No Step Back
I have read the study that is the bases the so called “plyo step” and I do not come to the same profound conclusions. In fact I have read it three times just in case I missed something. The opening sentence in the introduction is a giveaway to me: “In most types of sport the human body must accelerated from a stationary position to maximal speed.” In fact in the majority of sports starts are moving and involve movement in multiple directions. Later in the introduction the following sentence appears: ”In starting from the standing position it is noteworthy that first the push-off leg is placed backward.” In fact the push off leg, the leg that is in contact with the ground the longest is forward and the so called “fast leg,” the leg that moves first is placed back.
As I evaluate the whole study their conclusions regarding the “paradoxical step” are true given the narrow starting conditions that they define. They found what they were looking for. Look carefully at the research design, they did not really try different starting techniques, they were very narrow in their selection. Standing tall with the feet I close proximity simply hardly ever occurs in sport. My conclusion is that if you want to execute a “fast first step” and that is all that matters then step back, but make sure you are in a tall position with the feet together.
The other problem I have with the study is that they just looked at the first step. The first step is just a means to commence acceleration. To truly assess any starting technique you must look at what happens at five, ten and even twenty meters. Franklin Henry eons ago in his seminal work on the sprint start showed that the bunch start was the fastest start but did not result in the fastest time at the finish. The starting position and first step must be put in context.
In conclusion, looking at research is great, but it must be carefully evaluated in the context of what happens in the real world. You cannot draw profound general conclusions from one narrowly defined study. I spend about twenty per cent of my week studying and evaluating research and I always have to remind my self of this. I suggest those of you interested in starting look at the stumble reflex that is where the answer lies. Bottom line is taking a positive step to set acceleration to optimum speed, don’t step back!