At the end of your season, all the training is in the bag, and you are shaved, tapered, and ready to race. Perfecting your race details, such as starts, turns, and breakouts, will give you the best shot at making finals, finishing first, or hitting a qualifying time. Indeed, how races go mostly depends on the work you have put in, your mental focus, and sheer ability to swim fast that day. Let’s discuss how to improve your race details so you can reach your goal. Today, it’s all about starts.
1. At meets, limit your starts. Part of having good starts at meets is knowing when to not over-do it. Many swimmers get to big meets and rehearse several starts in each warm up, tiring out their legs and ruining their taper at the last minute. Earlier in the season, practice your starts with regularity to get consistent with your technique. When you reach the meet, practice one or two on the first day to get a good feel, and then limit yourself to 1 per session (by the third or fourth session of a meet when you have completed several dives in races already, you may not need to practice it again). The need to do a start in competition warm up can be reflexive—a simple habit or nervous tendency. If you rehearse starts early and often in the season, you will have the confidence to limit yourself later and save your legs.
2. Harness your flexibility. To generate power in a start, you need to be propulsive from your end range of motion—in no time at all you must ricochet from a bent position to full extension into the water. This motion must be fluid and efficient, so your flexibility is crucial. Especially at meets, take time to stretch out your hamstrings, quadriceps, lats (latissimus dorsi, the broad muscle on your back posterior to the arm), hip flexors, and calf muscles. Supplement this with foam rolling to loosen up particularly stiff areas. These are low-intensity movements that will help you execute the dive on race day.
3. React and Go. By the time you reach the meet, your technique for starts is set. Good starts have little to do with finesse and perfection, so do not bog yourself down in the technical minutiae. The best starts get you from point A to point B in the fastest amount of time. This requires a strong pull on the blocks to swing yourself forward, an aggressive push from your legs, and a lock-tight streamline to enter the water cleanly. You do not need to think at all when you are on the blocks for a race—just react quickly and be aggressive with your dive. The more you practice this in workouts, the more automatic your dives will become in competition.
BridgeAthletic works with elite professional, collegiate, and club swimming programs to provide a turnkey solution for dryland training. Led by Nick Folker, the top swimming strength and conditioning coach in the world, our team builds stroke-specific, custom-optimized dryland programs for each of our clients. The individualized workouts are delivered directly to athletes via our state of the art technology platform and mobile applications. Check Nick and BridgeAthletic out as recently featured in SwimSwam.
Nick Folker is the Co-Founder and Director of Elite Performance at BridgeAthletic. Nick’s roster of athletes includes 35 Olympians winning 22 Olympic Medals, 7 team NCAA Championships and over 170 individual and relay NCAA championships. Megan Fischer-Colbrie works as the Sports Science Editor at BridgeAthletic. Megan was a four-year varsity swimmer at Stanford, where she recently graduated with a degree in Human Biology.
The Championship Series by BridgeAthletic is designed to empower athletes with tips from the pros that will help them reach peak performance come race day. We will be covering competition-focused topics such as nutrition, recovery, stretching, and mental preparation.