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  • US/Jamaica Foot Placement in Blocks

    It was nice to watch so much track & field in HD during the games! While watching it was interesting to see how nearly every JA athlete positioned their feet higher in the blocks without their shoes (toes) touching the track while in the starting position. Their toes were typically 1/4 inch or so above the track. The typical position for US sprinters involed their toes resting on the track while in the blocks. For the coaches on here...is one position considered better?

  • #2
    Re: US/Jamaica Foot Placement in Blocks

    Originally posted by TrakFan
    It was nice to watch so much track & field in HD during the games! While watching it was interesting to see how nearly every JA athlete positioned their feet higher in the blocks without their shoes (toes) touching the track while in the starting position. Their toes were typically 1/4 inch or so above the track. The typical position for US sprinters involed their toes resting on the track while in the blocks. For the coaches on here...is one position considered better?
    Glad I wasn't the only one to notice that. I suppose the theory might be that you gain more "air time" in the initial take-off. But I've never seen it before this meet. Would love to hear coaches' input.

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    • #3
      Re: US/Jamaica Foot Placement in Blocks

      Believe BBC and CTV here noted that its something Jamaicans are trained to do. Don't know the exact reason or if its all runners.

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      • #4
        Re: US/Jamaica Foot Placement in Blocks

        I doubt it materially affects the ultimate time but, if memory serves, once upon a time the rules required the toes to be touching the track.

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        • #5
          Re: US/Jamaica Foot Placement in Blocks

          I saw VCB and SAFP do it but i really didn't think it was a big issue

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          • #6
            Re: US/Jamaica Foot Placement in Blocks

            If I'm not mistaken,Ben Johnson was the only other athlete to adopt that starting position.
            I understand that it takes a tremendous amout of strength to use that starting style.

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            • #7
              Re: US/Jamaica Foot Placement in Blocks

              Well, in order to analyze the actual mechanical concept behind this issue, all you have to do is just imagine a more exaggerated version of each of the two positions:

              First, imagine a sprinter who puts their feet where almost their whole foot is flat on the ground, and only a tiny bit of the back of the heel is on the blocks. That person's foot will be almost horizontal, so when they push off, unless they are pushing nearly straight upwards, as in trying to just jump straight up, it would be a sub-optimal foot position for the direction in which they are trying to push off in, which is, of course, the horizontal direction.

              Now imagine the opposite, where the blocks are very severely curved to where they make the foot almost vertical with the toe pointing almost straight down. In this position, a push off would yield an almost totally horizontal direction of motion when you push off, like a superman dive. And, although in terms of just strictly the direction of motion, the more horizontal, the better, since it's the quickest, straightest path to the finish line, obviously if it is TOO horizontal then you'll have problems since if you just launch into a total superman dive you'll just fall flat on your face once you try to take your first step of the race.

              Thus, theoretically, I would think you'd want to compromise with using a foot position in the starting blocks where the foot is as close to vertical, yielding as horizontal of a starting motion as you can actually pull off without stumbling during your first steps from being too horizontal in the start. I would think the severity of how horizontal of a push-off various sprinters can optimally actually manage to do probably varies from sprinter to sprinter based on their strength and agility. The smartest would probably be to spend a few hours testing each individual to fine tune it to what foot position is most optimal for them, rather than just doing a blanket-command of ALL people in one camp doing it exactly one way and ALL people in the other camp doing it the other way.

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              • #8
                Re: US/Jamaica Foot Placement in Blocks

                In the week-long USATF Level II course I took last year at Georgia Tech, the bio-mechanics guy made it very clear to us that the 'correct' position was with a couple of inches of toe on the track, so the toes were actually bent back a little, putting you in a toe-dorsi-flexed position. He gave us some of the bio-mechanical explanation, but it wasn't on the test, so I didn't ask any questions! :wink: I tried it on me and my athletes this spring with very good results, so that's what I'm sticking with.

                We also got into how high the butt should be at the set command and was surprised that after all my years of thinking 'high-butt' was best, come to find out a simple rock-forward at 'set', with the butt only slightly higher than the shoulders was the recommended position (again, from a bio-mechanical perspective).

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                • #9
                  Re: US/Jamaica Foot Placement in Blocks

                  saw it, noted it, then said 'mmmmmm' and thats as far as it went, however I seem to remember what lonewolf said

                  Originally posted by lonewolf
                  I doubt it materially affects the ultimate time but, if memory serves, once upon a time the rules required the toes to be touching the track.
                  and I also saw a lot of bright yellowish shoes. I'm bettin lonewolf saw those too

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                  • #10
                    Re: US/Jamaica Foot Placement in Blocks

                    Originally posted by no one
                    and I also saw a lot of bright yellowish shoes. I'm bettin lonewolf saw those too
                    I did. And, while I am not renowned as a fashion maven, I thought they clashed horribly with the red uniforms.
                    Actually, I would call them fluorescent greenish bile yellow..

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                    • #11
                      Re: US/Jamaica Foot Placement in Blocks

                      Some blocks are very high these days and you may need to put your feet high as well to have a bit of stretch reflex in the ankle joint (heel moving back loading the calf muscles allows for more explosive force to be developed). This is impossible if you have your whole foot including your heel against the block in the set position. Curvature of the blocks also matters.

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                      • #12
                        Re: US/Jamaica Foot Placement in Blocks

                        Curvature of the blocks also matters.

                        The old Arnett blocks from the 50s and 60s had a curved, rubber-covered pad--to resist those long, moderately sharp spikes that might've penetrated too far into some of the surfaces now used.

                        Now that I think of it, the old long spikes already held the heel somewhat off the pad, thereby providing that pre-loading mentioned above.

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                        • #13
                          Re: US/Jamaica Foot Placement in Blocks

                          A minor issue is that if you start by running downhill you get an advantage. Being higher overall means that you are running 'downhill' relative to those starting lower. Small effect, but probably part of the calculus.

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                          • #14
                            Re: US/Jamaica Foot Placement in Blocks

                            Originally posted by 26mi235
                            A minor issue is that if you start by running downhill you get an advantage. Being higher overall means that you are running 'downhill' relative to those starting lower. Small effect, but probably part of the calculus.
                            I'm not about to criticize the Jam penchant for high foot placement, but there is not a down-hill' component to it. If anything it creates the problem of driving straight-out, when the body IS trying to rise (gradually). Look at the torso's angle immediately after block clearance and you'll see how much it's already risen. Ideally you're driving out at THAT angle, which (as I'm now starting to recall from class) is what the toes-bent-on-the-track position is trying to facilitate. NO ONE does (or can) drive straight out. They'd immediately fall. This is also the problem with the butt-really-high position: it doesn't put you at the best drive angle initially.

                            I'd love to hear from other bio-mechanists about this - all I know is what I learned at the Level-2 course from a bio-mech guy.

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                            • #15
                              Re: US/Jamaica Foot Placement in Blocks

                              saw that too and wondered if it is partly the cause of so many of our sprinters "stumbles" out of the blocks lately.

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