5 Skills to Master to Swim Faster
Swimming faster is something that is paramount to a swimmer's success. While we've focused on nutrition, hydration, sleep habits, and other tips to help improve your performance, there are some skills to master to swim faster that you can practice in the pool. Basically, to swim fast you need to increase swim speed, decrease swimming drag or increase swimming force. Often we hear from swim experts and swim coaches that swimming gets harder as we go faster because that increased speed also increases drag, which sometimes feels like a catch-22. So how does a swimmer go faster without aimlessly expending excess muscle power and running the risk of tapping out before the end of a race? These 5 techniques will help you add more power to your swims and improve your overall time and performance.
The first step to maximize your speed is to make sure you are in the right position to minimize drag and use the most muscle power available. You'll want to make sure that your body is straight, long, and parallel to the surface and that your head position is facing down or sideways to breathe. If your head is looking forward, the rest of your body will tilt and drop, which is going to slow you down. Instead, position yourself so that the top of your head is pointing to the wall of the pool and imagine yourself swimming in a narrow tunnel or tube which will make you align your body in the right position for maximum speed.
You'll want to grab, or push, as much water as you can with each stroke. Sometimes swimmers use only their hand to grab water, but this isn't enough to compete at high levels. Instead, envision your arm from the elbow to the fingertips as one long paddle. Then with each stroke, point your fingertips to the bottom of the pool and your elbow up towards the sky or towards the side, depending on the type of stroke. You'll get much more "traction" this way and this small tweak to your technique will shave seconds off of your time.
3. Dolphin Kicking
If you want to be elite at any level, you have to attain some level of competency in the underwater dolphin kick. Kicking is not about kicking up and kicking down - your goal should be to kick backwards. It's how propulsion works, if you are kicking up or down, well then you will be moving in those opposite directions. Aim to kick backwards, thus moving you forward in the water. To get there you need to work on your ankle flexibility. Another tip is to kick fast, and kick small. Remember, the fastest you will ever be in a race will be right after dives and walls. Your goal with kicks is to not increase your speed but to hold onto that speed for as long as possible once you leave the wall. Also kick with your core, not your knees. Kicking just with your knees is a fantastic way to create more drag, thus slowing you down.
Think about your body as an axis that is in line from the top of your head all the way down to your toes. This first step will make the rotating easier and more precise. With each stroke, your body will rotate on this axis, from shoulders through hips, with the hips and shoulders in line with each other. You'll first grab the water, press as we highlighted above, and then in the press, your body will rotate so that the side that was lower is moving up towards the surface and the side that was up is moving lower into the water. Keeping this action fluid and concise will help you maximize your body's power, while minimizing movements that could add a few seconds to your time.
5. Mental Focus
The best swimmers know how to control their thoughts and use that to their advantage. While you're competing, you must become very good at focusing on what is happening in the present, as well as blocking out things that could distract you. Firstly, practice focusing on the "now" during your training. If you're stretching, focus on how each muscle feels and the power that you're getting from building and toning that muscle fiber. Try to block what happened before, whether it was a school exam or work meeting, and leave the past in the past. Same applies for thinking too much about what's going to happen next. Instead of focusing on the next race or that night's finals, get back to the present and focus on your stretching and your physical preparation. Sharpening your mental focus allows you to stop dwelling on the past or the future and be the best athlete you can be in the present. To get good at this mental focus, try practicing some meditation techniques to quiet your mind and watch your overall performance improve.
Practice these 5 hacks to swim faster with your coach and your team and watch your performance improve. For more informative articles on how you can train for optimal performance, check out our blog on P2Life!