What is your step pattern after leaving the blocks?
Powerful and wide, or narrow and close to the center (imaginary line between lanes) as possible?
Along with a good reaction time, Coaches usually instruct athletes that a narrow step width and a high step frequency are required for a good start in the sprints.
I wrote last week on Jimmy Vicaut’s 7 Strides for the first 10 meters but I didn’t talk about his step pattern. I have written enough articles on Stride Length and Stride Frequency (as well as Speed Endurance, of course) along with the famous Ground Contact debate. (too numerous to link)
Now let’s look at step width coming out of the blocks.
Christophe Lemaitre (fast forward 1:15)
Christophe Lemaitre shows the classic way to start from the blocks, and that is, feet in a straight line. For every inch you lose going wide, you are losing going forward (according to theory, but there is more… wait for it)
Tyson Gay and Usain Bolt (fast forward to 2:10)
Both Tyson and Usain come out of the blocks with a slightly wider step width than Lemaitre.
Maurice Greene and Asafa Powell
Note how Mo Green “drifts” to his left, and here is Asafa Powell’s early years.
Asafa Powell Collection (with others)
This video has a great montage of Asafa Powell in his later year. You can see his left leg “going wide” which I attribute to his Jamaican toe drag, along with increased power and strength over his career. Of course, this comes at a cost of an increased ground contact time.
Towards the end of this video, you can see Olusoji Fasuba with a straight line approach. Perhaps we can get his coach Pierre-Jean Vazel to comment on this.
Research (from 2006)
This paper is titled Changes in the step width, step length, and step frequency of the world’s top sprinters during the 100 metres from the IAAF New Studies in Athletics, 21:3; 35-39, 2006
These results indicate that a wide step width may be best suited for developing driving force during the long foot contact periods in the acceleration phase.
On the other hand, a narrow step width may be best suited for developing driving force during the short foot contact periods characteristic of full stride sprinting.
However, the full mechanisms of the optimal step width changes need further clarification and research.
Suggestions for Coaching
The results obtained could suggest the following advice:
- sprinters should concentrate on reaching a higher step frequency in the start;
- at the same time they should strive for longer steps from the start;
- it could be advisable that step width be maximised during the first steps and then gradually decreased from about 0.4m (in the first steps) to about 0.17m (in full stride running).
THE BOTTOM LINE: Step width and frequency depends on the strength and power of the athlete, along with the leg recovery… that is, being in the correct biomechanical position upon ground contact. This brings back the argument for using the Jamaican toe drag, which I’ve also covered in past articles.