What is a Leaning Start & How Can It Help Young Athletes?

Leaning Starts: What, Why & How?

To accelerate effectively, a young athlete needs to propel themselves forward by driving their feet into the ground behind them. This requires a forward body lean.

Leaning starts are a fun and effective way to develop this skill in young athletes.

What is a leaning start?

A leaning start (also known as a “falling start”) is a drill to be used in practice. It is not a starting technique that can be used in formal competition.

To perform a leaning start, the athlete will fall forward from a standing position to the point of over balancing. At the point they think they will fall, they quickly accelerate and sprint away over a distance of 10 – 20 meters.


A Leaning Start

Leaning starts are the teaching progression that I use after introducing the concept of body lean via fence or wall drills.

How does a leaning start help young athletes?

A leaning start is a far more dynamic activity than a fence/wall drill, as it allows the athlete to actually experience accelerating.

The advantage of the drill is that the lean or “fall” – when done well – actually places the athlete’s body at angle from which effective acceleration can occur.

The key is getting the lean right.

How to perform a leaning start?

1. Starting position

The athlete stands tall with feet parallel, toes pointing forward, arms by their side.

2. Ready

On the command of “ready” the athlete raises themselves up onto their toes, while maintaining a straight body.

3. Lean

On the command “lean” the athlete leans forward from the balls of their feet, keeping their body straight “like a plank of wood”.

The head and eyes are kept in a neutral position (“ears above shoulders”) throughout the lean.

The athlete leans as far forward as possible without falling over

4. Accelerate

When they think they are about to fall, the athlete drives forward and away from the starting point. They should:

  • Imagine that all of their power is coming out of the top of their head.
  • Keep their eyes focused at a downward angle, with the head still in a neutral position.
  • Use a big strong arm action on beginning the sprint. The front arm drives above the forehead, the back arm drives back as far as possible past the hip.
Acceleration from a standing start


Common Errors

Beginners often will:

  • Lean forward from the hips and fold the body over rather than leaning from the balls of the feet.
  • Use a short, restricted arm drive.
  • Raise their head/eyes too soon or drop their head down too far, ruining their body alignment.
  • Be too conscious of those around them and/or trying to race others. This can result in the athlete losing focus and not completing a proper lean.

Let me know what you think!

Does this sound like something you would like to use? Have you used or coached leaning starts before? Do you like using them? What coaching points or cues work for you? Let me know by leaving a reply/comment or by using the below contact details.

Further reading

E- Book

A Fun Sprints Lesson Plan For Kids E-Book (plus bonus cheat sheet) 


How to Teach Kids to Lean When They Accelerate

What Is A 3-Point Start & How Can It Help Young Athletes?

15 Simple Tips You Need to Know for a Standing Sprint Start

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If this post helped you please take a moment to help others by sharing it on social media. If you want to learn more I encourage you to leave questions and comments or contact me directly.

20150614_154020-1Darren Wensor is a sports development professional, coach educator, specialist coach of young athletes and founder of the blog coachingyoungathletes.com. Learn more about him here and connect with him on TwitterFacebookLinkedin, Anchor or via email.

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2 thoughts on “What is a Leaning Start & How Can It Help Young Athletes?

  1. margaret says:

    Hi Darren, just stumbled across your website, great information. Just wondering what age do you feel kids should be before you introduce them to the wall/fence drill and introduce the concept of acceleration ? Margaret


    • Hi Margaret. The youngest aged athlete that I have tried this with would be about 8-9 years of age. I think that kids any younger would struggle with the concept and generally not have the focus for such a drill. I found that the drill is most effective once the athletes reach the age of about 10-11 years. Darren


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