The Technical Aspects of My Start
By Michael Andrew, 100m IM World Champion
We all know about the huge importance of a good start, especially in sprint events like the 100m IM event that I love. For me, the start is like going through a mental checklist of things that I need to focus on when taking my mark and starting off. It’s to the point where I do it subconsciously.
First, when I’m standing on the blocks my feet are slightly inside shoulder width. Second, my toes will curl over the edge of the block with my other foot back with my heel up in a comfortable position.
Third, as I stand on the blocks with my feet in position I naturally bend down leading with my hands to the side of the blocks. I will place my hands on the side of the block with my arms extended (not bent). The reason for my arms being extended and on the side of the blocks will be explained, as we continue.
Fourth, my head is comfortably in line with my spine and my eyes are looking down at the toes of my back foot… you can look at your front foot’s toes but must be aware that as you begin to drive off of the blocks there will be a tendency for your head to then drop down farther and rock to get going. We don’t want there to be any wasted time from the buzzer to your initiation of the start.
Fifth, I correct the posture of my back to be strong and stiff, but not tense. As I do that, I brace my shoulder muscles to get ready for the go
Sixth, as the buzzer goes off with my body in prime condition to launch, I Initiate the movement from my shoulders shrugging up in rapid speed creating tension and a pull down/forward with my arms that are extended. (If your arms were bent here you would not have created any power from the shoulder drive and simply wasted time you could have used to get off of the blocks.) You naturally let the momentum and movement begin the drive with your back leg and top it off with your front foot being the final driving force of the start.
One way I like to think of it is the following analogy: imagine you are going to pick something very heavy up. If your arms were bent it would be very tough to lift that item and move it… but if you have an extension in your arm you are going to be able to use bigger stronger muscles to lift that item with much more ease. We have also had many athletes work with us on starts and what we see happen if their arms are bent like that, their body will naturally drop down and then go out -- when what we want and need is for your body to go out towards the water as soon as possible, with no wasted effort.
Seventh, with your arms by your side in a 75-90-degree bend, you jam forward with extreme power to send your body into a perfect whole in the water. What I mean by perfect whole is this: the point of entry for your hands is the same point of entry for your feet to go through. If you enter the water through two wholes you are going to create massive amounts of drag and lose a lot of the speed and momentum you could have carried into the start of your race.
Everyone will have their own little routine and technical aspects to their start – what’s important is to think through all the little details during training so that it becomes automatic in competition and your mind can be focused on your swim. Go through your start routine in your head now, can you picture it? Good luck as you implement the key aspects of a fast start the next time you train!
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