Every Sprinter Needs to Fix *This*... - Complete Track and Field

Every Sprinter Needs to Fix *This*…

Posted by Latif Thomas

Earlier this season we were doing race pace 50m starts as part of our 400m training. Obviously, these are submaximal runs. However, my top 400m runner said that it felt like she had to go ‘all out’ to hit her times, and she was using starting blocks.

Why does it feel like this? Like most young sprinters, she is an inefficient accelerator.

Why is she so inefficient? Like most young sprinters, she does not push out of the blocks. She steps out of the blocks.

Each season I wait longer and longer to let athletes use starting blocks. After all, blocks are a privilege, not a right. And they’re usually like Kryptonite for sprinters!

I’m just not sure starting blocks are actually helpful to the majority of young sprinters. Our League Championship is on Thursday. My top 100m runner has not used blocks yet this season. Am I crazy? Maybe. After all, she is the only athlete making finals at meets who isn’t using starting blocks.

Check out the video below to see what ‘stepping out’ looks like, how it affects performance and how you can fix it.

RELATED: How to develop high school sprinters…from a high school sprints coach.

– Latif Thomas

Follow me on Twitter: @latif_thomas




Latif Thomas owns and operates Complete Track and Field and serves as the Co-Director of the Complete Track and Field Clinic, the largest track and field clinic in the United States. A popular speaker and presenter at some of the largest coaching clinics in the country. Over the past 15 years, he has coached more combined League, Division, All State and New England Champions in the sprints, hurdles, and jumps than he had the emotional strength to go back and try to count. Follow @latif_thomas on Twitter

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  • CoachG

    This was a great video. One thing I do to work on explode or push out of the blocks is to set them up about a meter or so in front of a high jump pit. They then “Jump” out of the blocks. They will push back into the blocks to jump as far as they can. It will force them into a 45 degree angle from the height of the high jump pit if the mats are setup at the correct distance from the pit. This has fixed the problem I have had with athletes stepping out. When they step out their ground contact time is greatly increased vs. pushing out and attack the ground as Coach Thomas points out with the foot directly under the hips. This makes a huge difference in athletes block starts.

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas


      Great drill!

  • Shannon Simmons

    Hi Latif,

    I love all of the information and articles that you always send. I have coached track for the past 9 years on a summer team that competes AAU and USATF, personally trained in track, speed and agility, and have coached my own two boys for the past 11 years in track (My oldest will be going to college in the Fall on a Track scholarship). The ages of the children who joined our track team were ages 8-18, but if there was a child who was younger than that and they could keep up with the workouts that I gave we would take children no younger than 6 or 7 (I really had to modify the workout for that age but even for that age they really worked hard). I was the head sprint coach as well as the multi’s coach, hurdles coach and jumps coach. I have always stressed to the children who train up under me that they have to know how to run out of blocks; so it is a requirment no matter how young that they come out of blocks. You are right a lot of children do not know how to come out of blocks, but it is very important that the proper mechanics of using blocks be taught in mny opinion at an early age so that as a child gets older and the competition gets tougher he/she is not at a disadvantage by not using them or not getting any benefit from the blocks. When teaching the approach for coming out of blocks you have to first practice the approach and as a coach I feel you sometimes have to breakdown every phase of an approach even if it is just blocks. From getting into the blocks: where should an athlete’s head be, where should the feet be placed, how should the blocks be adjusted, where should your shoulders be, how should it feel when coming out, what about the drive phase, where should your hips be, what about the swing of my arm, and my knees. Not using blocks will not help an athlete; a lot of young athletes fear the blocks. What young athelets have to realize at a certain point if you are truely competitive and you want to succeed in the sport especially if you are a sprinter, learning to use the blocks efficiently is a must. You already put yourself behind if you don’t. Just my thoughts and yes you are crazy not to have your 100 runners coming out of blocks. Running the 400 and down is a must. I love the articles keep them coming :)

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

      @Shannon Simmons:

      Hi Shannon, thank you for the kind words! I agree that proper technique must be taught from a young age. In my situation I don’t have access to kids until they are freshman in HS and have likely never run track before so we have a lot of bad habits to unlearn! The reason I don’t put rookies in blocks is because, as Vince Anderson says, starting blocks are like kryptonite for sprinters. As soon as I put them in blocks, everything falls apart. No doubt there is a much higher ceiling using blocks, but if kids are stepping out with blocks but kinda sorta pushing in a 4 pt stance, I feel as though, in the short term, I can get better results that way. But, again, that might be crazy!

