This Dryland Exercise Will Get You Farther and Faster Off the Blocks

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, box jumps, 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 [1] 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.

The results?

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.


Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer. He’s the publisher of YourSwimBook, a ten-month log book for competitive swimmers.

Conquer the Pool Mental Training Book for SwimmersHe’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.

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A from B

I think Brad Tandy has a lot to say about who has the best start in the world


It’s likely between those two, at least right now. Manaudou, Cielo, and Schoeman, in their primes, were up there as well. Seems easy enough to figure out, though. Just find race footage of their best races and get 15m times, then compare them.

Ol' Longhorn

Ben Proud is even with Dressel at 15 meters. Not as fast off the blocks but carries the momentum of his larger body mass better. Check out their 50 fly from 17 Worlds.

Coach Kyle Tek

Would be a lot easier (and more relevant to actual racing) to just do the same thing off the blocks for real. If you do 32 – 60 actual dives per week with your group (as suggested here), for 9 WEEKS, and you only get an improvement of 16%…that is not super impressive. Unless you are short on pool space or don’t have access to starting blocks, it makes zero sense to do this in dryland. What the author doesn’t mention is that you don’t get any practice on angle here (VERY relevant for forward starts). Also, nobody does a long jump off the blocks. It makes no sense. Would you practice doing alegebra by writing a history paper? They’re… Read more »


Think of the long jump as writing a history of algebra paper.

Yung gun

Wow!! With that thinking, why do any sort of dryland? Why don’t we just stay in the pool?
Okay so obviously practicing your starts is how you will get better at them, but doing other small supplementary steps along the way can certainly help you with it. They didn’t do starts in this study in order to try to isolate the study group as far as they could. Working on long jumps, box jumps, etc. can CERTAINLY improve your start.

Ol' Longhorn

That’s exactly what MA does. Virtually no dryland up until very recently, and then just pullups and body weight stuff.

Coach Alex White

As a former competitive swimmer and now a full-time performance coach who spends most of my time working with high-performance athletes and studying every which way to increase their performance, I would say the following: 1a.) This article doesn’t outline the age, development or skill of the 10 swimmers. We know nothing about them and that tells the entire story of their “gains”. No doubt they exist but it doesn’t outline if they have ever done any type of plyometric, strength or explosive training prior to this test. Improvements can happen in ANY AREA that we apply time and attention to hence the SAID (specific adaptation to imposed demand) principle of training and performance. Where our energy goes, performance flows.… Read more »


16% is a huge increase statistically. Think of how much swimmers practice in order to improve lifetime best times by just 1 or 2% in a race.

Certainly more than one study would need to be done. But the results seem to merit at least a further inquiry into the matter.

And of course swimmers should also being doing starts off of the blocks in practice. But assuming they are already doing that, as are their competitors, a way must be found to gain an edge.

Maybe it’s this, maybe not, but you can’t argue with the results.

Mean man mad

Some one is mad


A big difference is that on land they won’t need to keep climbing out of the pool, each time a jump is performed. There must be a better way than doing a long jump though, like diving onto a crash mat. At least that would mimic most of a dive.

Retired coach

Since the article references specificity, let’s point out that hardly any swimmer uses a 2 foot forward grab start these days. Therefore, doing high jumps from a running start taking off from your track start lead foot is much better specificity of training than two foot standing long jumps from an angled box. Of course, no high jumpers use the straddle form anymore, so unless the swimmers want to enter the water back first, the fosbury flop must negate the specificity value I just claimed for high jumping!!

About Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy has been involved in competitive swimming for most of his life. Starting off at the age of 6 he was thrown in the water at the local pool for swim lessons and since then has never wanted to get out. A nationally top ranked age grouper as both a …

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