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If you want to get this kind of height and power on your backstroke start...

...Here’s the best place to start -- your feet. You need to get a really good grip on the wall with your feet. As you take your mark, you need to be legal, which means you can have your toes above water, but you can’t curl them OVER the gutter or stand ON the gutter. Cullen is playing it safe here, with both feet under water, but he’s got a really good grip on the wall with his feet.

If you’re worried about slipping, you can place one foot higher than the other, like this.

Legal also means that both hands are gripping the starting bar (or the edge of the pool), and your eyes are looking at the starting end of the pool.

As you take your mark, you also need to be comfortable. You want to compress your body and be ready to explode backwards, but you don’t want to be all scrunched up and look like you’re hanging on for dear life, like this.

This is more what you’re after. You want to pull up so that your hips are just under the surface -- almost like you’re SITTING on the water but a little lower than that. Cullen tries to keep his back straight with just a slight curve. He rolls his head forward just a bit because the head is the first thing to move backward when the horn goes off. By rolling the head forward, Cullen feels like his body is coiled and ready to unleash a lot of good energy and momentum.

From under water it looks like this. The hips are high and Cullen makes sure he’s got a good grip with his feet. If it feels like your feet are slipping, release the tuck just a bit.

At the start, Cullen thinks about sending his energy UP and BACK...and about getting a clean entry through one hole in the water.

If we slow it down, you can see that everything starts with the head. Cullen’s head moves first. He throws it up and back and LOOKS back for the water. He throws his hands up and back into streamline. This helps him gain height and helps him arch his back for a clean entry through one hole in the water. The feet follow the arc of the body and then go right into the hole that he made with his hands and head.

Here it is again. Cullen throws his head up and back...arms up and back...and feet up and back. He tries to THROW his toes out of the water, just like you’d snap the end of a whip. His feet follow the arc and go into the same hole as the hands.

Here it is from under water. Watch for the hands to enter...and for the feet to follow the hands.

When you’re first learning the backstroke start, it can be hard to get up and OVER the water with a nice clean arc, so here’s a trick you can use. Try curling your toes over the gutter. Remember: THIS IS NOT LEGAL IN A RACE. You should do this only in the learning stage. But it will help you get the arc. And it’s very close to the kind of foot grip you’ll have in a race, when the touch pads are in place.

Here it is a little slower. Watch for all the focus points as we review the backstroke start. Hips high. Body ready but relaxed. Head moves first. Arms go up and back into streamline. Body creates an ARC over the water. Feet SNAP out of the water and follow the hands into the same hole.

And from under water it looks like this...as Cullen transitions from the start to the underwater dolphins and into the breakout, which is the subject of our next chapter.