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Starting blocks give runners a stable surface to push against.
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.
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 lifts your center of gravity and helps you to reach maximum velocity in the shortest period of time. The blocks also abbreviate the distance between your start position and a correct and balanced running gait.
Achieving a powerful push off is the major benefit of using starting blocks. Because you're already on your feet, you can more easily accelerate from an inert position as well as hit the ground with greater speed. The blocks allow you to shift your weight to your shoulders and hands, rather than your lower body and feet. When the starting gun goes off, your legs don't have to push up and lift your entire body weight to move forward. The benefit of gaining momentum as quickly as possible can improve performance time in a race.
Types of Sprint Starts
There are three different styles of sprint starts -- bunched, medium and elongated -- according to Drew Harrison and Tom Comyns' вЂњBiomechanics of the Sprint StartвЂќ on CoachesInfo.com. In a bunched or bullet start, your front heel aligns with the toes of your back foot. You hold your hips high in the air with legs together. If you use a medium start, the knee of your rear leg lines up with the toes of your front foot. For an elongated start, position your rear knee next to the heel of your front foot.
To use starting blocks correctly and efficiently, you need proper instruction and practice. While professional athletes and experienced sprinters use blocks, beginner runners who use blocks with poor form are at risk for injury. If you don't have the right coaching, you may have a tendency to jump inward as opposed to forward when the starting gun goes off. Incorrect form on starting blocks puts you at a disadvantage and can negatively impact your performance and time.