Swimming with proper technique is critical to swimming efficiently. With over a decade of competitive swimming experience under my belt, I have always considered my technique to be pretty clean.
Two recent experiences led me to reconsider my technical skill level and adjust my training in response:
- I participated in a Rowdy Gaines coaching clinic
- I watched aerial footage of myself swimming
At the clinic I started to notice that my form wasn’t as great as I thought; and when watching myself on film, I noticed that my freestyle hand entry was too narrow a problem I’d been aware of in the past but that I had fixed. Watching yourself on video and having an analysis done by an experienced coach can make all the difference in improving your swimming performance. MySwimPro offers a stroke analysis package that you can learn more about here.
In swimming, the single most important thing you can do to swim faster is reduce drag in order to make yourself more efficient. The secret to that is having good form!
I want to talk a bit about the importance of being conscious of your technique in training, and taking time to do drills to isolate different aspects of your stroke. I’ve always been a sprinter, so I’ll be coming a little more from that perspective, but all of this applies to distance swimmers, too.
There are a lot of fundamentals that you should focus on that can easily slip when we get tired in training. For example, how tight are your streamlines when you push off of wall? You want to make sure you squeeze your biceps against the back of your ears and keep your hands tightly clasped, rather than having your elbows hanging loosely around the sides of your head.
Another example is getting a full rotational range during the freestyle catch. I personally need to think really hard about maintaining a just outside of shoulder width hand entry, as having too narrow of a catch reduces your ability to rotate and extend, thus reducing the amount of water you can pull with your stroke.
See also: 10 Steps To Swimming Smarter Freestyle
When I started consciously implementing these technique changes into my training, I noticed that I would tire out much more quickly. Using great technique is exhausting, but it’s incredibly important! Once your body gets used to a more technical stroke execution, you’ll be much faster. You’ll sit higher in the water, have a narrower body line to slip through the body with, minimal energy wasted in splashing, a stronger pull, faster kick, and your whole body will be working together to get you through the water as efficiently as possible.
One of the most common mistakes that sprinters make is emphasizing training volume too much, and emphasizing technique work too little. In short races, there’s a diminishing marginal return on having excellent aerobic capacity, and at some point it’s more productive to make sure that you have excellent starts, turns, and max speed technique.
This isn’t an excuse to slack on your aerobic sets, but if there’s no drilling in your training routine, you might want to add some in! Drills break down your stroke and help you perfect the individual components, since it can be overwhelming to think about all those parts at the same time.
Alexander Popov is one of the greatest freestyle sprinters of all time, and his training philosophy was to never swim more than he could sustain perfect form for. With technique and short, maximum intensity intervals, you’ll see great returns on your sprinting speed!
See also: How To Swim Faster With Shorter Workouts