1st Stage of a Powerful Start

On your mark!

Starting Stances.  Quicker Response.

Straight back, knees bent, head looking up-and-out at the goal (not down at the water).  Why is the head up?  Because it lowers the center of gravity, flexes the leg muscled in preparation for jumping, and most importantly, because your body will go where your eyes are looking.

Notice the position of the feet.  The feet should be shoulder-width apart and up at the front of the platform.  The weight should be on the balls of the feet, not back on the heels or flat.  If the swimmer’s weight is back on the heels the swimmer is wasting time in positioning movements.  There is no advantage from any added momentum of rocking forward.

Notice the straight back and head in line with the spine.  Eyes are on the goal.  Are the feet in a double-legged grab start, a track start or a step start position?  Try doing a vertical jump with both feet together; then try the same from a track start.  You can get a much stronger jump with both feet together and under your center of gravity.  So be sure you are using the two-footed start.

The hands should be against the front of the platform.  We like to see the hands between the legs touching the front of the platform but not grabbing.  The fingers should be relaxed and flat against the front of the starting block platform.  Grabbing the block is discouraged because there is too much tendency to want to pull down with the arms. Grabbing hinders the swimmer from making the upward movement necessary for height.

Some swimmers try to pull themselves forward with their arms, but pulling diverts the swimmer from getting height and actually pulls the swimmer down.  The investment of time that it takes to rotate forward from the pulling and grabbing could be more worthily spent.  Grabbing and pulling investment is just a passive activity and a wasteful positioning movement. If the objective is to pull yourself off the block, down towards the water as quickly as possible then maybe this is the quickest technique for getting to the water fast.  But if the objective is to be the first one to the fifteen meters or 12 yards then make the investment in popping-up like a jack-in-the-box. (see position #2). Grabbing and pulling hinders the pop-up action and limits the height and distance of the dive.

 Another PowerStarts(R) Secret

The power and momentum from gravity will add to the velocity of the start as much as 4-6 meters per second, 2-4 times faster than the velocity while in the water. So why would you be in such a hurry to get into the water?

(This is explained in more detail in the electronic book, The Secrets of the PowerStart by Kerry MacKelvey, contained on our Start-Dive Training CD-ROM).

 Another PowerStarts(R) Secret

The power of the start comes from gravity.  Any improvement in momentum from actions on the starting platform, such as grabbing and pulling forward or swinging the arms or taking a step-start, are insignificant compared to the power that comes from gravity.  There are no real advantages to any movements that try to add to the momentum while on the starting platform compared to the power and momentum from gravity.  So make your investment in actions that will add to gaining height, distance and a streamline entry angle.

Since our goal is to gain height and distance, the head should be looking up-and-out at the goal (not down at the water).  Lift your head up high (before the signal to go) in-line with your spine. Try looking up at the backstroke flags as the goal to reach up and grab. If you can't see the backstroke flags while you are in the set position you may need to lower your hips and straighten your back.

 Another PowerStarts(R) Secret

Raising the head while in the set position, so that you can see the backstroke flags immediately above you, will cause you to get into a position where the legs, hips and back are in the optimum position.

The elastic muscles will be stretched like a rubber band ready for launch.  Then at the signal to "go", dip the hips down into a further squat that will really stretch those elastic muscles as the arms are accelerating up to the streamline position.  This should all happen in a window of .20 to .35 seconds.

We like to see the feet shoulder width apart and up at the front of the platform.  There is no requirement that the toes must hang over the front of the starting block.  However, why would you not want to take advantage of a racing sport that allows you to fudge a little beyond the starting line? When you consider that many events are won at the finish by 1/100th of a second, then take advantage of every inch you can get and hand your toes off the edge of the platform.

We look for the knees to be bent, almost as though getting ready to sit in a chair.  If the swimmer is unable to look up at the backstroke flags then the knees should be bent more while the back is still straight and the head is in-line with the spine.

Beware of “cosmetic movements” after the starters signal.  "Cosmetic movements" are repositioning the body in any way other than as a part of launching off the platform.  Some cosmetic movements can be eliminated by adjusting the starting position.

For example, when the hands are on the outside of the legs there is a tendency for the arms to swing back along the side instead of forward and up as when the arms are between the legs.  When the arms are swinging back to the side this is inconsistent with the momentum that we want to create going forward.  There is no added momentum as a result of swinging the arms unless you are willing to wait for your arms to go back and then forward as you start your jump.  If this is your practice then you will find yourself still standing on the block while everyone else is off to the races.

To start looking down and then raise the head is just another “cosmetic movement.”  When the head follows the momentum of the arms, now we are talking about a positive investment, if the movement of the arms is up-and-out instead of down.  Try starting from the position with your head already up!

“Cosmetic movements” exhaust precious time and do nothing to add to the momentum of the start.