Working on technique regularly will drastically improve your overall swimming efficiency, speed, and confidence in the water. We’ve put together a a 10-step video series that will help you master the fundamentals of Freestyle!
Whether you’re an elite triathlete, fitness swimmer, or masters competitor, every swimmer will benefit from the instructional video content provided in this series.
Check out our tips below, then start your free 30-day trial of ELITE COACH to unlock hundreds of technique videos and drills in the MySwimPro app.
In this series, we break the stroke down into 10 fundamental components.
Streamline is the fundamental body position in swimming. Start by extending your body, arms tall with one hand over the other. The thumb of your top hand should wrap around the hand underneath. The goal is to minimize resistance. A solid streamline is how you start every length in swimming.
Once you’ve mastered pushing off the wall in streamline, you’ll notice you take less strokes, and carry more speed into your first stroke. You’ll also engage your core as you begin to heighten your body awareness in the water.
Related: How to Do a Perfect Flipturn
2) Hand Entry
You’re most efficient when your hand enters the water about a foot and a half in front of your shoulder at a 45 degree angle. Enter with your middle finger first with little or no splash. Once your hand is in the water, drive forward to full extension and let gravity take over. Try and relax. Think about sliding your hand into the water with every stroke rather than muscling through.
3) Rotational Momentum
Driving your rotational momentum from the hips is a necessary part of swimming fast. Drill: 3 strokes + 12 kicks. Take 3 strokes then balance on your side for 12 kicks. Focus on keeping your balance and a proper body line. You should be completely on your side with your head down during the duration of the 12 kicks.
Remember that rotational power comes from your hips and then your shoulders. You can try this drill with fins. It will help keep your balance and keep you moving fast enough to really feel the effect of the drill.
4) Head Position
Looking at the black line on the bottom of the pool is the key to moving through the water efficiently. When you push off the wall, your eyes should be focused on the bottom. Keep them there as you swim.
The higher your head is, the lower your hips and legs are, so focus on keeping your head in line and eyes down.
Getting into a good breathing pattern can make all the difference in being able to swim only 1 length at a time or for 1 hour at a time. Focus on keeping one eye in the water when you rotate to your side. The arm opposite to the side you’re breathing on should remain extended and in line with the rest of your body.
The more comfortable you are breathing on your side, the less your head will come out of the water. Try and get into a rhythm.
Kicking is fundamental to efficient swimming and training. Many swimmers kick with bent knees. Contrary to conventional wisdom, a smaller kick is faster than a larger kick. The key to having a fast kick is creating speed through the hips. Think short and fast over big and powerful. Kicking in streamline on your back is a good way to practice.
Fins are also a helpful tool to help you develop a short and fast kick. Sometimes not kicking at all is the best way to improve stroke efficiency. It’s up to you to experiment with what works best. When you start to use your legs, make sure they’re helping propel you forward and not slowing you down.
Related: 8 Benefits of Swimming with Fins
Fist Drill: Ball up both your hands into a fist and swim as you normally would. By reducing the surface area of your hand, you’re forced to pull the water more efficiently with your entire arm. This really engages your forearms. As you extend forward imagine you’re reaching over a large log to pull yourself forward.
Once you go back to normal swimming, the nerves in your hands should feel alive and swimming should feel effortless.
Having a high-elbow stroke simply means your elbow is always above your hand – whether it’s in the water or out of the water. Zip-Up Drill: At the end of every stroke, zip-up your hand across your body’s torso into your armpit before reaching out and placing your hand In the water.
This will also help you engage your back muscles and help prevent shoulder injury down the road. No matter what your speed, keeping your elbows high is a must for efficient swimming.
9) Follow Through
Follow-Through Drill: Think about the last third of the stroke. Engage your triceps to make sure your hand is exiting the water on a full stroke. It should feel like your hand is accelerating through the pull-phase of the stroke. When you start to get tired, this is the part of the stroke that gets lost. Don’t get lazy here, make sure you’re getting the maximum distance per stroke and follow through in a straight line.
10) Silent Swimming
When you displace water, you’re creating resistance. Don’t just feel the way your body moves through the water, listen to it. Use all your senses and try to focus on the noise your hand makes as it enters the water. Listen to the sound your body makes when you exhale under water, and reduce. Try and relax, It’s usually best to finish every workout by swimming a few lengths focusing on reducing the noise you make when you swim.
I usually do a few lengths of ‘silent swimming’ to make sure I’m leaving the pool with a great stroke!
Bonus: How To Swim Smarter For The Rest of Your Life
Beyond continuously improving your technique, the key to improving is consistency and intensity. Make sure you’re in the water regularly to really to develop a feel for the water. It doesn’t have to be everyday, but 2 to 3 times per week is enough to get into a good rhythm. Up your intensity with equipment.
Fins, Paddles, and a Snorkel are great tools to not only elevate the intensity of your workout, but reinforce proper stroke mechanics. At the end of the day, enjoy your time in the water, it’s a truly unique experience.
Fares Ksebati, CEO and Co-Founder of MySwimPro
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