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Biomechanics of the Sprint Start

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Ananth Sriskandarajah        Draft 1         Scope

Biomechanics of the Sprint Start

Introduction

In track and field athletics, sprint races cover a range of distances from 60m up to 400m. There are three main types of crouched positions: the bullet, the medium and the elongated positions. A crouched start is more effective than a standing start as it places the sprinter in a position to move the centre of gravity rapidly well ahead of the feet and thus the runner must accelerate very quickly or else fall. Movement from the set position in the sprint start must not only be fast and forceful but should permit the sprinter to rapidly take up a mechanically efficient running position. Scientific research on sprint starting dates back as far back as 1927 when Bresnahan investigated the difference between starting from holes dug in the ground and starting from blocks.  Research has dealt with many factors that affect the sprint start such as the angle of the blocks, the block spacing, the forces exerted against the blocks, and the body position during the "set" phase of the sprint start. 

A Description of the Sprint Start

The sprint start is a motor skill. A motor skill can be

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Middle

The objectives of the sprint start can be seen below. The overriding principle is that it allows the athlete, if executed properly, to leave the blocks on balance and with maximum velocity.

The objectives of the sprint start can be seen below. The overriding principle is that it allows the athlete, if executed properly, to leave the blocks on balance and with maximum velocity.

  1. To establish a balanced position in the blocks.
  2. To obtain a body position where the centre of gravity is as high as is practical and slightly forward of the base of support.
  3. To apply force against the blocks in a line through the ankle, knee and hip joints, the centre of the trunk and head.
  4. To apply this force against the blocks and through the body at an angle of approximately 45°.
  5. To establish the optimum knee joint angles in both the front and rear leg.
  6. To clear the blocks on balance and with the greatest possible velocity.

Types of Sprint Start: Which is the Most Effective?

There are three types of sprint start:

  1. Bunch or bullet start
  2. Medium start
  3. Elongated start

The main difference between these three starts lies in the longitudinal distance

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Conclusion

The bunch start limits the impulse that can be exerted against the blocks because the athlete is only in contact with the blocks for a relatively short time period and thus has less time to exert forces against them.  With the elongated start, the athlete has a far greater amount of time over which he/she can exert force against the blocks.  This type of start however, does not allow a very great force to be generated because of the athlete's body position in the set phase.  The medium start is a compromise between the fast clearance produced by the bullet start and the greater amount of time provided by the elongated . It allows the highest possible force to be produced for the longest practicable time.  Therefore it facilitates the athlete in producing the greatest impulse and leaving the blocks with the highest velocity.

In conclusion, it appears that the medium start offers an advantage to the sprinter.  It allows the sprinter to exert a high force against the blocks for the longest practicable time.  This in turn produces the maximum impulse and hence the athlete clears the blocks with the greatest possible velocity as compared with the elongated or bunch start.  This is true because as already explained the velocity of the athlete on clearing the blocks is directly proportional to the impulse exerted against them.

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This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Forces and Motion section.

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