One of the biggest obstacles to fast swimming is technique. You may train five times a week and rack up hundreds of yards; but if you haven’t mastered the basics of proper technique, you’ll never develop your full potential.
Better swimming technique will boost your speed for no extra effort, energy cost, or change in fitness. So stop training like a triathlete, focusing too much on intensity and volume. Instead, focus on mastering proper swimming technique. Here are the eight key components of proper swimming technique to improve your performance.
8 Key Components of Swimming Technique
1. Maintaining a Horizontal Body Position
To swim fast, you have to move your body through water fast and effortlessly. You can achieve this by moving your body smoothly across the top of the water in a horizontal position. Slipping your body frame through water in a straight horizontal position (akin to swimming through a narrow tube) helps reduce both frontal area and drag, which is essential for faster swimming.
2. Learning to Use Lungs as the Balancing Point
The body has a number of tools that allows you to swim horizontally on top of water. These are: head, lungs, arms and a “kick”. The lungs usually act as the balancing point or fulcrum on which everything balances. One of the most effective ways to improve your swim is to put much of your weight in the front of the lungs to counterbalance the heavy hips and legs, rather than trying to force your legs up onto the surface through kicking. This allows you to use leverage and buoyancy to float your hind limbs to the surface and enjoy free speed with little or no effort on your part.
3. Learning Front Quadrant Swimming
Another way to improve your swim speed at no energy cost is to put your arms in front of your lungs (fulcrum) as much as you can. This helps counterbalance your heavy legs and maintain a long, streamlined body axis, which slips smoothly through the water.
4. Rotating the Body along Its Axis
Rotating your body along your body axis, while swimming front quadrant (with your arms stretched far from your lungs), gives you rotary power that comes from your core, propelling you through the water quickly. By turning over on your side, you’ll be presenting a small frontal area to the water, making yourself more hydrodynamic. It will also allow you to use the strong, large muscles of your lats (broad flat muscles on either side of your back) and chest and to swim, rather than the weaker muscles of your shoulder joint.
5. Breathing as Rotation, Rather Than Breathing as Head Lift
To swim fast and effectively, you must learn to breathe as rotation. Pushing down and lifting your head so you can breathe just doesn’t work. Instead, you should swim front quadrant deep into your breathing stroke. As your body rotates across the water, roll your head toward the air and take a quick, full breath on the side with zero head lift. While at it, avoid pushing downward as it creates a lift, which forces the head up and drops the legs.
6. Avoid Wasting Your Breadth
As your endurance and skill improve, try breathing after two or three strokes, rather than every time your head nears the water surface. This will help reduce fatigue and improve performance in the pool.
7. Keep Your Feet inside the Narrow Tube
Ensure your body is rotating your long body axis or tube. Avoid dragging your feet, legs and hips as this will increase the diameter of the small tube. If you have tight, inflexible ankles, try stretching exercises to improve your flexibility.
8. Focus on Maintaining the Right Body Position
Remember effective swimming involves 70% swimming and 30% propulsion. Grabbing a huge amount of water with a huge, strong pull will only leave you exhausted. So focus on maintaining a long, streamlined body axis.
Gerard is a passionate blogger and works as a swimming instructor providing swimming lessons for all levels and ages.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia