The fastest you’ll ever move in a swimming race is when you dive off the starting block. Elite swimmers can reach speeds over 10 kilometers per hour off the start!

A great dive can be the difference between looking like a dolphin underwater off the start and becoming a belly flopping legend.

To help you achieve dolphin status, we’re breaking down four different start variations, plus a few drills you can use to improve your explosiveness.

4 Swimming Start Variations

Grab Start

In this start, your feet are parallel at the front of the block. Bend down and grip the block with both hands. When the buzzer sounds, explode forward with your legs and enter the water in streamline. 

This is probably the slowest start variation.

Track Start (Standard)

The track start is the most common start variation in swimming. To set up your start, step up on the block with your feet staggered. The toes of your front foot should grip the front of the block. Create a “kickstand” with your back foot, staying on the ball of the foot. 

Related: Diving Tips for Beginners

Bend down at the hips and grip the block with one hand on either side of the front foot. 

When the race starts, initiate your start by pulling yourself forward with your hands. Then, power through your legs to explode forward and into streamline. 

Track Start (Hand Grip)

This variation of a track start is great if the block you are using has handles on the sides. Set up your feet the same as a traditional track start, and grip the handles instead of grabbing onto the front of the block. 

You’ll still pull yourself forward when the buzzer goes off. 

Relay Start

This start provides a lot of extra momentum during relay exchanges!

Start standing at the back of the block. Step forward with one foot, and begin to swing your arms backward. As your arms come forward, your back foot should meet the front foot at the front of the block, and you’ll explode off the block into streamline. 

The key with relay starts is timing your dive with when your teammate touches the wall. Your feet can’t leave the block until your teammate finishes their leg of the race!

Drills for a Faster Swim Start

Dive & Float

This drill is a great way to measure your baseline start power and streamline form. Do a start off the blocks, and glide in streamline as far as you can without taking a stroke. 

Focus on a clean entry on the dive, keep your streamline tight and maintain a solid body position. As you get stronger, you should be able to glide a little bit further!

Single Leg Dive

In a track start, your front leg is the main driver of power. This drill helps you dial in your balance and explosiveness!

Step up onto the block and set up your feet in a track start position. Lift your back leg and do a start, focusing on powering through the front leg as much as possible.

Running Dive

Running dives are a fan favorite for a reason! Not only are they fun, they’re also a great way to train the body to enter the water at high speeds. 

Start a few meters back from the pool’s edge. Run toward the edge and jump into a streamline position. You’ll be moving pretty fast, so take advantage of the extra speed to maximize your streamline and underwater dolphin kick.

Double Pull with Buoy 

Many swimmers struggle to engage their arms effectively during starts, and this drill will help! 

Grab two pull buoys or light medicine balls. Place one on either side of the front foot, and maintain contact with them with your hands. Do a start, and try to push the buoys back as forcefully as you can.

This teaches you to initiate your start with an arm pull instead of shooting them straight to streamline.

Buoy Between Thighs

If your legs tend to flail around during your starts, try diving in with a pull buoy between your thighs. You’ll be forced to squeeze the buoy tightly to keep it in place, which will help you maintain proper leg positioning.

For a more challenging variation, try placing a pull buoy between your knees or between your ankles.

Depth Jump

This drill can be done in a gym to build strength and power for starts. To set up this exercise, set up a 20-24 inch box, and place a second, smaller box about 1.5 meters from the first box. 

Related: Try This 30-Minute Strength Workout for Swimmers

Start standing on the smaller box. Step off, and when your feet hit the ground, do an explosive jump onto the larger box. The goal is to minimize the amount of time your feet are on the ground. 

Split Leg Jump

Similar to the Single Leg Dive, this exercise helps build explosiveness in your front leg. 

Begin in a lunge position with your back foot resting on a box. Drop down into a lunge and explode back up!

If you want to improve your start, the key is consistent practice. Don’t expect to see improvement if you only do a few starts the week before a meet. Incorporate start training into your long-term plan to build muscle memory and power.For more swimming tips, drills and personalized workouts, download the MySwimPro app!



  1. This is so great.
    Not a critique at all, but I can teach you the “lean” start I had swimmers doing long before we thought of the track block.

    There is no reason, if you have either really long arms, or those side bars few seem to understand, to have to pull on the block to be at the right angle to drive the legs. I’ll try to remember to do a video at my Competitive Swimmer Magazine Camp in August for you. Feel free to show up too — It’s August 1-4 at Riverside Community College; 9-5:30.

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.