by Olivier Poirier-Leroy. Join his weekly motivational newsletter for competitive swimmers by clicking here.
The block. The start. The dive.
It’s the first thing we do in competition, and yet, it’s often the thing we spend the least amount of time on in swim practice.
Although once in a while we will do a few starts after practice, or coach will have us dive through a hula hoop (for a clean entry) or use a pool noodle as a marker for distance, for many swimmers, it’s an after-thought.
Which is too bad.
Swimmers like Caeleb Dressel, who could make a good case for having the best start in the world right now, understand the value of refining and improving their swim start.
A faster, more explosive start can throw you out to an early lead, demoralize the competition, and of course, power you to faster times. All the wins.
How to Get More Distance Off the Blocks
Having a fast start is more than just being able to react quickly to the starter’s gun.
As Dressel showed at the 2017 FINA World Championships, having the fastest reaction time isn’t necessary to dominating the competition—it’s the height, distance, velocity and angle of entry that affect how much speed you carry into the water and through the breakout.
Vertical jump training—squat jumps, jumping up onto a plyometric box, and so on—are pillars of the dryland programs for most swimmers. And with good reason: improving your vertical gives you a greater ability to improve start performance (and this has been reflected in a couple different studies, here and here).
But vertical jump training ignores one important aspect that is critical to improving the swim start: we need to be able to achieve horizontal velocity too.
The Study: Long Jumping for Better Swim Start Performance
Researchers  took a group of 10 competitive swimmers and had them undergo a 9-week plyometric program that focused on long jumping. During the twoish months that followed, our test group didn’t do any supplemental start training.
The training was straight-forward: For the first couple weeks the swimmers did 8×2 horizontal long jumps twice a week. For the remainder of the program, they did 15×2, with a rest period of two minutes between each set. The long jumps were performed off a platform that was constructed at the same angle of a starting block.
There was a 7% increase in the swimmer’s’ ability to produce horizontal force (helping you get farther off away from the blocks) and a 16% increase in horizontal velocity (helping you get into the water with more speed).
This is a crazy amount of improvement in power and speed, especially when you consider the relatively small amount of training time involved in making these gains happen.
Because of the specificity of the movement—the long jump more closely replicates a swim start than a straight vertical jump—the researchers surmise that this type of training is far more effective than the more traditional performed vertical jump training.
Faster starts, with a minimal amount of time? Giddyup.
ABOUT OLIVIER POIRIER-LEROY
Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer. He’s the publisher of YourSwimBook, a ten-month log book for competitive swimmers.
He’s also the author of the recently published mental training workbook for competitive swimmers, Conquer the Pool: The Swimmer’s Ultimate Guide to a High Performance Mindset.
It combines sport psychology research, worksheets, and anecdotes and examples of Olympians past and present to give swimmers everything they need to conquer the mental side of the sport.
Ready to take your mindset to the next level?
COACHES: Yuppers–we do team orders of “Conquer the Pool” which include a team discount as well as complimentary branding (your club logo on the cover of the book) at no additional charge.
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