The start, together with it’s entry, streamline and underwaters, are the swimmers’ first line of offense. It makes up for approximately 30% of 50-m races, 15% of 100-m races, and 7.5% of 200-m races (1). From the time the beeper goes off, within a split second, the body must be in its most efficient streamlining position. It takes Caeleb Dressel roughly 1.2s to get his fingertips in the water from the blocks.
Every swimmer wants any extra edge they can get over their competitions. What would you say if we could significantly drop swimming times to 15-meter with just 8 weeks of strategic training on land?
Does this sound too good to be true?
All you have to do is find out which physical characteristic you are lacking, and tackle it head on. Chances are that beginner to moderate level swimmers will see rapid improvements in their start performance. As the swimmer advances into elite level status, exercise selection and program design becomes more strategic for optimal improvements.
In order to know if changes over time are significant, the starts must be tested and re-tested to a standard distance, such as 15-meters. But do you have any idea of how much?
These 3 tips will help you unlock some hidden potential in you starts:
- Get More Coordinated
Increase your movement capacity on nearly all aspects. Pick up another sport, such as track & field, soccer, or volleyball. This is no secret at this point. The more the body is exposed to various movement patterns, the easier it will be for the swimmer to coordinate the power from the blocks to find the body position in the air before entering in, what the coach would like to say, the perfect hole.
- Develop Mobility
Most importantly, in the hamstrings and shoulder blades. Two major issues exposed in starts are the positioning of the hips and the streamline quality upon entry. Hips that are positioned too low are a sign that the hamstrings and glutes are either disengaged or tight. If the streamline is sloppy when the hands touch the water, chances are more drag will be created and free speed and energy will be lost. Doing movements to lengthen and engage the hamstrings are recommended together when exercises to help free the shoulder blades from the scapular. Two simple examples are the Posture Squat and Long Cat-Camel (see more details in video).
- Develop Swim-Specific Power
A swimming start is a mix of vertical and horizontal displacement. This means, the swimmer generates power both upward and forward. It is also more explosive than it is plyometric, meaning there is only a concentric muscular action in the start. In addition, the start is completed in a split stance position. Take this information with a grain of salt, as plyometric training also improves explosive ability and reaction times. All movements should not be performed in the split stance position either, because turns are plyometric in nature and just as important as starts.
Here are 5 movements for you to get started with (more details in video).
- DB Drop Box Jump
- MB Overhead Power Toss
- Seated Split Stance Jump
- Split Box Jump
- One Leg Broad Jump
These will be great to start working on. What we did not cover here is maximal strength and plyometrics – both important components to develop for start performances. To do that, Deadlifts should be included in a training program for swimmers that are ready. Plyometric training has shown to carry over to explosive strength, making it an important variable, but not as swimming specific.
Other important component in a start are maximal strength and plyometrics. To do that, Deadlifts should be included in a training program for swimmers that are ready. Plyometric training has shown to carry over to explosive strength, making it an important variable, but not as “swimming specific”.
Watch this full video of how beginners can get started with improving their starts to get ahead of their competitions.
- Lyttle, A., & Benjanuvatra, N. (2005). Start Right? A Biomechanical Review of Dive Start Performance. Zugriff am.