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.
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.
How to perform a leaning start?
1. Starting position
The athlete stands tall with feet parallel, toes pointing forward, arms by their side.
On the command of “ready” the athlete raises themselves up onto their toes, while maintaining a straight body.
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
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.
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.
Darren 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 Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin or via email.