Swimming is one of the nations most popular activities, but most of us don’t do it well enough to boost our fitness. Technique is everything according to top swimmers. Research suggests that 98% of recreational swimmers don’t make gains in aerobic fitness despite swimming regularly. Practice should result in improvements, but with swimming, you could swim and swim and not really get much better, because it’s all about technique. Here are 4 ways to improve yours:
1. Body Position
Your body should be parallel with the water’s surface. Keeping your body flat from head to toe, by engaging your core, and keeping your head down makes you more streamlined, helping you to go faster. As you swim, your body should rotate length ways (i.e. rolling from side to side). This lets you extend your reach and engages your back muscles to power your stroke. Rolling your body will also help you to turn your head to breath and lift your “recovering” arm out of the water ready for the next stroke.
Travel further with each stroke. By making longer strokes, you’ll need to take fewer strokes per length, and therefore save energy. To improve your stroke, make each part of your stroke more efficient, by pulling harder, and taking your time. Don’t try and kick faster as the legs only provide 20% of propulsion in front crawl, and are really only there for balance. A good way to assess your stroke progress is by counting your stroke rate (number of strokes per length).
The best swimmers can “hold” more water and so push their bodies further forwards with each stroke. To improve your “hold”, move your hand, with your fingertips down, from the front of your stroke to the back. Do this slow to fast. A great analogy for this action is rolling your hand over a beach ball and then flinging it behind you. Keep your hand close to your body as you pull back to increase your streamlining. Turn your legs into fins by kicking from the hips, keeping your legs taught but ankles floppy to get maximum swim speed.
Timing is crucial. Aim your hand to enter the water just as the other begins pulling the water back. Breathe whilst your arm is recovering, and put your head back under water before your hand enters the water for the next stroke. Do not keep your head out of the water too long. Instead, aim to breathe-in whilst your head is out of the water, and breathe out when your head is under water. To boost buoyancy, breath out slowly rather than forcibly.
To make real progress you need to swim as often as you can. Aim to do 4 sessions per week, even if it is just for 20-30 minutes. Swimming tools like floats, hand paddles and flippers can all help you to improve your stroke by allowing you to work on different aspects, whilst keeping your swim interesting and varied. For any avid swimmers out there, you’ll know just how much energy a swim session expends and how much you sweat during it. To help make the most of your swim, check out The Energy Booster for a pre-swimming energy boost and The Fit Protein for a great way to replenish and nourish your body after you swim.