When it comes to competitive swimming, coaches work with swimmers relentlessly to achieve faster times. Swimmers spend a huge chunk of their daily lives doing laps at various speeds and intervals to achieve a faster time in races which is 200 meters or less. Only 4 events are longer than 200 meters.
A good start to a race gives the swimmer early confidence to cruise at his/her maximum velocity to achieve the personal best time. Great reaction time followed by good entry angle and great pullout can give up to 0.7 sec gain at 15m mark. There is more than just reaction time which contributes to a great dive. However, in this article, I would like to discuss the Significance of Reaction Time and How to Achieve it with Simple Training.
In India we see most of our swimmers go for block start rather than track start. The general idea behind this would be that we can get more thrust to take off with two legs in the block start when compared to track starts one leg push off. However, the reaction time in block start is 0.2 sec slower than that of track start. The advantage of getting a longer leap with block starts is compromised when the swimmer's body enters the water. Physics says “faster you enter the water harder it will stop you”. Frontal resistance is directly proportional to the speed of the body moving through the water. Hence higher the speed - higher the resistance offered by water. The gain swimmer gets by longer leap is nullified due to this.
On the contrary, a good track dive saves time at the very beginning of the race. Track start allows the swimmer to be in a lost balance position at the ‘take your mark’ moment. On the beep, a swimmer takes off straight away. This allows the swimmer to take advantage of 0.2 sec over the block starting swimmer who needs to firm up, lose balance and then take off which takes about 0.2 sec for an agile swimmer. Track start produces optimum thrust, which with a good entry angle, gives the swimmer an advantage of saving 15m and a total of 0.7 sec over a block start (15m on an average).
If a coach has access to new blocks with footrests (fins) at the back of starting blocks, training for track start becomes much more fun. There are plenty of tutorials available these days on YouTube to improve track dive. Swimmers love this as it involves learning new tricks and the result is instant. The 0.2 sec saved at the start goes straight into the race time! A 25.1 sec taken to complete 50m freestyle will be 24.9 sec.
Image 1, 2 and 3: Images of the same Swimmer taking a Block Start and a Track Start. In the first image, you can see the swimmer doing the track start and is in a lost balance position, holding his weight in his arm. In the following images, you can see how quickly the swimmer takes off in track start compared to block start.
Author: Partha Varanashi