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Sprint Starts Block Starts

In the sprinting events, there is a need to have an efficient start. On this page we look at the standing, crouch and block starts and the correct positions for the "On your marks" and "Set" positions.

Standing Start

Standing start- on your marks On your Marks
  • The foot is placed up to the starting line but not on it.
  • The feet are about shoulder width apart to obtain a good balanced position
  • The weight is distributed so that about 2/3rds of the weight is on the front foot
Standing start - set
  • Bend the knees and lean forwards.
  • Arms synchronised with the legs - in this case left foot forward and right arm forward
  • Back, neck and head in line
  • Remain motionless

Crouch 4 point Start

Crouch Start - On your marks On your Marks
  • Place the left foot behind the line
  • Place the right foot behind the left
  • Remove the left foot and place the left knee adjacent to the right ankle
  • The toe of the left foot should be turned under
  • Hands should be slightly wider than shoulder width
  • Arms should be straight but not locked at the elbow
  • The fingers must be behind the line
  • The fingers should form a bridge, with the thumbs pointing towards one another
  • When viewed from the side the shoulder should be above the start line
  • The head and neck should be in line with the spine
Crouch start - Set Set
  • Hips raised to a position slightly higher than the shoulders
  • There should be an angle of 90 degrees at the front knee
  • There should be an angle of 120 degrees on the rear knee
  • When viewed from the side the shoulder should be above the start line
  • The head and neck should be in line with the spine
  • Remain motionless

40 Yard Dash 3 point Start

40yrd Dash start
  • Place your stronger leg, usually the leg you jump with, in front.
  • From a kneeling position, place the left (stronger) foot forward so that the edges of your toes are approximately 16 to 20 inches behind the starting line
  • With the knee of your back leg on the ground, position it alongside the ball of your front foot with a 4 to 6 inch space (fist) between the legs
  • Extending your right arm out just behind the line, raise your hips up to a position where the angle of the front leg is about 90 degrees, and the angle of the rear leg is about 120 degrees
  • The right hand should be extended up onto the fingertips with the fingers spread
  • The left arm should rest on the thigh of the left leg or in a position behind the body as if in a running position.
  • Assume a relaxed position with most of your body weight on the legs and a small amount of your weight on the extended front arm
  • The power at the start comes from your legs, not your arm, so do not lean too far forward so that too much weight is on your arm

Block starts

Block start - On your marks On your Marks
  • Blocks correctly positioned in the lane (200m/400m at a tangent to the curve)
  • Correct distances from the start line to the front and rear blocks
  • Foot blocks at the correct angles
  • Blocks firmly located in the track
  • Feet correctly located in the blocks
  • Fingers behind the line and form a high bridge
  • Hands evenly positioned slightly wider than shoulder width
  • Shoulders back and vertically above or slightly forward of the hands
  • Arms straight but not locked at the elbows
  • Head and neck in line with the spine
  • Eyes focused on the track (1 to 2 metres ahead)
  • Gentle breathing
  • Face and neck muscles relaxed
Block start - Set Set
  • Hold the breath
  • Hips rise slowly to a position above the shoulders
  • Head and neck in line with the spine
  • Eyes focused on the track one or two metres ahead
  • Shoulders vertically above or slightly forward of the hands
  • Front leg knee angle approx. 90 degrees
  • Rear leg knee angle approx. 120 degrees
  • Feet pushed hard back into the blocks

Types of sprint starts

There are three types of sprint starts:

  • Bunch or Bullet start - The toes of the rear foot are approximately level with the heel of the front foot and both feet are placed well back from the starting line.
  • Medium start - the knee of the rear leg is placed opposite a point in the front half of the front foot.
  • Elongated start - the knee of the rear leg is level with or slightly behind the heel of the front foot.

Research by Henry (1952)[2] and Sigerseth & Grinaker (1962)[3] supports the medium start as being the one that offers the most advantage to the sprinter. The medium start, compared to the other two starts, allows the sprinter to exert a higher force against the blocks for the longest practicable time, which in turn produces the maximum impulse so that the athlete leaves the blocks with the greatest possible velocity.

Right foot forward or left?

A question often asked with regards starting blocks is "which foot should be in the rear block?" Eikenberry et al. (2008)[1] discovered that when the:

  • left foot was in the rear block, reaction time was better
  • right foot was in the rear block movement and total response time was better - time from stimulus (gun) until the end of the movement

The results suggest that the right foot in the rear block will produce a more powerful drive from the blocks. Perhaps a way forward would be to evaluate the athlete's times over the first ten metres, for both start positions, to determine which produces the best acceleration phase for the athlete.

Referenced Material

  1. EIKENBERRY, A. et al. (2008) Starting with the "right" foot minimizes sprint start time. Acta Psychol (Amst), 127 (2), p. 495-500
  2. Henry, F.M. (1952). Force-time characteristics of the sprint start. Research Quarterly, 23, p. 301-318
  3. SIGERSETH, P.O. and GRINAKER, V.F. (1962) Effect of foot spacing on velocity in sprints. Research Quarterly, 1962

Page Reference

The reference for this page is:

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

Associated Pages

The following Sports Coach pages should be read in conjunction with this page:

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