Kick Plate Position and Track Start Biomechanics in Elite Swimmers

Main Article Content

Angela Cicenia
Caroline Oster
Monique Mokha


Swimming, Reaction time, Swim start


Introduction: Kick plate position in the track start is arbitrary, but may influence performance. The purpose of this study was to investigate the influence of standardizing kick plate positioning based on shin length. Methods: 15 elite swimmers participated in the study. Shin length was measured between the tibia’s lateral condyle and lateral malleolus. Participants were filmed with two 120Hz cameras while performing three starts at three kick plate positions (< shin length, shin length, and > shin length). We determined reaction time, block phase time, flight phase time, flight distance, underwater phase time, and time to the 15-m mark via Dartfish software. Data were reduced using repeated measures analysis of variance, p<.05 Results: Only reaction time (RT) was significantly different between the three kick plate positions (F(2,28)=4.713, p=.017). Post-hoc analysis showed RT was lower when kick plate distance was one shin’s length versus < shin length (0.173+0.034 vs 0.194+0.061 sec) and > shin length (0.173+0.034 vs 0.195+0.047 sec), p<.05. Finally, 9/15 (60%) participants produced faster 15-m times with the kick plate at shin’ length. Conclusion: Coaches and athletes may consider using shin length as a guide for positioning the kick plate to enhance performance.

Abstract 148 | PDF Downloads 80


1. Cossor J, Mason B. Swim start performances at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Proceedings of the XIXth Conference of International Society of Biomechanics in Sports. 2001:70-74.
2. Jorgić B, Puletić M, Stanković R, Okičić T, Bubanj S, Bubanj R. Kinetic and kinematic analysis of the leg positioning in the freestyle track start in swimming. Physical Education and Sport. 2010;8(1):31-36. 3. Tor E, Pease DL, Ball KA. Key parameters of swimming start and their relationship to start performance. Journal of Sport Sciences. 2015;13:223-231.
4. Carradori S, Burkhardt D, Sinistaj S, Taylor WR, Lorenzetti S. (2015). Kinetic and kinematic analysis of the leg positioning in the freestyle track start in swimming. XXXIIIrd Conference of the International Society of Biomechanics in Sports, Poitiers. 2015:808-811.
5. Garcia-Hermoso A, Escalante Y, Arellano R, Navarro F, Dominguez AM, Saavedra JM. Relationship between final performance and block times with the traditional and the new starting platforms with a back plate in international swimming championship 50-m and 100-m freestyle events. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine. 2013;12(4):698-706.
6. Breed RVP, McElroy GK. A biomechanical comparison of the grab, swing and track starts in swimming. Journal of Human Movement Studies. 2000;39(5):277-293
7. Vantorre J, Seifert L, Fernandes R, Vilas-Boas J, Chollet D. Biomechanical Influence of start technique preference for elite track starters in front crawl. The Open Sports Sciences Journal. 2010;3:137-139 8. Welcher RL, Hinrichs RN, George TR. Front- or rear-weighted track start or grab start: Which is the best for female swimmers? Sports Biomechanics. 2008;7(1):100-113.
9. Vantorre J, Chollet D, Seifert L. Biomechanical analysis of the swim-start: A review. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine. 2014;13:223-231.
10. Pereira SM, Ruschel C, Hubert M, Machado L, Roesler H, Fernandes RJ, Vilas-Boas JP. Kinematic, kinetic and EMG analysis of four front crawl flip turn techniques. Journal of Sports Sciences. 2015;33(19):2006-2015.
11. Fédération Internationale de Natation Facilities Rules 2017-2021, September 22, 2017. Accessed July 18 2019.
12. Takeda Y, Takegi H, Tsubakimoto S. Effect of inclination and position of new swimming starting block’s back plate on track-start performance. Sports Biomechanics. 2012;11(3):370-381.
13. Slawson SE, Chakravorti N, Conway PP, Cossor J, West AA. The effect of knee angle on force production, in swimming starts, using the OSB11 block. Procedia Engineering. 2012:801-806.
14. Pearson CT, Mcelroy GK, Blitvich JD, Subic A, Blanksby B. A comparison of the swimming start using traditional and modified starting blocks. Journal of Human Movement Studies. 1998;34:49-66.
15. Carvalho DD, Fonseca P, Marinho DA, Silva AJ, Zacca R, Mourão L, Fernandes RJ, Vilas-Boas P. Is there any transfer between countermovement jump and swimming track start performance? XXXVth Conference of the International Society of Biomechanics in Sports. 2017:476-479.
16. Benjanuvatra N, Edmunds K, Blanksby B. Jumping abilities and swimming grab-start performances in elite and recreational swimmers. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education. 2007;1(3):231-241.