If you are interested in using starting blocks in your sprint races and want faster block starts, you should have a good understanding of how to set up the starting blocks and how to adjust them correctly to gain an advantage over your competition. Using starting blocks is a great way to improve your times in the sprint races and if done correctly, they can make a huge difference in how successful you are as a sprinter.
The problem with using the starting blocks is that not everyone knows how to set them up. It is no surprise to see a track athlete set their blocks up randomly during practice or a meet and hop in the blocks quickly without care. They place their hands flat on the ground and raise their hips in the air as high as they can or sometimes not high enough. When the athlete tries to take off, they practically stand straight up or they may even stumble and are no better than they were had they decided to do a standing start.
To best understand how to set up the starting blocks for faster acceleration, you must understand where to put them and how to set them up. The location of the frame or the body of the starting blocks is not as important as the actual location of the pedals that your feet will be pressing against. Just make sure that no part of the starting block is touching the starting line.
Here’s how to set up your starting blocks…
Starting Block Setup
Starting block foot pedal settings:
When you set up the starting blocks you will want to place the front pedal 2 to 2 ¼ foot lengths from the starting line and the back pedal should be 3 to 3 ¼ foot lengths from the starting line. No matter how tall or short you are, the measurement is based on your own foot lengths with the adjustment range being only a ¼ of a foot length which will be different for each athlete (varying foot size). The angle of the starting blocks should be at a 45 degree angle as this is the angle you are trying to takeoff at. Most starting blocks have adjustments to allow the angles to change. Don’t get too crazy about changing the angle below 45 degrees. Just because you can does not mean you should. If you are still not convinced, look at video and photos of Olympic sprinters coming out of the starting blocks.
Which foot do I put in the front and back pedal of the starting blocks?
To determine what foot is in the front and back pedal when you set up the starting blocks, you can use many techniques to find out which is the best for you. Generally speaking you want your strong and powerful leg (leg you typically would jump off of) to be in the front starting block and your quick leg (or leg you use to kick stuff with) to be in the back starting block. So if you like to kick a ball with your right foot, you would put your right foot in the rear pedal and your left foot in the front. This setup will allow your strong leg to push you out of the starting blocks and your quick leg (kicking) to react and drive forward in front of the body.
Hand placement while in the starting blocks:
Now that you have an understanding of where your feet go when setting up the starting blocks, you’ll need to know where to place your hands. The hands should be placed shoulder width apart or wider and just behind the starting line. The hands should be placed on the track surface with the fingers firm and extended and the thumbs spread so that you create an arch or bridge with your hand. When in the starting blocks, the front block knee should be able to touch your elbow when in the “on your marks” position.
The “set” position:
When the athlete is in the “set” position the athlete should have firm pressure in their feet against the starting blocks as they push their heels back and raise their hips a little higher than shoulder height. The athlete’s shoulders should be directly above their hands or even slightly over the starting line. The shin angles should be 45 degrees with the knee angles around 90 degrees for the front knee and around 120 degrees for the back knee. This will allow the athlete to be in the “power position” and be able to apply large amounts of force necessary to get the athlete to come out of the starting blocks at the correct angle for acceleration (45 degrees). In the “set” position the athlete should have the weight distributed evenly between the hands and the feet with the head in a neutral position aligned with the spine.
Starting out of the starting blocks:
When you take off out of the starting blocks, you will push off of both block pedals and powerfully drive your arms in opposite directions in a large range of motion with one arm driving forward and the other driving backward. The arm that drives forward is on the same side of the body as the strong or power leg. So lets pretend you have your right starting block pedal closest to the starting line, that is your power leg and it also means that the right arm is the forward driving arm. This also means that you will be pushing off the front block with your power leg as mentioned earlier, and fully extending that leg so that the rear or quick leg can drive in front of the body. All of this happens at the same time as your hips extend powerfully and brings your body into a 45 degree angle (from the ground, not the hips). When done correctly, you should be able to see a straight line from the front block foot through the body all the way to the athletes head when their quick leg has driven the knee completely in front of the body.