The Analysis of Movement Used in Track and Field

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The track and field sprint is a common event at track meets at the middle and high school, collegiate and professional levels. It is often performed in many meets as a 55, 100, 200- or 400-meter distance, depending on the season. It can be an individual or a team sprint, as in a 4 x 100-meter relay sprint. Many of these races are very short lived; however, in that short period of time, there are several phases and many muscles and joints that are used. There are three phases of the track and field sprint, including the set phase, the push phase and the flight and stance phase. Examples of muscles used are the rectus femoris, gluteus maximus and the quadriceps muscles. Joints used in this movement include the knee, ankle and hip (Bezodis, Willwacher, & Salo, 2019).

The set phase is the stance that a sprinter takes before the race begins. There are several ways to take a set position, which is not limited to a standing start or blocks. Most sprinters usually use blocks, which allows them to form a set position that provides them something solid to push off of when they officially start the race. Everyone has their own set phase because of the length of their limbs; however, the tendency among every sprinter is to take a general set phase, which is formed by having the hips aligned above the shoulders and the shoulders leaning ahead of the start line. In this phase, the hips and knees are flexed, prepared for the sudden acceleration that is required to begin the sprint. The most common set stances include engaging the hip flexors, the quadriceps, and the rectus femoris muscles. It is also common for there to be plantar flexion and hip extension. Due to the variation in the set position there are a wide variety of other muscles and joints that will have to engage in order to execute the necessary movements. (Bezodis, Willwacher, & Salo, 2019). The quadriceps and the rectus femoris contract concentrically, while the hips contract eccentrically as they act as the agonist in this phase of the movement. The quadriceps are the antagonist.

After the starter’s pistol is fired and the race begins the sprinter will push off their blocks and will officially enter the push phase. The blocks are there to help the sprinter start the race well by having something solid to push away from in order to achieve maximum momentum for the runner. An important part of this phase includes how the sprinter places their feet on the blocks. Every sprinter is going to have a different foot spacing because of their body structure, specifically the anthropometric features of their body, and what is comfortable for them, which means that foot spacing on the blocks will be highly dependent on the individual runner’s body. A narrow foot spacing can inhibit the extension of the hips and the knees, which in turn can affect the velocity of the push. Like the narrow foot spacing, the extremely wide foot spacing can affect the extension of the hips and knees during the push, significantly slowing a sprinters’ start time. Research has shown that a medium spacing of the feet on the blocks is generally most effective for pushing off the blocks because it places the hips and knees in the optimal position to get a good start to the sprint and perform throughout the rest of that race (Bezodis, Willwacher, & Salo, 2019). PERIOD BEFORE THE PARETHESES OR NOT?

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There are several different muscles and joints used in this phase. The knee, hip, and ankle magnitudes are important to the force applied during this phase. Both ankles experience plantar flexion at the physical push off, hip extension occurs in each hip. In the back leg, the quadriceps, gluteus maximus, rectus femoris, and the semitendinosus are contracting eccentrically. In the front leg, the vastus intermedius, the vastus lateralis, the vastus medialis and rectus femoris are contracting concentrically. The hips help to provide power to the push off, increasing the amount of energy in the upper body, specifically the neck and the trunk, helping to propel the upper body forward. Although the ankle and knee joint also play an important role in generating the power necessary for a sprint, the mechanics involved with joint movement in this phase are not well understood. (Bezodis, Willwacher, & Salo, 2019). In this movement the agonist is the rectus femoris and the anatagonist is the quadriceps.

The flight and stance phase is the phase in which the sprinter reaches their maximum speed, and is where the sprinter spends most of the race. This phase can be dissected into two subphases, the swing and touchdown phases. During the swing phase, the ankle and metatarsals are engaged in dorsiflexion. Then in the touchdown phase, the ankle is engaged in plantar flexion. During the swing phase, the knees are extended, and the hips are flexed. During the touchdown phase, the knees and the hips are engaged in dorsiflexion (Bezodis, Willwacher, & Salo, 2019).

While the rectus femoris, the gastrocnemius, the soleus, the vastus intermedius, the vastus lateralis, and the vastus medialis are all used throughout the flight and stance phase, some are used more intensely in the swing phase or the touchdown phase, while some are used in both. In the beginning of the swing phase, the rectus femoris and tibialis anterior are engaged in both legs, which helps to support hip flexion and ankle dorsiflexion. Conversely, the rectus femoris and the tibialis anterior are not used during the touchdown phase. In the touchdown phase, the gastrocnemius and the soleus are used. The vastus intermedius, the vastus lateralis, and the vastus medialis are used during both the swing and touchdown subphases (Bezodis, Willwacher, & Salo, 2019). During this phase, the vastus intermedius, the vastus lateralis, and the vastus medialis are contracting concentrically. The rectus femoris and the tibialis anterior contract eccentrically during the touchdown phase and contract concentrically during the swing phase. The against in this phase is the rectus femoris and the antagonist is the tibialis anterior.

The track and field sprint measures acceleration, speed endurance and maximum speed. On its surface, the event appears to be a series of simple, repetitive movements over a relatively brief period of time. However, it requires many different muscles and joints working together through several different phases. The most involved muscles and joints in this movement include the knee, the hip, the quadriceps and the rectus femoris. The sprint is performed at all levels of competition and is performed in varying different lengths. No matter the level it is performed, it requires a great deal of training and preparation to prepare the body for competition. As with any complex movement, there are multiple different techniques that can be used to achieve similar results, although studies indicate that a runner can enhance their performance by understanding the body mechanics behind the sprint, and by adopting techniques that maximize performance by synchronizing the muscles and joints used.

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