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2014 Doha World Championships Knee Flexion Start

Take Home Points for Power and Swimming Start Performance

  1. Plyometric training is superior to no additional training in intermediately skilled adolescent swimmers.

Last week, Herbie Behm wrote a review piece on resistance training and the dive start. His take home points did not sit well with everyone, especially in light of some recent research by Bishop (2009). This is a review of the Bishop article as well as the contents of the Swimming Science Research Review for January, where every article on starts was analyzed. 




Plyometrics are commonly given to swimmers with the hopes of improving start and turn performance. However, their effectiveness is not well known. This study analyzed the effects of plyometrics on start performance. 

What was done 

Twenty-two trained swimmers (~13.1 years; minimum of 8 hours/week; best 50-m freestyle ~35 s) were split into a plyometric training (PT) or habitual training (HT) group. The PT group was given an additional 2 hours per week of specific plyometric exercises for 8-weeks. Land and water testing was performed after the 8-weeks. 


The PT group had significantly greater change in time to 5.5 m, take-off to contact, distance to head contact, and time to head contact. No significant changes were noted in angle out of blocks and angle of entry into water. The swim time to 5.5 was improved on average by 0.59 seconds or 15%. 


PT seems to improve starting power, subsequently improving time to 5.5 m. 

Practical Implication 

Plyometric training is superior to no additional training in intermediately skilled adolescent swimmers. However, simply swimming or doing another dry-land activity may provide similar benefit. It seems performing dive starts during each workout with technical feedback and/or video analysis is superior for improving the start. 

On a start, maximal hip extension force is not ever achieved (as it takes time to develop maximal force). However, a more rapid extension may help with reaction time and generating a greater force in a shorter amount also will theoretically help the dive.

However, the biomechancis are obviously different, as you note, is the main issue as simply creating more force over a period of time, if not directed in the correct fashion may be wasteful.


  1. Bishop DC, Smith RJ, Smith MF, Rigby HE. Effect of plyometric training on swimming block start performance in adolescents.J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Oct;23(7):2137-43. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181b866d0.


January Contents

    1. Foreword


    1. Practicing Starts Improves All Starting Styles
    2. Initial Stroke Speeds do Not Different Between Starting Styles
    3. Greater Streamline in International Breaststroke Starts
    4. Omega Blocks Improve Start Times
    5. Elite Swimmers with Different Feet Positions in Backstroke Start
    6. Ideal Time to Start Kicking off the Start
    7. Greater Leg Extensor Force is correlated with Greater 10 m Starting Performance in Elite Sprint Swimmers
    8. Hip Movement Indicates Backstroke Start Kinematics
    9. Plyometrics Improve Swimming Performance
    10. PAP May Improve Some Swimmer’s Starts
    11. Resistance Training Doesn’t Improve Starting Kinematics
    12. Starting Styles for Females
    13. Starting Profiles in Elite Sprinters
    14. Grab vs Track Start Efficiency
    15. Plyometrics Benefit Starts Compared to No Additional Training
    16. Omega Track Start Profiling
    17. Motor control during freestyle starts
    18. How to attack starts and undulations for performance
    19. Strength and Power Variables Predictors of Start Performance
    20. Does start aerial phase impact 15 m performance?
    21. Common features of an effective backstroke start
    22. Glossary


Dr. John Mullen, DPT, CSCS world-renowned physical therapist and strength coach.
  1. January 15, 2014

    This is a great review and I agree that this questions some validity of my previously stated take home points. Thank you for posting. It
    was stated in the practical implication that, “Simply swimming or doing another
    dry-land activity may also be of benefit.” As well as “The biomechanics are
    obviously different… If not directed in the correct fashion may be wasteful.”
    This study added 2 additional hours of plyometric work to the existing training
    regime. Perhaps adding 2 additional hours of dive-start practice would yield
    greater benefits than plyometric training? This review concludes that
    plyometric training can lead to dive-start improvement. Although this study does show improvement,
    perhaps that is a “second best” when compared to basic dive-start practice?
    With a limited number of hours in the day and limited training time do you
    believe time would be better spent with more specific work?

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