BY KATIE ARNOLD//NATIONAL TEAM COACH FELLOW
With all the hype surrounding the FINA starting block wedges, we get a lot of questions about what number a swimmer should use. We also hear a lot of “I’m too tall to use anything lower than 4.” While height can be a limiting factor, wedge setting should be selected based on comfort, flexibility and ability to generate power off the blocks.
Placing the wedge back too far reduces a swimmer’s ability to generate power with the back leg. However, placing the wedge too close can limit a swimmer’s comfort on the blocks. The key here is not height as much as flexibility. A person who is 5’10” with tight hamstrings may end up using the same wedge setting as an athlete who is 6’3” with more flexible hamstrings.
The bottom line is that there is no magic formula to determine where an athlete should set the wedge. Working to improve flexibility can allow swimmers to use a closer setting which will improve their ability to generate power off the blocks. And for those of you who are “too tall” for lower settings, below are two images of world class athletes using a wedge set on 3. Both athletes are 6’2”.