Pro Tips Guide to Swimming Relay Start Technique

Learn how to be an asset to your team with this Pro Tips guide on positioning and timing for your swimming relay start.

April 17, 2019

Unlike other swimming events, relay races offer the opportunity to really work with your team. All four swimmers play an important role in the results, making relays some of the most exciting races to participate in.


Division I swim coach Marc Christian says, “In races, where hundredths of a second can mean the difference between first place or last, being able to synch your start with your teammate’s finish can make all the difference.”


Christian breaks down what to do to make that transition successful ­– from how to line up on the starting blocks to proper timing for your dive.




When it comes to positioning yourself for your relay start, the best spot to learn from is a low, body-ready position. Throughout this, Christian says the key is to “stay low and go.” The two key elements of your dive should be your arms and feet. Let’s look at what each of them should be doing.




  • Begin with your arms extended in front of your chest.
  • Next, swing your arms back. A strong windup here can help you generate speed.
  • Your arms should continue forward until they meet in front. This should throw your body forward to achieve your maximum distance.



  • To start, keep your dominant foot forward and your other foot back.
  • The toes of your front foot should be right over the edge of the block.
  • You back foot will move forward as you swing your arms back.
  • Once your back foot reaches the front of the block, you will jump as your arms meet in front of you.

Remember that as you are leaving the block, you should try to jump out and not up.




Outside of body positioning, your timing is another key element in relay race technique. If you’re the second through fourth swimmer in a race, you want to sync up your dive with your teammate’s finish as closely as possible.


It is important to remember not to leave before your teammate touches the wall. The ideal timing is for the swimmer on the block to start their windup right as they anticipate their teammate’s last stroke in the water.


Anticipating your teammate’s stroke can help you time your jump to occur immediately after their wall touch. Practicing with your teammates and learning their habits is a major key to making this synchronization work.


For more tips on how to excel at your swim meets, check out these guides on circle swimming and pre-meet warmup tips.