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Ensuring you are the first swimmer off the racing block

The technique for ensuring you are the first swimmer off the racing block for each stroke is unique. But there are some simple steps you can take to give you the best start in the water.

The first one is to never dive into a pool less than 1.5 metres deep! Here are some more by stroke.

Front Crawl and Butterfly starts

  • With your toes on the edge of the pool or blocks, bend your knees and keep your feet about hip width apart.
  • Lift your hips high but not back and tuck your head in towards your knees. Stretch forward with your arms and hold your hands to the side of the pool or blocks.
  • Push into the water with your feet, looking up just before you enter the water so your body follows your head into the pool as streamlined as possible.
  • Don’t worry about diving as far forward as possible. Aim to pass your body through the same point your hands led the way into the water.
  • Keep your hands in front of you and your body in a streamlined position and use a flutter or dolphin kick to propel yourself through the water before rising to begin your stroke.
  • According to rules from world governing body FINA, a swimmer’s head must have broken the surface before the 15m mark.

Breaststroke starts

Swimmers need to dive in for breaststroke in the same way as in front crawl and butterfly. However, in breaststroke competitions, swimmers are not permitted to use a continuous dolphin or flutter leg kick at the start or turns.

Instead, competitors are allowed one arm stroke back to their legs (like after a turn) and a single dolphin kick, followed by a breaststroke kick before they must begin their stroke above the water.

Backstroke starts

  • Using starting blocks, take up a crouching position while holding on to the blocks and with your feet on the wall. The aim is to be as far out of the water as possible before diving in.
  • To start, push slightly upwards with your legs and throw you arms and head in front of you.
  • Your body should be arched so only arms and legs are initially in the water before the rest of the body enters as smoothly as possible.
  • Once in the water, try and stay as flat and streamlined as possible and use a dolphin or flutter kick to propel yourself far as possible before rising to the surface to begin your stroke.
  • Elite swimmers tend to use the maximum 15m permitted underwater because swimming underwater is faster than on the surface.