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Sprint Starting Block Settings

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 position, make sure that the front block is all the way down creating the smallest possible angle with the track. Ideally, block pedals should be at 30°. A 30° angle best utilizes the stretch shortening cycle, which means you will get the most power from the stretch reflex, but without increasing the amount of time you are pushing on the foot blocks. The problem is that most blocks can only be lowered to about 45°. Therefore it is important that both heels be pressed firmly against the back of the blocks.

Mathematical approach

Using these two knee angles (120°, 90°) and some athlete limb measurements it is, mathematically, possible to calculate the settings for the front and rear pads of the starting blocks.

Measurements

The following measurements, with the athlete in the "set" position, will be required:

  • AL (Arm Length) - vertical distance from the mid point of the shoulder to the ground
  • BL (Back length) - distance from the mid point of the shoulder to the mid point of the hip
  • ULL (Upper leg length) - distance from the mid point of the hip to the mid point of the knee
  • LLL (Lower leg length) - distance from the mid point of the knee to the bottom of the shoe
  • FL (Foot length) - distance from the mid point of the ankle to the point of contact with the toes to the ground

Block settings

Block setting Calculator

Enter the measurements and then select the 'Calculate Block Settings' button to obtain measurements. An estimate of the distance of the toes of the first foot strike from the front starting block pad is given.

Arm length Back Length Upper leg length
Lower leg length Foot length
     
   
   
Distance from the start line to the front pad
Distance from the start line to the rear pad
Angle of the front pad degrees
Angle of the rear pad degrees
   
First foot strike (front of shoe) approximately from the front block

The distance measurements for the pads are made from the rear of the start line to the front of the pad where it is in contact with the ground.

Free Calculator


Page Reference

The reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2001) Sprint Starting Block Settings [WWW] Available from: http://www.brianmac.co.uk/sprints/blockset.htm [Accessed

Related Pages

The following Sports Coach pages provide additional information on this topic:

Associated Books

The following books provide more information related to this topic:

  • Sprints and Relays, F. W. Dick
  • Sprinting and Hurdling, P. Warden
  • How to Teach Track Events, M. Arnold