If you have watched the Olympic games, you must have seen runners starting on running blocks. I did some research to find out why and if we should be using them.
Running blocks are specialised equipment used by sprinters to brace their feet at the start of a race, enabling them to launch forward and gain a quicker start. Running blocks enhance acceleration, stability, and overall running form, providing a significant competitive advantage for runners.
Let’s take a look why runners use starting blocks, how they work, and their benefits.
What Are Starting Blocks?
Starting blocks, sometimes called, running blocks or sprinting blocks are equipment used by sprinters in track and field events. They are adjustable metal or plastic platforms that allow athletes to launch themselves from a stable and balanced position.
Starting blocks are typically made up of several components. The main components include:
Pedals: The rubber pedals are the part of the starting block that the athlete places their feet on. They are typically adjustable to allow for a comfortable and secure fit for the athlete.
Block body: The block body is the main frame of the starting block. It is typically made of metal or a strong plastic material.
Rubber grips: The rubber grips are located on the bottom of the starting block to prevent slipping on the track surface.
Spikes: Some starting blocks have spikes that can be inserted into the track surface for added stability.
Adjustable mechanisms: Starting blocks often have various adjustable mechanisms that allow the athlete to customise the position and angle of the pedals and the overall height of the starting block.
Types of Starting Blocks
There are two main types of starting blocks - the traditional "L" shaped blocks and the newer "I" shaped blocks. The L shaped blocks are the most common type, and they are suitable for all sprinters, including beginners. The I shaped blocks, on the other hand, are more advanced and are designed for more experienced sprinters who require a higher level of customisation.
The Benefits of Using Starting Blocks
Using starting blocks offers some benefits to runners, let’s take a look at some.
Starting blocks allow runners to push off with greater force and accelerate faster. By positioning their feet correctly on the running block and using a more extended and stronger push-off motion, runners can launch themselves forward more efficiently allowing them to reach their top speed sooner. This split-second advantage can be the difference between winning or losing a race.
Starting blocks offer runners a more stable base to launch themselves from, allowing them to generate more power and speed. This added stability also reduces the risk of slipping or losing balance during the race.
Starting blocks help runners maintain better form by keeping their centre of gravity low and distributing their weight evenly. This form helps runners achieve their tops speed and minimise the risk of injury.
How To Use Starting Blocks?
Starting blocks work by enabling the runner to position their feet in a way that maximises their power and speed. The blocks are adjustable, allowing the runner to set the distance between the blocks to fit their individual leg length.
The runner positions their dominant foot forward, with their toes resting against the front edge of the block. Their other foot is placed behind, on the block's back edge, and angled slightly outwards. This position allows the runner to generate maximum force with each step, creating a more powerful push-off.
Once positioned, the runner braces their hands against the track surface, ready to launch themselves forward. They then drive their feet into the blocks, pushing their body forward and accelerating towards the finish line.
Starting blocks are commonly used in sprinting events. They can also help athletes generate more power and speed off the starting line. However, starting blocks may not be necessary for casual runners or those participating in non-competitive races. Now you know what starting blocks are and who they are for you should be able to decide if you want to give them a go.