Falling Starts Drill: Using a Sprint Drill For Better Running Form

We are finally in the last week of March and finally closer to more spring like temperatures. But, it sure doesn’t feel that way here in Connecticut. It’s been cold and there were still some last vestiges of winter on the local high school track this weekend.  However, I decided one way or another I was going to get some quality sprint work in.

Since my driveway was clear of snow and ice I decided to use the Falling Start drill. I really like using falling starts a lot. You see them mostly used in sprint training. If you saw my blog post from a couple weeks ago adding some direct sprint training can be helpful to distance runners. I would suggest going to back and reading it.

A runner being able to maintain proper posture when running is very important to run efficiently and can help reduce the ground impact forces. Without a good forward lean you can have a harder time propelling yourself forward. This can result in loss of running efficiency, slower speeds, and more impact on the joints. So, whether running for distance, sprinting, or doing intervals posture plays a big role.

Falling Starts are typically used in sprint training. There are a  variety of reasons I have used this drill with clients, Speed Agility and Quickness classes I have taught, coaching soccer, and within my own training. Below are some reasons why I like this drill.

  • Falling Starts make it easier to land with your feet under your body and on your forefoot. This makes it easier to avoid certain negatives aspects of running such as heel striking.
  • It allows your strides to stay shorter especially at the start. No matter the type of running you do this will help you. You cannot accelerate while your feet are in the air. The more ground contact you have the more acceleration you have.
  • As with the above I like this for distance running since it helps to remind me to keep my feet moving resulting in a higher cadence or steps per minute.
  • By having a forward leaning posture you maintain a more optimal shin angle. The angle of the shin helps to determine the force application. A slightly different example of a positive force angle is a lateral lunge. If you step out far enough your knee stays inside of your ankles and allows your body to push yourself back to the starting position optimally. Distance runners will not likely have as steep an angle as a sprinter.
  • Many distance runners, and those doing intervals do not usually make sprints a part of their training. I like the falling starts since there is a little momentum ahead of the actual sprint. Sprinting is a ballistic movement and if the body is not prepared for it there can be pulled muscle or worse even a tear. Falling starts can help to reduce the intensity of the start phase or drive phase of the sprint.
  • This drill can help with triple extension of the ankle, knee and hip.
  • Falling Starts may be a good way to transition an athlete whose recovering from injury to higher intensity running.

Here are some quick coaching cues before you get started.

  • Be sure you allow yourself plenty of time to be sure you are thoroughly warmed up.
  • Aim to land with your feet directly under your center of mass or hips, possibly even slightly behind.
  • The body can be out in front at a 45 degree angle slightly less so if distance running.
  • Engage and brace your core. This means keeping it tight but not sucked in.
  • Drive those arms! Do not let them drop below waist height.
  • Keep driving those arms. Think cheek to cheek. As one arm drives back your hand goes back and toward your glutes. At the same time your other hand should come up toward your facial cheek. The arms are roughly kept at 90 degrees.
  • Aim to complete 6-12 total Falling Starts. Allow yourself up to 60-90 seconds recovery in between each repetition. Even if you do not feel you need it your body needs the recovery time to allow the chemical processes that make up contractions to replenish themselves. Slowly build your way up to the 12 reps.
  • Finish running your falling start up to 30 yards.

It is important to remember that sprints, falling starts included, are not the same as striders that many runners add at the end of easier runs. These are very hard intense runs at close if not maximum speeds. These can be a nice addition to your training.

Happy training!