3 Sneaky Training Tips for a Faster Sprint Freestyle

Michael Butler
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Deep water breakouts.

When you’re young and fast, it’s easy to get cocky. I have been there. It’s very tempting to throw your board out at high speed, and your leash comes off.

Then you have to retrieve your board and wait for the next wave to come through.

I learned the hard way that it’s easy to break your board when you bring it in at high speed. The result is a board game with a patchwork of deep dings in the top.

Instead, take a lesson from the big surfers, and do deep-water breakouts … way out with many yards (or even 100 yards) of line between you and your board, and break it out in waist high water with your hands.

Breathing at speed.

When you’re swimming faster, your breathing rate increases. If your breathing rate increases, your stroke rate decreases. When your stroke rate decreases, your time per lap increases. That’s why it is important to learn how to breathe correctly at speed.

Improving your breathing during swimming will also help you from getting water down your airway while swimming and water getting in while breathing.

Develop the habit of breathing every other stroke. This will give you time to take in a full breath after breathing out while swimming.

You can also focus your breathing between the catch of your arm on the 2 and 6 of each stroke. That’s because at this point in the stroke cycle, you’re exerting less energy than when you are holding onto the water with your arm during the recovery phase. This way, you are also less likely to hyperventilate.

You should try to breathe on every stroke at the beginning. Gradually increase the duration you are able to breathe in between each stroke. The ultimate goal is to be able to breathe every stroke while swimming at full speed.

Turns at speed.

Top freestylers are masters at turns, including multiple ones at high speeds. If you do a lot of sprint work or if your swims are similar in level, add some turns at high speeds to your training regime. It could be a basic turn (left or right, with each arm) but at an elevated pace. It could be a "push-off" turn (powering off the wall back into the water as quickly as possible) or 3-5 fast, streamline "laps" in the opposite direction.

Synchronised kicks.

Many freestylers use small kicks from side-to-side instead of keeping their legs straight. You can try this and see if you like it but if it feels awkward stay with the standard style. It's very important, however, to work on synchronized kicks, or using the arms and legs at the same time. For example, as you break into the water, kick forward with your right leg, followed immediately by a shoulder press and an arm pull with the right arm. This must happen quickly but don't try to hurry the movements by bending your arm or lowering the leg. What makes this move fast is the coordination of the arm and leg movement and keeping both going as fast as possible.

Turn and press.

In Summary

While I have always been intrigued with sprint freestyle, I always believed that it was a solo sport and thus avoided it like the plague.

That it’s an individual sport made sense to me because of the need for a quiet body posture in order to glide through the water with the least resistance.

What took me completely by surprise was how much shadow boxing I was doing in the water.

As it turned out, it wasn’t a solo sport at all and there were multiple people at the same time of me dolphin kicking, arms slicing and feet kicking.

It was fun and it was fast, and I was completely hooked.

The best part, however, was that it gave me the surprise of my life. In my training, I had been shadow boxing in every type of swimming stroke without realizing that I could use those elements in my own swimming technique.

These 3 sneaky training tips on how to improve your sprint freestyle will bring your focus back to the individuality of the races and will help you make the most of your time in the water.

Shadowbox Like a Boxer

I never played a lot of sports, especially the team ones. I was, however, a fan of Muhammad Ali and created my own little boxing gym in the basement. For years, I worked on moves like the uppercut and body shots just like the greats did.