Off On the Right Foot: Tips for Fast Starts

The track start gives you an advantage in a relay because you can anticipate when to take off.

A track start, one foot behind the other, gets you into the water faster and farther in relay races than the classic feet-parallel start, says Brent Rushall, Ph.D., director and complier of the online Swimming Science Bulletin.

Rushall says the track start gives you an edge in relays because you can anticipate when to take off, which lets you develop momentum for a longer dive. But it looks as though it's better to stick with the two-footed start in solo events, because a track start seems to keep you on the blocks longer, costing precious tenths of seconds.

"Starting requires you to exert as much force as possible as quickly as possible," says Rushall. The intensity of a start should be the same whether you're racing 50 meters or 1,500 meters.

Rushall's tips for great starts:

  • In the feet-parallel start, your feet should be hip-width apart.
  • In the track start, your trailing foot should be in line with your lead foot, not to the side. Hold the block on both sides of your lead foot.

In either type of start:

  • Balance on the balls of your feet with your heels slightly raised.
  • Look down and slightly to the rear.
  • Curve your back slightly.
  • Bend your knees 90 degrees.
  • Think about driving back against the block.
  • Throw your arms forward as fast as you can as your back and neck extend.
  • Stop your arms when they're in line with your shoulders to transfer momentum to your body.

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