How to Improve Your Swim Starts
Faster starts lead to faster swims. This is why starting with a strong, fast dive off the blocks is absolutely essential to swimming a great race. The starts can be a deciding factor of the outcomes of a race, especially for sprint events.
Getting in a good, fast start means exploding off the blocks quickly, bringing that momentum into the water to gain as much speed as you can and carrying that over to a powerful breakout and ultimately, a faster swim.
Here are 3 steps to improve your swimming starts:
1. Improve explosiveness
The more explosive your start, the more momentum you gain and the farther you’re able to push yourself forward. Position yourself with a solid stance on the blocks so you’re ready to go as soon as the starter gun goes off. Different pools may have different types of starting blocks, so familiarize yourself with them during the warm-up.
Whether you do a track start or a grab start, lean back slightly and grip the edge of the block with your toes for better support and added power. Engage your core and use your arms in time with your jump for maximum explosiveness. The goal is to dive forward and hit the water farther, faster.
There are a number of dry land exercises you can perform to strengthen the power of your starts, such as vertical squat jumps, burpees, and horizontal long jumps.
In terms of speeding up your reaction time, try the kick board drill. Have a teammate stand behind you and swing a kick board towards you as soon as the starting sound goes off. The goal is to be off the blocks before the board can graze any part of your body, helping to improve reaction time
2. Cleaner Entry
Actively recruiting your arms and core in your starts will not only generate more power, it will also put your arms in a good streamline position faster and keep you centred. This is critical in keeping a more aerodynamic position in the air and a clean entry into the water. A clean entry follows a tight line into the water with very little amount of splash. This minimizes drag and maximizes retention of speed.
One way to practice a tight, clean entry is to use a hula hoop. To perform this drill, have a teammate hold a hula hoop in the water, right around where you’re targeting to enter. The goal is to shoot through the hula hoop without touching the sides. This helps with keeping a solid streamline into the water.
3. Optimize Time Underwater
Once you’re in the water, the goal now is to bring as much speed from the dive into the underwater for a powerful breakout. This is also why your entry is so important. Staying too high on the surface or too far below are inefficient positions to be in for your underwater.
The key to optimizing time underwater is to maintain a tight streamline, and know where you are in the water, depth-wise, so you can time your first stroke perfectly.
Improving swimming starts isn’t often a top priority at swim practice, but better starts will make a big difference in your overall performance. Apart from when you’re doing drills, put in the effort to perfect your starts at every chance, so executing a fast start will be second nature in any race.