The aim of this project was to investigate the mechanics of the sprint start through the
use of computer simulation. Experimental data was collected on one male athlete in
accordance with a procedure agreed by Loughborough University Ethical Advisory
Committee. The data provided subject specific data for the creation of a four and
fourteen segment, angle and torque driven models of the sprint start. The models
simulated the start from the moment of onset of force production until takeoff from
the starting block. The four segment model comprised a head and trunk, thigh, shank
and foot whilst the fourteen segment model also included a lower spine and pelvis,
upper arms, forearms and hands, as well as the other leg including two segment feet.
Subject specific torque data was combined with EMG data to provide input to the
Results from the four segment angle driven model demonstrated that the participant
will benefit from using smaller joint angles than usual in the set position as this
resulted in increased velocity on takeoff with minimal increase in movement time.
The model also showed large joint torques during such starts and so suggested that
this is likely to limit start performance. The four segment torque driven model also
revealed that optimal joint angles exist for the hip and knee but such a result was not
clear for the ankle. For this model the optimum angle at the hip was 73 (the smallest
tested) and 108 at the knee which was the athlete’s usual angle. Increasing the
athlete’s strength parameters resulted in a small increase in horizontal velocity on
takeoff for some simulations and all simulations had enhanced acceleration.
Increasing initial muscle activations didn’t increase horizontal takeoff velocity but did
also increase horizontal acceleration. The fourteen segment angle driven model was
used to optimise spring parameters for input into a torque driven model. The fourteen
segment torque driven model simulated movements and forces realistically but an
adequate match was not found to the sprint start performance of the participant due to
long simulation times and lack of computing power.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.