Stepping Backward Can Improve Sprint Performance Over Short Distances
The use of a backward (false) step to initiate forward movement has been regarded as an inferior starting technique and detrimental to sprinting performance over short distances as it requires additional time to be completed, but little evidence exists to support or refute this claim. Therefore, we recruited 27 men to examine the temporal differences among three standing starts that employed either a step forward (F) or a step backward (B) to initiate movement. An audio cue was used to mark the commencement of each start and to activate the subsequent timing gates. Three trials of each starting style were performed, and movement (0 m), 2.5 m, and 5 m times were recorded. Despite similar performances to the first timing gate (0.80 and 0.81s for F and B, respectively), utilizing a step forward to initiate movement resulted in significantly slower sprint times to both 2.5 and 5 m (6.4% and 5.3%, respectively). Furthermore, when the movement times were removed and performances were compared between gates 1 and 2, and 2 and 3, all significant differences were seen before reaching a distance of only 2.5 m. The results from this investigation question the advocacy of removing the false step to improve an athlete's sprint performance over short distances. In fact, if the distance to be traveled is as little as 0.5 m in the forward direction, adopting a starting technique in which a step backward is employed may result in superior performance.