Acceleration: Foot Placement
“You need to take big steps and reach!” NOOO
I’m sure we have all been told this. And maybe this could help some, but most of the time it will result in a slower start.
Foot placement is HUGE in order to accelerate quickly. I can’t stress that enough. So many athletes put themselves in a poor position due to their foot placement.
What do I mean by “foot placement.” I’m glad you asked.
During the initial movement, the back leg will make come forward. Eventually that leg will start to come back down towards the ground. When I say “foot placement” I’m talking about when the foot returns to the ground.
All of the best sprinters in the world look somewhat different as they accelerate - no 2 body’s are created the same. This is something we have learned to accept, there is no “perfect” way of sprinting. BUT, they do share at least one characteristic: foot placement. Each of them places their foot under or behind their hips. Notice in the picture above that his foot is under his hips which creates a shin angle that is pointing forward. This allows the athlete to “push” into the ground. I like to call it “rolling up the track or carpet.” Imagine pushing down and back on the track so hard that it rolls up behind you.
Most athletes, especially younger ones, look more like this:
Instead of pushing down and back, this athlete is pulling themselves forward. In fact they are decelerating. Athletes who do this end up just running the same speed from start to finish, there is no acceleration.
Here's a quick video example I got by mistake. I was just videoing one of my athletes performing a falling start and he was struggling with one of his legs. Let’s take a look and you tell me which is better…
Now that we know the difference between better and not so much better foot placement, let’s talk about how to work on this.
In a perfect world we would just shout a few cues and boom the athlete would be fixed. Yes, that can work sometimes, but usually it takes a lot of exposure to quality drills and coaching.
With that said, here are a few cues I like to use to help athletes who struggle with foot placement.
- Roll up the carpet
- Push the floor behind you
- Punch foot back
- Push the ground away
Each athlete may respond differently to each cue. Make sure to have multiple tools on your belt to get them to understand.
There are a ton of drills, but here are a few of my favorites.
If you have bands, doing marches and sprints work very well too.
At the end of the day make sure to put a lot of effort into hitting the correction positions. It needs to be practiced constantly to make true change.
If you have any questions, drop them below!