Yohan Blake and the Rocket Sprint Start

Yesterday’s podcast from Kenta’ Bell on Coaching Sprint Force & Mechanics mentioned the Jamaicans using the Rocket Sprint Start.

Starting blocks are all about putting yourself in the right biomechanical angles for the best and most efficient start possible.  Beating everyone else to the first 10 or 20 meter mark helps, too.

Here is an example. 

I will use the London 2012 Olympics Men’s 200 meters Semi-Finals with Yohan Blake, Bruno De Barros, Christophe Lemaitre, and Wallace Spearmon in lanes 4, 5, 6, 7  because I was there (I missed the 200m & 800m finals, remember?)

Yohan Blake London 200m SF

Note Yohan (circled) and how his shin angles are different to the other 3 sprinters.

Yohan Blake London 200m SF 2nd step

Note Yohan and Bruno (lane 5) on how their 2nd step is almost making ground contact, compared to Christophe and Wallace.

Yohan Blake London 200m SF 3rd step

To my eyes, Yohan has about half a meter lead over the others.  He went on to win his semi final.


Here is a quick 4 minute video on YouTube explaining the Bud Winter’s Rocket Sprint Start.

For more information, go to Bud Winter’s The Rocket Sprint Start

Jimson Lee

Jimson Lee

Coach & Founder at SpeedEndurance.com
I am a Masters Athlete and Coach currently based in London UK. My other projects include the Bud Winter Foundation, writer for the IAAF New Studies in Athletics Journal (NSA) and a member of the Track & Field Writers of America.
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
  • Yohan Blakes start is not similar to the rocket sprint start. First, the rear leg angle is much closer, second the shin of the front leg is almost parallel to the ground (actually it has a positive angle where the angle in the rocket sprint start is negative), last when he gets out of the start he maintains a body alignement not seen in the rocket sprint start for which there is a breaking at the head, athletes look forward, and a breaking at the waist. Those breakings imped a full extension of the hip and a full flexion of the free leg. I don’t see any biomechanical efficiency or soundness in the rocket sprint start (maybe someone can explain it to me) and I don’t see the similarity between Blake’s start and the rocket sart except a very close front leg angle and his shoulder in front of the line. To me Blake’s start look more like the usual start but with very close knee angle of the front leg. Blake has a tremendous power to be able to have a good start with this technique. I would never recommand this kind of set up for the usual athlete. Actually for most of the a front knee angle of about 100 degrees is optimal as most don’t have to power to sustain a 90 degree angle. I actually tried such a start and I sustain hip problem of the rear leg as well as knee tendinotis of the front leg. What happened is that a droped a little bit during the initial push and then I collapse slightly on the first step. So I would definitely not recommand this start to most athletes. (I even wonder if it’s possible to get such a start without PED. Just a thought not based on anything though)

  • Actually Gatlin’s start is much closer to the rocket sprint start. But I never liked his technique anyway and he is a convicted PED’s user so…

  • PED or not PED that is the question …………..
    Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
    The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

    And enterprises of great pith and moment
    With this regard their currents turn awry,
    And lose the name of action. – Soft you now!
    The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
    Be all my sins remember’d.

    but to start or not to start – that is not the question


  • Jimson,

    Great post, it is noticeable from the picture that he his shin angles are more parallel to the ground as well as his back. you will also find that his shoulder are further advanced than the rest of the competitors. You do not have to be on PED’s to do this start. What you do have to have is the appropriate amount of joint stability and postural integrity to stabilize and transfer load as lunge from the blocks and begin driving each step. What most people lack and don’t understand is that you have to have a strong posterior chain to have a strong and consistent start and hit the correct angles consistently. You look back at those 5muscles groups I listed in that podcast those are the ones you need to have a good start. If any of those muscle groups are dysfunctional you will get collapsing and swaying in the hips, knee, and ankle joints. Unfortunately it doesn’t look or sound cool to do those exercises in the gm so most athletes and coaches ignore them. Good stuff Jimson. Keep it coming.

  • Hi Kenta. I still disagree. Blake’s start is not a rocket sprint start. The knee of the back has a more accute angle and his head is aligned with the spine. If you watch the bud winter video the head is not aligned with the spine. There is a breaking at the hip after clearance ; the torso is not aligned with the leg. In any case I thing everything is very well explained in Jimson’s book.

    I totally agree with the strong posterior chain. I myself experience it since I get glutes (medius and minimus) while trying a more acute angle on the front knee.

    But again most athletes will not reach this level of strength. As Jimson’s explained in one of his video, an accute angle of the front knee is not ideal to most athlete. Even 90 degrees angle is not always advisable. Carl Lewis for example used a 100 degree front knee angle. Anyway I strongly recommand everybody to read Jimson’s book as well as Tom Tellez or Dan Pfaff lectures on the subject. There’s everything one need to know there. And Maybe Kenta could give us more ideas on simple and sounds progression to reinforce the posterior chains (I know he already gives us some idea in the pod cast)

  • Great reply by Kenta Bell.

    “What you do have to have is the appropriate amount of joint stability and postural integrity to stabilize and transfer load as lunge from the blocks and begin driving each step”