It’s one of swimming’s greatest secrets that many try to unlock - how to swim faster! You’ve probably tried all kinds of weird and wacky techniques that you have read or even come up with yourself, or maybe you’ve literally just tried to thrash through the water as quickly as possible thinking this will get you a world record. Well it’s a lot more simple than that, and this article will highlight the key tips and tricks to maximising your ability to swim faster through water.
The secret lies in technique (I kid you not!), and even if you’re conditioning perfectly and increasing your training loads, you will find it very difficult to progress your personal best times without that perfect swimming technique. The reason for this is that swimming requires body movements that are very different to those on land, and a lot of time and effort is needed to adapt to swim efficiently. With this in mind, I have split this article into two approaches that are key to swimming technique in order to swim faster.
1. Reducing Drag
I cannot underestimate how important reducing drag is to swimming fast. The reason for this is that water is much denser than air, and therefore drag in water increases by the square of the speed in which we move in the water (basically it's harder to move in water, than on land). Reducing this drag is a matter of skill as our power output is limited in the confines of water.
So how can we reduce drag? Firstly, a good horizontal balance is important to minimize drag. So try to stay as horizontal as possible when moving through the water, to disrupt the smallest amount of water molecules as possible, resulting in reduced drag! An example of this is lifting your head forward before turning on your side to breathe during freestyle. This will disrupt your balance, causing your legs and hips to sink, and create increased levels of drag.
Another great way to reduce drag, is to swim ‘taller’. By making yourself swim as tall as possible, you create a more long and tapered shape, which at a stable mass, creates less turbulence than a short and blunt shape through water. During freestyle, if your recovery arm enters early in the water, shortly after passing your head, you will subsequently swim much taller. Additionally, make sure you fully extend your recovery arm forward underwater before starting the down sweep. And finally, an efficient kick is important for swimming fast, where an efficient flutter kick requires you to perform fast and compact movements. Your feet should only break the water’s surface slightly and should not move below your horizontal body line, otherwise you will again create unnecessary drag and slow your swimming speed down.
2. Improving Propulsion
It’s a good idea to first concentrate on reducing drag to a minimum before moving onto improving propulsion. However, increased propulsion is also linked to swimming technique and mechanics, and not just building larger muscles!
A great way to start increasing your propulsion is to swim more on your sides. What I mean by this, is to roll sufficiently onto each side of your body with each arm pull. This will allow larger muscles groups in your chest and back to engage during each stroke and increase the forward propulsion. This adaption may seem a little odd at first, but stick with is and practice, practice, practice!
Once you’ve acquired the habit of swimming on your sides, the next step is to really engage your core muscles. The ability to engage your core muscles with every stroke, allows your main muscles groups to work more effectively and efficiently, which takes a lot of stress out of your shoulders! This will in turn increase your speed endurance through the water, allowing you to swim faster for longer.
The final tip to increasing your propulsion, is to anchor your arms in the water. To better explain what I mean, before pulling your arm backwards in the water, you need to wait until your forearm and hand are inline and pointing downward, with the inside of your forearm and palm facing backward. At this point, your elbow should be high in the water and located above the hand, creating a paddle-like position to create maximum amounts of propulsion.
There you go, my key principles and tips to swimming smarter, and ultimately faster. Hopefully this article has opened your eyes to the fact it’s not all about thrashing through the water, or building massive muscles. Adaptions to swimming mechanics and technique are key to being able to swim fast!