How to Position Yourself for a Better Start

by Spencer Penland 0

October 11th, 2018 News

Courtesy of Gary Hall Sr., 10-time World Record Holder, 3-time Olympian, 1976 Olympic Games US Flagbearer and The Race Club co-founder.


We provide video on swimming for all age groups, triathletes and competitive swimmers. Explore a breakdown of our prices for weekly videos and more below.

This week in Lanes 2, 3, and 4 on our subscription service you can witness in slow motion one of the most impressive starts you will ever see, that of Olympian Brad Tandy. It is a thing of beauty. Brad is an Olympic finalist in the 50-meter Olympic freestyle sprint from South Africa. While he did not medal there, he was clearly ahead of the field after the start….by a lot.

While Caeleb Dressel was not in that race, he and Brad, and perhaps Ben Proud of the UK have arguably the best starts in the world today. Curiously, they each set themselves up differently on the block to position themselves for the take your mark command. Once that happens, they each take a very similar weight back position for the beep; what I call the cocked position. The backs are rounded and the heads are down. One difference is in what they do with their arms.

The Race Club – Start Position

Caeleb uses the most common approach. After climbing onto the block at the starter’s whistle, he positions front and back feet, then bends over and grabs the front edge corners of the block loosely with his hands. His elbows are bent and his head is down. This is the safest position to reach the cocked position as it takes the least amount of time to get there.

Ben Proud is at the other end of the spectrum. He begins from a standing position. At the command of take your mark, he must bend all the way down, grab the front of the block and then lean back. While it is true that the least amount of time that the muscle is spring loaded (in the cocked position), the better for the start, there is risk in this approach.

In the 2004 Olympic Trials Men’s 100 meter free finals, my son, Gary Jr, started from a stand and did not even get his hands on the block before the beep went off. The result was he was last off the block and missed earning a spot to swim in Athens by a few hundredths of a second. In my opinion, starting from the standing position entails too much risk. You never know when you will have a fast starter.

Brad’s approach is in the middle. After positioning his front and back feet on the block, he bends down until his hands are just below his knees. From that position, he doesn’t have as far to go to grab the front of the block, nor does he take as much time as from a stand. The result is that he is in the cocked position for less time, without taking so much risk.

Brad and Ben both lock their arms straight to the front of the block, with no bend in the elbows. Caeleb bends his elbows slightly. Last week we tested an elite male swimmer from Croatia, with arms locked straight and with elbows bent slightly, to determine which way works best.

We will share the outcome of that study soon in one of our upcoming webisodes. In the meantime, on this week’s webisode, you can see Brad’s amazing start and hear his explanation of why he sets himself the way he does prior to the start. You will love this webisode.

Starts Positioning with Brad Tandy

Yours in swimming,

Gary Sr.

Gary Hall, Sr., Technical Director and Head Coach of The Race Club (courtesy of TRC)

Like The Race Club on Facebook
Follow The Race Club on Instagram
Follow The Race Club on Twitter
Connect to The Race Club / Gary Hall Sr. on Linkedin
[email protected]
See The Race Club HQ here.


Because Life is Worth Swimming, our mission is to promote swimming through sport, lifelong enjoyment, and good health benefits. Our objective is for each member of and each participant in The Race Club to improve his or her swimming performances, health, and self-esteem through our educational programs, services and creativity. We strive to help each member of The Race Club overcome challenges and reach his or her individual life goals.

The Race Club provides facilities, coaching, training, technical instruction, video, fitness and health programs for swimmers of all ages and abilities. Race Club swim camps are designed and tailored to satisfy each swimmer’s needs, whether one is trying to reach the Olympic Games or simply improve one’s fitness. Our programs are suitable for beginner swimmers, pleasure swimmers, fitness swimmers, USA swimming or YMCA swimmers, or triathletes; anyone who wants to improve swimming skills. All of our Race Club members share an enjoyment of being in the water and use swimming to stimulate a more active mind and body.

Leave a Reply

Want to take your swimfandom to the next level?

Subscribe to SwimSwam Magazine!