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by Jeff Commings

July 23, 2021

The first-time Olympian works on executing great starts in and out of the pool

Ever since he was in high school, Andrew Seliskar has been known for his powerful starts. That carried over into his collegiate years at the University of California, Berkeley, and now into his life as a professional swimmer, helping him earn a spot on the U.S.’s 4x200 freestyle relay at the Olympics.

Standing just 6 feet tall, Seliskar doesn’t match up with many of his competitors height-wise. But once the starting signal goes off, he launches from the blocks and emerges into his first stroke ahead of or alongside taller swimmers. Seliskar attributes that mostly to his dryland work to make his start explosive.

“Three days a week in the weight room is when I’m working on explosive jumps and dryland mobility,” Seliskar says. “We do a lot of Olympic lifts in the weight room. For core work, we do sit-ups and V-sit holds. To help with explosiveness, we do hang cleans and hang snatches.”

Seliskar does these exercises under the watchful eye of a trainer or coach, something that applies to Masters swimmers, especially those doing these exercises for the first time. The exercises involving weighted bars—Olympic lifts, hang cleans, and hang snatches—are best introduced with no weights on the bars for the first few sessions to familiarize yourself with the movement. If you’ve never lifted weights or haven’t in a long time, consult a qualified professional on how to do it safely and effectively.

Though Seliskar puts a lot of emphasis on weightlifting to improve his starts, he also practices actual starts each week.

“If we are doing races on Saturdays, that’s when I get my starts in,” he says.

Seliskar says the burst off the blocks and the entry are equally important in executing perfect starts. Though the introduction of the wedge at the back of starting blocks in 2009 has helped make starts more powerful, the push with the back foot isn’t Seliskar’s primary concern.

“Getting power off my front leg on the start is really important,” he says. “And making sure I am keeping my feet together on the entry is important too.”


  • Technique and Training


  • Starts
  • Olympians