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Stepping Back to Improve Sprint Performance: A Kinetic Analysis of the First Step Forwards

Frost, David M1,2; Cronin, John B2,3

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: October 2011 - Volume 25 - Issue 10 - p 2721-2728
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31820d9ff6
Original Research

Frost DM and Cronin, JB. Stepping back to improve sprint performance: A kinetic analysis of the first step forwards. J Strength Cond Res 25(10): 2721–2728, 2011—Using a step backward to initiate forward movement can increase force and power at push-off and improve sprint performance over short distances. However, it is not clear whether the benefit provided by this paradoxical step influences the mechanics of the first step forwards. Twenty-seven men of an athletic background performed maximal effort 5-m sprints from a standing start and employed a step forwards (parallel and split stance) or backwards (false) to initiate movement. Each sprint was started with an audio cue that also activated the timing gates. Three trials of each starting style were performed and movement (0 m), 2.5-, and 5-m times were recorded. An in-ground force plate placed at the 0-m mark measured the kinetic and temporal characteristics of the first step. Sprint times to 2.5 and 5 m were slower (p < 0.05) when a parallel start was used. No differences were seen in the normalized peak forces (vertical and horizontal) or the vertical impulse between starts, but the vertical mean force was 11 and 12% higher for the false and split starts, respectively. Surprisingly, the parallel start's impulse was significantly greater than that of the false (24%) and split (22%) styles, a consequence of the additional time spent in contact with the ground. The ground contact time, time to peak force, and time from peak force to toe-off (vertical and horizontal) were significantly longer for the parallel start. These temporal variables were also better correlated with sprint performance than any kinetic measure (0.42 ≤ r ≤ 0.75). The false start appears to be advantageous over short distances by improving push-off and the temporal characteristics of the first step.

1Department of Kinesiology, University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada; 2School of Exercise, Biomedical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Joondalup, Australia; and 3Department of Sport and Exercise Science, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand

Address correspondence to David M. Frost,

© 2011 National Strength and Conditioning Association