In a swimming race, every millisecond counts! And if you haven’t perfected your dive off the starting blocks, you could be leaving precious speed on the table.

The key to a good start is lots of practice…and we have two drills that will help you refine your technique so you dive off the blocks (almost) perfectly every time. 

The drills we share in this article are intended for people who are already familiar with racing starts. For a step-by-step breakdown of a swimming start, check out this video!

What a Good Start Looks Like

Your start begins before the buzzer sounds. If your body isn’t positioned correctly on the block, you won’t be as powerful. We recommend the following for your start setup:

  • Feet: The feet should be staggered, one foot in front of the other, with the front toes wrapping around the front of the block. Make sure your toes are facing forward.
  • Hips & Shoulders: Your whole body should be square to the other end of the pool. Keep this in mind as you bend over.
  • Center of Gravity: Avoid leaning back as you bend forward to grip the front of the block. Keep your weight centered and neutral. You want to feel like a coiled spring rather than a slingshot.
  • Hands: Lean forward and grip the front of the block with both hands. Don’t put too much weight into the hands – use them for a bit of extra stability.

When the buzzer sounds, it’s time to explode off the block and into the water! 

Related: How to Swim Without Getting Tired

  • Pull With Your Hands: Initiate your start with a quick pull with your hands to get yourself going.
  • Push With Your Legs: Most of the power in your start will come from your front leg. Get as much push from that leg as possible, and then use your back leg for an extra speed boost.
  • Find Streamline Position: While you’re airborne, move your hands into streamline position and prepare to enter the water like a torpedo, with minimal splash.

Try These Swimming Start Drills

If you’re able to do a basic swimming start and are ready to refine your technique, try adding these drills to your next workout.

Cactus Drill

This drill will help you practice finding a tight streamline position. Start standing on the blocks with your feet in your preferred position. Bring your hands up like a cactus, or a goal post, and bend over, keeping that arm position. 

Do a start and focus on driving your hands forward into streamline. 

Cowboy Drill

The Cowboy Drill helps improve reaction time and might also help you think about pulling a bit more with your arms during your start. 

Set up your start as usual. When the buzzer sounds, pull back with your arms, tap your hands to your hips and shoot them back out into streamline. Your legs will be moving as they normally would during a start.

Imagine you’re a cowboy (or cowgirl) who has to quickly grab their guns for a duel. You’ve got to move fast!

This one can take some practice to master, so don’t give up if you struggle with it initially.

Work on Your Starts With This Swim Workout

Before starting this swim set, we recommend spending 5-10 minutes practicing starts. 

8×50 freestyle from the blocks @ 1:30

  • 25 fast, 25 easy
  • Focus on a perfect start, underwater and breakout

If you want to improve your start, the key is to practice regularly. You won’t make meaningful progress if you only work on starts a few times before a meet. Incorporate starts into your training each week, and over time you’ll start to notice improvements. 

For more technique tips and personalized daily workouts, download the MySwimPro app to start your swimming journey.



  1. Can you include a link to a Page with all recommended SwimPro drills and videos ? Our pool does not have starting blocks open to lap swimmers for 2 of the drills specified above. Drills is specified on work out of the day for today which led me to this page. Thanks !

    • Taylor Holmes on

      Hi Chris, you can view the entire library of drill videos in the MySwimPro app! On the Coach tab, scroll down to the bottom and tap on Video Library. Hope this helps!

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