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This article is guest blogged by Adarian Barr from Speedbynature.com
What is implied when a sprinter is instructed to stay low at the start and for the first 10 yards or meters of a sprint race?
Staying low has to do with the lean angle of the body from head to toe. The degree of being low is determined by one’s shin angle. It is not determined by keeping the head down or bending over at the waist.
How can you tell if you are bent over at the waist versus having a true body lean?
When your support is fully extended behind you, see if you can draw a straight line from your foot through your head. The closer the line is to being horizontal than to being vertical during the first 10 yards or meters of a sprint race, the better you are doing. The lower the angle, the lower the body leans. You can’t have one without the other.
Why do you want to stay low?
It is easier to overcome inertia and create momentum, which is the key to good acceleration and to a greater top end speed. Inertia is the tendency of an object to resist changes in its velocity or the tendency of an object to resist acceleration. Until reaching top end speed this is what you are trying to do, change your velocity.
Momentum can be thought of as how long would it take you to stop moving once forces cease to be applied? The longer it takes for you to stop the more momentum you have. This is why there are people who are fast but don’t jump far; they do not have good momentum at takeoff.
How does staying low with a proper lean assist with overcoming inertia?
Pushing, it makes it easier for you to push during your drive phase.
The two main characteristics of a drive phase are: the action of the legs and foot position in relation to one’s hips. The legs should be driving the feet backwards as they come into contact with the ground. When the foot contacts the ground it should be under or slightly behind one’s hips. That action and foot placement makes for a smooth transition of your hips over your foot with minimal braking action.
How to stay low?
- Don’t lunge out of the blocks or your stance; instead learn to balance yourself on the ball of your foot of the up leg as you come out of the blocks/out of your stance.
- Trust that you are not going to fall on your face.
- Don’t pick your feet up, let the foot of the back leg swing forward. This is how you get low heel recovery.
- Your hips should initiate the forward movement.
- Your hands should initiate movement before your legs.