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Quick Fix: The Elbow Twitch

The swimming quick fix in this article actually refers to an action BEFORE the swimmer even enters the water – arm positioning while on the starting block.

Almost every swimmer has one; a preferred starting block position; one that they habitually get into on the ‘take your mark’ command from the official. These habitual starting positions may at times feel faster or stronger compared to other starting positions, but not all starting positions are beneficial, no matter how they may feel while on the block.

The Habit: Elbows Unloaded and Splayed Out

The specific start habit reviewed here is what we call the ‘elbow twitch’. The elbow twitch occurs when the swimmer gets into the starting position and pulls themselves down toward the block with their elbows pointing out away from their body. What this causes is wasted arm movement at the race’s start; the swimmers arms go to aid the swimmer in pushing off the block, causing the elbows to ‘twitch’ and pull back and in towards the body as they get in position to ‘push’ off the block.

As they are starting, the swimmer is actually getting their elbows and arms into a more beneficial position, however, the ‘twitch’ of the elbows as they pull back towards the swimmer from unloaded to loaded is unnecessary and time consuming.

The Solution: Elbows Loaded Back and In

By positioning the elbows so that they are pulled back and in towards the body instead of out and away, there is no longer the delay in time to account for the ‘twitch’ of the arms as they move to get into their ‘push’ positions as there was before.

The ‘elbow twitch’ habit is one that is seen in a large number of swimmers, costing them valuable time as they get off the block. Here at tweak, we regularly offer Start & Turn Clinics with our staff of professional swim coaches to analyze and improve on the technical elements of these specialized actions with all levels of competitive swimmers. We aim to improve upon all swimmers’ abilities and help them on their way to their next PR!

Visit and sign up for a stroke analysis or for our next Start & Turn clinic!

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