  • Karen

    This video had no audio. : ( Can you repost?

  • Rick Pack

    Great video. Over thirty years old and I have never heard some of these ideas. Now I have to decide if it is worth using the blocks in my master’s track meet in a few days. I ran track in high school but would still consider myself a non-expert at using them, largely because I ran the 400 and 800.

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

      @Rick Pack: I would probably not use them if you have not been practicing with them.

  • DJ Meagher


    I have asked you questions before in the past via twitter, I am just a curious college freshman looking for more tips in the sport of track and field (I run at UW-Eau Claire in Eau Claire, WI). but i have a few questions regarding the start.

    1. do you believe in locking your arms at 90 degrees after the pushing 20m phase?
    2. How about holding your breath? do you believe in that as well?
    3. and do your eyes have a huge impact on your stride length? Dale Baskett (speed coach from CA) has told my hs coach about that and i wanna hear your imput on that.

    Thanks for the advice/tips

    -DJ Meagher

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

      @DJ Meagher:

      Hey DJ, yes, I remember you from Twitter.
      1. I don’t believe the pushing phase ends at 20m. The entire race is the pushing phase. What gets people into trouble is they stop pushing and start spinning and that’s why they run slow. That said, no, I do not believe in locking the arms at 90 degrees. I’m not even sure what the logic or science behind that would be.
      2. If you know how to properly utilize the valasalva maneuver (holding your breath), then, yes, abs tight and hold your breath at the ‘set’ command and then breath out forcefully at 10-15m and then there is a pattern of breathing after that, but I would practice it as part of your speed development and ins/outs before attempting to do it in meet.
      3. I don’t know what that means. I have never heard anyone talk about the eyes in relation to stride length so I don’t think I can give you any insight on that topic. What is the relationship between eyes and SL that your coach was told about?

      • DJ Meagher

        @Latif Thomas:


        I am not 100% sure about the eye thing since my high school coach briefly told me that while i was back home (La Crosse, WI). But from what i remember, coach Baskett said that you should still be at a 45 degree angle coming out, but your eyes are not looking down on the ground. Same with your head. So, your eyes are looking more forward, or even towards the finish line if anything. It helps lengthen your stride, but you are producing force at the same rate. Think of your eyes looking towards the spot on where your feet are going to strike next.

        Dale Baskett is some speed coach in California that helps out high schools, colleges or even NFL players with speed stuff and he is well known across the nation “The First Speed Coach in America”.

        Another thing that he said with the hands is that your hands should be like knives (all fingers closed, open handed) because it feels faster for the arm action compared to using your hands as if your holding a baton or fingers spread open handed.

        That is what I remember regarding the eyes. When I go back home for the summer i will be sure to let you know more about that.


  • CoachG

    @Latif (and DJ) Latif I believe I have heard you talk about cheek to cheek in regards to “hands.” This is roughly 90 on the upswing, and 90-I think I heard about 120 degrees or 130 degrees in the backswing. The piont in the backswing is to get the stretch reflex activated. I heard Tony Veney talk about the stretch reflex off the bicep in front for sprinters so he was coaching them to tighten the angle on the upswing as much as possible to get the stretch reflex with the bicep. I have not heard that before or since. My question would be is that accurate? If so, I feel it may not be for high school athletes (99%) of which don’t have much for biceps to begin with. Clarification on this would be appreciated. Thanks.

  • James Lourenco

    It’s called CST3 my friend, and it time to start filming it!

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

      @James Lourenco:

      Coach Lourenco, I couldn’t agree more and I’ve already begun compiling notes and footage for CST3. Feel free to send me any ideas on things you’d really want to see in it. As of now my plan is to make it something like ‘Real World Progressions for High School Sprinters’.

  • Coach Medina

    Do you happen to have video of someone coming out of the blocks correctly? I understand the points you are making and find them very interesting. I would like to see both videos so I can compare the form and little details you point out. Thanks for everything you do for the sport!!

    Coach Medina

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

      @Coach Medina:

      I do, but since I have my regional qualifier this weekend and a bunch of ‘I need to PR to get in the final’ sprinters, I think I’ll wait until after the season to post it since I don’t want to give out any advantages. BUT, since you’re a good customer, I emailed it to you!


  • Barry Green

    How can I learn this now??? Thnx bdgsd@aol.com

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