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!


At 12/29/06, 8:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They must have been thinking of the early years of Maunute Bol in the study. One can never underestimate the power of being in the athletic stance and anticipating the upcoming play.


At 12/29/06, 1:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't need the research to prove to myself I was correct in what I teach. I sent it becuase you wanted it and that was what I had. I have been encouraging the natural use of the plyo step for 17 years and it has always proven to be the quickest and most effecient way to move.

When you have to coach an athlete out of using it, that doesn't make sense. Why take away what is natural and most effecient form of acceleration when in random reaction settings (which is 99% of sport).

I have worked with many coaches who for years taught there atheltes not to take the plyo step and they struggled to get their kids to not take it. Even when they did get them to not take it in a controlled setting they immediately used it when in a random reaction setting (move on the clap or a quick point). I did a test with a coach at a clinic who worked with an athlete for 9 months on getting him not to do the plyo step. I brought the athlete out and a much younger less experienced athlete out and did a few different reaction starts. It was obvious that the athlete taught not to take the step was so much slower. I then immediately did a test with him and told him to relax and react quickly. He did the plyo step and was amazed at how much easier it was to move.

I have done this in all directions and in many different stances (excluding track for obvious reasons) and 100% of the time all athletes will take the plyo step.

I am sure you will disagree but I look forward to showing you why the plyo step is so important for athletes to be allowed to use.


At 12/29/06, 11:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will you agree that this plyo steps main purpose is to repositioning the COM in relationship to the feet?

If an athlete is in a lazy position where their weight is on their heels then I will agree with you. However, if their weight is positioned over the ball of their feet with any kind of staggered foot separation then taking a step back to go forward is not logically.

If your looking at the situaiton when their feet are next to one another and their weight is spread out flat or slightly heel heavy and they are to run on a sound then they must and will automatically take the plyo step. However, this is one standard that is not realistic in an athletic event. Does the ply step occur yes when an athlete is out of position to begin with and is lacking postural alignment and basic freefall mechanics.

I have witnessed numerous athletes use it, but only when they were out of position. Once they get back into proper alignment it disappears. All I had to do was shift their starting position so that the body weight was shifted slightly forward. Guess what the plyo step disappeared. Not because I told them not to do it but because it was not needed. If the weight is back the only thing they can do is take the plyo step to reposition their body weight.

As Vern has stated I have ran into kids that were taught the bunch position to start. They have this amazing logic of getting through the first 10m. All great except you need to get through 40 meters not 10m. If you are doing a 10m race I will agree. Plyo step is for athletes who are not ready to react and out of position. Shift your weight forward prior to go command with a staggered foot placement to begin with and there will be no plyo step. For a football player who must start or usually does start with the feet together to get go simply maintain posutre and let the hips fall forward. The foot will leave the ground when it is suppose and steps taken after that. If you try to take a step before your weight is shifted forward you will be as you put it SLOW. Weight shift first then take step. Or you can do the plyo step take a step back to shift weight then take a step. Either way it is two movements. However, one is always moving in a positivie direction the other isn't.

I guess in the Midwest the issue is not a plyo step. I don't run into it at all except for kids that are out of alignment or lacking the patients to do step 1 before step 2 and I work with over 600 athletes a year.


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