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Some swimmers prefer the grab start because it makes them feel stable on the blocks...and powerful when they push off with both feet at the front of the blocks.

Other swimmers opt for the track start, where one foot is positioned at the front of the block and the other is at the back of the block. A track start may not give you as much power off the blocks, but it lets your body uncoil a little easier, and helps you get into the water faster than a grab start. You need to try both starts -- grab and track -- so you can decide for yourself which is better for you.

The first step is to decide which foot goes forward...and which goes back. Some swimmers feel more stable with the right foot forward...

...while others feel better with the left foot forward. It’s totally up to you, but you should try both ways.

Whichever way you choose, you need to start with a stable foundation. When you step up to the block, the first thing you should do is hook your toes over the edge of the platform, to get all the leverage you can. Thing about GRIPPING the edge with your toes. Position the back foot with the toes pointed forward, as if you were putting your feet into the blocks at the start of a track race.

Many swimmers like to have their back foot angled out to the side, like this, but it’s not good technique. It’s better to have the rear foot pointed forward so that when you begin to push off, you’ll be sending your energy FORWARD.

If your rear foot is angled to the side, you’ll introduce a twisting motion when you push off. Point your toes in the direction you want to go: FORWARD.

Once you have a solid base with your feet, grab the block with your hands outside the feet and about shoulder width apart. Wrap your fingers around the edge and get a good grip, just like you did with your toes.

How good a grip do you need? As good as you can get!

When it’s time to “take your mark,” you want to be coiled and ready to go, but you also want to stay a little bit relaxed. You don’t want your shoulders, neck, arms, and legs to be all tensed up. Cullen likes to look straight down, to get a nice straight curve along the spine line and all the way down through his arms.

At the start, Cullen likes to get his feet ready... then come down and get set with his head, arms, and hands... then lean back slightly to get coiled and ready to go. He pulls against his hands, and shifts some weight to the back foot. And he’s looking straight down.

Here’s another angle where you can see the sequence. Cullen gets set, leans back slightly, and then pulls with his hands to initiate the start. He tries for a clean entry with arms in tight streamline, and hangs on to that streamline as he starts his dolphin kicks.

Cullen tries for a nice clean entry, sending his body through one hole, and leaving as small a footprint as possible.

Before we move on, let’s review the track-start basics one more time.

Grip the block with your toes and fingers.
Position the rear foot with toes pointed FORWARD.
Look straight down with your eyes.
Keep your head, neck, and spine in one continuous line.
Get set...then lean back slightly to get ready to go.
Explode forward by pulling with the hands.
Streamline your entry, with head between your arms.
Hold your streamline to maintain momentum.