How To Set Up Your Starting Blocks
In track and field, athletes use starting blocks so that they can forcefully push themselves into the sprint. The vertical pedals of starting blocks allow athletes to generate horizontal force in order to explode out and begin sprinting.
How Most People Set Up Their Blocks
The most common way that athletes set their blocks up, or at least the most commonly taught method, is to measure your block settings based on foot length.
Typically coaches will instruct athletes to measure two foot lengths from the line to the front block pedal, and 3 foot lengths from the line to the rear block pedal. I have used this method myself with moderate success. This is a useful starting point when teaching large groups, such as in my high school team's setting, but this is not the way to go if you are trying to find the perfect block start settings for any individual athlete.
One issue with the foot measuring method is that not everybody with a certain size shoe will have the same body proportions. One athlete may wear size 11 and be six feet tall, while another may be multiple inches taller or shorter with the same size shoe.
Second, I've found that even if you have the average shoe size for your height, the foot length based settings tend to lead to a more obtuse knee angle and a small split between the two block pedals. I prefer to have the front leg more loaded and at an angle closer to 90 degrees, with the rear pedal relatively further back in order to create a large split that provides a more stable, balanced position in set.
But if measuring with our feet is not the optimal way to go, what is?
Using Leg Length To Determine Block Settings
A better method of determining your block start settings is to use the athlete's leg length to set their blocks.
To do this, use a tape measure and measure from the ground up to the athlete's greater trochanter. The trochanter is the round, bony protrusion on the side of the athlete's thigh, below their hip bone but well above the knee. This should be measured while barefoot.
Once the leg length has been determined, we can use this length to calculate what is likely to be a good block setup for the athlete.
To do this, calculate the following:
- Distance from Starting Line to Front Pedal = Leg length X 0.56
- Distance from Front Pedal to Rear Pedal = Leg length X 0.42
Optimizing Your Block Start Settings
Now that you have a general place to start with setting up your blocks, you can manipulate the pedal positioning to find the most comfortable setup.
Athletes may need to move the block settings around a bit to find the perfect settings, but these calculations should put them in the ballpark of what would be a good setup for their block start pedal settings.
Film yourself coming out of the blocks and look to see if there are any issues with these new block start settings.