FINIS Tip Of The Week: Find The Perfect Start

Welcome to the “FINIS Tip of the Week.” Swimming World will be bringing you a topic that we’ll explore with drills and concepts for you to implement with your team on a regular basis. While certain weeks may be more appropriate for specific levels of swimming (club, high school, college, or masters), each tip is meant to be flexible for your needs and inclusive for all levels of swimming.

This week’s feature includes some tips to help you find the perfect start. The start in swimming is one of the few skills in our sport that takes place out of an aquatic environment (granted it is launching you into one, but that is beside the point), and thus can be one of the least practiced skills you do (think about how many flipturns or breakouts you get to do in a practice and you’ll see my point).

However, every race starts with some form of the start off a block, so regardless of your events the start will influence your race outcome (and is a place to improve!). Take a look at the quick tips below to see what you may be able to apply to your start and squeeze as much as you can out of the skill.

Foot Placement

Setting up a strong dive means setting up a strong base on the block. When you prepare to jump on land, say in a squat jump, you think about having your feet about hip distance apart and really driving from the balls of your feet. That same concept applies to the start in swimming, with the difference being many of us use a track start to get off the blocks. To find the correct spacing, think about putting your feet far enough apart so that you can slide a hand front-to-back and side-to-side between your feet. This will give you enough room to feel steady on the block while also setting you up in a position to get the most acceleration from your legs once you launch into the water.

mens200butterlystart-2017-world-champs-2

Photo Courtesy: SIPA USA

Dive Through A Hula Hoop

The larger your profile when entering the water, the more water you are going to hit as resistance, so it would make sense that you want to keep the slimmest profile possible when entering the water. Imagine you are diving through a hula hoop that is placed at your entry point in the water, with your entire body sliding through that small area in the water seamlessly.

The biggest impediment to this is usually the legs: instead of following the rest of the body through the water, it is common to see them fall out of your body line and enter the water too early. To counteract this, think about closing your legs like a pair of scissors as you fly off of the blocks, snapping the legs together quickly and ensuring they are engaged and strong as you enter the water while also making sure you are engaging your core to keep your body line as controlled as possible when you enter the water.

chase-kalisz-start-dive-2017-world-champs

Photo Courtesy: SIPA USA

Head In Line With The Spine

One of the most common mistakes swimmers make when entering the water is to drop the head out of alignment with the spine. This is usually because they are overcompensating when trying to keep it in line with their spine or as an instinctual movement since they are thinking of getting towards the water as fast as they can.

Having the head out of alignment with the spine with affect your trajectory in the air and will negatively affect not only your distance off the block, but your speed and your entry. Think about throwing your arms forward, with the biceps resting just above the ears, to find the perfect head alignment and ensure you are making the most of your explosiveness off the block. Happy swimming!

All swimming and dryland training and instruction should be performed under the supervision of a qualified coach or instructor, and in circumstances that ensure the safety of participants.

1 Comment

1 comment

  1. Jaroslaw Stachowicz

    The perfect start i when you go to concrete factory for a job interview and beging with “I hope I’m your best candidate, knoking on woods “

Author: James Sica

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James Sica is the Men and Women's Assistant Coach at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has been an assistant coach at CMU in Pittsburgh, PA (2015-2017), a volunteer assistant coach with the Harvard women’s program (2014-2015) and an assistant with the Ithaca College men's program (2012-2014).

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