee angle - 90° to 110° Rear knee angle - 120° to 135°

Block Angles

When in the set...

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Athletics sprint events begin with a sequence of events:

Gun goes off Sound travels from gun to ear ear registers sound, sends impulse to brain brain processes sound, sends signal to start running. signal is received by muscles; sprinter goes

Except for step 1, these events are loosely described as the athlete's reaction time. Major meets conducted by the IAAF record reaction times, and usually publish them on their web-site.

When athletics sprint events separate athletes and world records by hundredths of a second, its worth appreciating the magnitude of the start events and particularly to consider their impact on timing accuracy.

Reaction Time

The reaction time is the time is takes for the runner to respond ...

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Sprinters use blocks to achieve an explosive start in competitive events. While there are different types of starting blocks, the equipment typically consists of two foot pads or pedals attached to metal rail. Athletes can adjust the placement of pedals according to their individual needs as well as the type of race. In the early 1930s, wooden blocks came into regular use, providing sprinters with the advantage of momentum. Before then, sprinters used to dig holes in the ground to give them something to push against at the beginning of races.

Sprint Starts

When you begin a race, your first stride is the longest. To achieve the greatest acceleration, you need to apply significant force horizontally to transition from a standstill to moving forward at a high speed. You also need to generate vertical forces to pull your body to an erect running position and give you enough time in the air to switch legs. By using blocks, you can assume a sloping body position, which...

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