Continuing on with the series of applying what we saw at the Olympics to our own swimming, let's talk about 'starts'.
If you happened to watch any of the Rio racing, you may have noticed that virtually everyone's start off the block is slightly different. Starts vary by event, between men and women, size of the swimmer, etc. No two starts are the same, yet each Olympic swimmer's start is effective for that individual.
Yes, every start must have vital components such as toes curled over the edge, more front-loaded than totally back-loaded, particular degree of knee bend....but beyond that, swimmers essentially customize what works best for them. Some swimmers 'wing out' their arms at the start, such as South Africa's 50m freestyle finalist Brad Tandy, while others draw their arms immediately forward, such as American world record holder Katie Ledecky.
Even after entering the water, some swimmers take to dolphin kicking immediately, such as American Tom Shields in the 200 butterfly, while others such as George Bovell in the 50 freestyle, typically skip dolphin kicking all-together.
Beyond ensuring that your start has the essential basics built-in, don't be afraid to play with the different arm positions, launch positions and in-water kicking/breakout sequence that may give you an edge over what you're doing today. Have a friend, coach or teammate take video of you performing various starts and re-watch them in slow motion to see which approach gets you to the water the quickest, yet with the most power.
Finally, practice, practice, practice starts! So many teams think of starts as an 'afterthought' instead of the act being a key, instrumental race factor. BE READY so you don't have to GET READY when it comes to having your start be second nature and comfortable by the time your time to shine arrives.