Swimming Tips: The 7 Fundamentals of Faster Swimming

Michael Butler
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Start with your technique.

Swim technique is the first aspect of faster swimming. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned veteran, you’ve probably heard it a million times before: Relax and float.

You should teach yourself to relax in the water and prevent yourself from sinking. Proper hydration is vital to your ability to float. If your body is dehydrated, you will sink and not be able to advance your swimming proficiency.

Even the pros are flabbergasted when they learn of proper hydration recommendations for swimmers. They’re surprised because most of them are not satisfied with the amount of water they’re drinking on a daily basis.

You should consume a minimum of one pint of electrolyte rich water (that has been properly filtered is recommended) upon waking up and another pint about 30 minutes before a training session or event. While you’re training, you need to replace every pound of mass you lose with 32 ounces of an electrolyte beverage.

There are a few critical electrolytes in the liquids you drink (particularly the hydration beverage). Electrolytes give your cells, tissues, and blood a “spark” and without them, your body will perform inefficiently and you may even cramp.

Take it one step at a time.

Swimming is a sport that’s all about putting one foot in front of the other. You’re going to need to learn to crawl before you learn to walk, and in swimming, you’re going to need to learn to practise the crawl stroke before you learn to swim lap by lap.

Swimming becoming a marathon swimmer does not happen overnight. It takes time. If you want to reach your goal of swimming as a sport or for exercise, you’ll need to start with small achievable goals and progressively work your way toward more advanced techniques.

To perform the basics of the crawl stroke well, you’ll need to learn how to focus on the process and have the patience to keep your form while swimming.

Get feedback.

The best way to improve your swimming performance is to get objective feedback on your swimming technique. This will help you know where your weaknesses are so that you can make corrections before they become habits.

If you are not able to get professional swim coaching, then find another swimmer and monitor and evaluate your swimming technique as you swim side by side.

In addition to feedback, other ways to identify your weaknesses are through the use of videos or photographs and tools such as stroke analyzers like Finis Tempish.

Use technology to capture your swim stroke on video. We use a go pro to capture my swimmers swimming and compare each stroke we have the ability to review. The use of video also helps to identify areas of weakness and can be used for further reference.

The objective is to correct the flaw on the spot in the water to avoid repeating the bad habit and train your muscles to go to the correct stroke technique. These corrections can save you hundreds of hours of training by incorporating good technique immediately.

Emulate the pros.

One very important way to get faster is to remember that you should do everything possible to swim like the swimmers who are right on your tail. How fast are they swimming? What stroke are they using? What kind of turns are they doing? Are they using a block or pull buoy?

You must pay attention and emulate everything they do. One very common mistake of beginning swimmers is trying to swim fast without paying attention to their own stroke. For instance, you must maintain a constant stroke rate to go fast. Don’t let your stroke rate fluctuate up and down while you are swimming.

So, emulate those on your team who are doing well. Try to cop their stroke, keep their stroke rate, and make it a point to do everything that they do. It’s one of the most common ways to swim faster.

Be a master of efficiency.

When swimming against the current, you have two fundamental approaches. You can either keep the current as your main reference point, or you can keep the swimmer in front of you.

The approach you choose will depend on your swimming ability. If you are a beginner, keep your eyes on the current and stroke along the direction. This will get you going.

If you are more advanced, try to take a longer stroke. Look forward and swim as fast as you can, and you’ll begin to notice that there may even be a small gap between you and the swimmer in front of you. The best way to close that gap is to swim for longer. In fact, you will notice that the closer you can get your hands to your ankles, the faster you’ll swim.

Practice, practice, practice.

There is simply no substitute for getting in the water and working on your swimming. It doesn’t matter how good of a runner you are or how fit you are – you will not become a natural swimmer overnight. The only way to become a good swimmer is to get in the water and practice swimming.

Practice swimming every chance you can. If you’re an adult, consider getting some lessons so that you have someone who knows what they’re doing take a look and correct your form. If you’re a kid, start swimming lessons as soon as possible.

Even if you’re not taking formal lessons, just getting in the pool and practicing swimming will help your body get used to the movements and motions that are unique to swimming.

Measure and progress.

No need to add “weight” until you have mastered the fundamentals.

What we’re talking about here is a series of individual drills you will practice again and again over the coming weeks and months. Once you know these drills well you can use them as part of your regular workouts.

1 Balance

You should be able to stand on one foot and hold your balance while looking down at the bottom of a pool while your eyes are only slightly open. This will teach you to hold your balance with one leg while using your arms to maintain your position. Perfect your balance at the wall, then progress to the middle of the pool.

Repeat this drill over a distance of ten feet.

2 Narrow Streamline

When you are diving into the water it’s fine to do so with a wide streamline. Once you are in the mid section of the pool, however, your arms need to be streamlined.

Work this drill over a distance of ten feet.

3 Streamline with Lead Arm and Elbow

When swimming at the middle of the pool, your hand needs to be face down and your elbow needs to be bent at 90 degrees, and your arm needs to be parallel to the length of your body.

Work this drill over a distance of ten feet.

More Tips for Swimmers:

Closing out this post dedicated to all things swimming, I want to follow up with a few learnings for both beginner and intermediate swimmers.

It’s important, especially when you’re starting out, to have a strong understanding of the 3 stages of competitive swimming:

  • Training
  • Peaking
  • Race Day

Few people like to hear this, but most swimmers actually spend more time in training than they do in peak performance. When you are training, you’re learning new skills, correcting bad habits, and you’re working on speed and endurance.

When you reach your peaking stage, your focus is on fine tuning the fundamentals and routines that you have already been learning for the past few months (or years). During this time period, you’re practicing and evaluating the techniques you will use in the last stage: on race day.

You have to remember that swimming is 80% mental and 20% physical. The 80% mental aspect of the sport goes into the 3 stages of competitive swimming. Your ability to handle pressure during training and in your races will be tested.

The 20% physical part of swimming goes into how long you can hold your stroke until you get to the wall to take the next stroke.