Do you want to learn how to swim faster? You are not alone, many people want to swim faster but feel like they are wasting their time training inefficiently in the pool. Getting really good at swimming in not an intuitive process, and hard work will only take you so far. Luckily, with a little bit of research, you can maximize the effectiveness of your training regime.
It’s worth it
Reading this article will not take long compared to the many hours you have spent in the pool.Spend an hour absorbing these notes, and you will be on your way. I’m reminded of the journey a friend of mine recently went through, I will call him “turtle.” Now this is kind of a mean name, but if you had seen him swim in his early days, you would understand what I mean.
My Friend Turtle
Turtle was all effort, he plodded along lap after lap splashing water on everyone outside of the pool. He would come up out of the pool, red-faced, gasping for breath. He had the heart necessary to be a good swimmer, but he didn’t have the technique. I felt bad watching him struggle, and I eventually reached out and offered to give him the following pointers:
Focus On How To Swim Faster
I told him firstly, don’t try to change your entire stroke at once, only focus on a few high yield changes at a time. I also told him that when we do technique work, he should really slow down as much as possible. It’s important to really feel what the body is doing. He seemed reluctant, but he listened to my advice and he advanced rapidly. The best way to focus on a single change at a time is through drills. While it’s important to learn the theory behind how to swim faster, mindful practice through drills will allow you to advance much quicker. Some of these drills will be shown below.
Don’t fight physics, the key to good swimming is not strength, but using the world around you to your advantage. You should never feel like you are in a “fight” with the water. Every movement must be comfortable. Don’t slam your hand into the water, let it simply drop. Gravity is a powerful force, let it do the work. Good swimming is efficient swimming, allowing yourself to relax will make you swim faster. One drill that may aid in relaxation is the gliding drill. To perform the gliding drill, start by pushing off from the pool wall in a streamlined position. Feel yourself glide through the water. When you come to a stop, stand up, and push off the floor of the pool with your feet while maintaining a streamline position. Count how many times you have to do this to cross the pool. If you have a good streamline, your push-off count will be much lower than you expect. This is a good quantifiable way of practicing your streamline. If your count goes down, your streamline is improving.
Don’t think of kicking as a propellant, instead, use it to stabilize your body near the surface of the water. Don’t kick any harder than that. I know this seems counter-intuitive, but trust me, it will all come together and you will be faster. Try to avoid excessively bending your knees or causing excessive splashing.You want your swimming to feel elegant and look elegant. There is a drill that is an extension of the gliding drill described earlier that is a good way to practice efficient kicking. This modified gliding drill is the same in all respects except for one: you will be lightly flutter kicking as you do your gliding drill. Don’t kick hard, and don’t try to glide quickly. The goal of this drill is to feel the stabilizing effects of kicking. Notice how kicking brings your lower body closer to the surface and improves your streamline.
Using what you learned from the kicking lesson earlier, try lightly flutter-kicking in the water with your arms tucked down at your side. Feel how your head directs your overall balance. Focus on keeping your head straight ahead with your face down, and feel how the head affects your balance. Understanding this intuitively is vital, and it’s important that you just PLAY with this sensation. Good head position will reduce a lot of the excessive motion. Excessive motion is not propelling you and is wasting energy. Good head position will help you to swim faster.
Horizontal Hand Placement:
While lightly flutter-kicking in the water, put one hand tight at your side, and place the other out in front of you – like you just reached the end point of your stroke. While flutter kicking, slowly move your outstretched hand from left to right. Feel how this affects your balance. You should notice that when you are thrown off balance, your core must tighten up and work much harder. They key in understanding how to swim faster is that you must be as relaxed/efficient as possible, even when going fast. Work on committing the “in-balance” swim position to muscle memory. You want this to be so ingrained into your brain and your muscles, that you maintain this proper balance even when swimming very quickly. Don’t initially worry about getting it perfect, PLAY with it, and learn how the various parameters feel to you and affect your swim speed.
One of the worse things that can happen to any athlete is becoming injured. Swimmers are no exception! If you are injured, you can’t train, and if you can’t train, you are falling behind. It’s important that you take injury prevention seriously regardless of your age and skill level. One of the most common injuries to afflict swimmers is the dreaded swimmer’s shoulder. Go into the pool while swim teams are practicing, and you are guaranteed to see swimmers of all shapes and sizes rubbing their shoulder.Most recreational coaches are good at spotting bad form that can lead to shoulder injuries. Most recreational coaches are not good at correcting muscle imbalances that naturally occur as a result of swimming. Many swimmers develop muscle imbalances that lead to rounded shoulders that slope forward. This is TERRIBLE posture for shoulder health. Many of these swimmers have muscle imbalances that are so bad they can’t even straighten their shoulders to the proper position. I have a few exercises below that should help:
Thoracic Extension Exercises:
These are the MOST IMPORTANT exercises a swimmer can do. Whatever you do, DO NOT skip these. What is thoracic extension? Simply put: it’s when you simultaneously puff your chest up, and push your scapula down. Pushing your chest up towards the sky is the easiest way to rectify this bad posture. Many people try to fix rounded shoulders by pushing their shoulder blades straight back and together, this is not the same thing.
First begin by stretching your pectoral muscles. Find an open door way, and put your palm face down into the wall next to the door frame. Place the under-side of your forearm down to your elbow onto the wall as well. Then gently lean forward, pushing your arm back slightly behind you. You should feel a light stretch across your chest. This should not be painful, if you feel pain stop immediately. This stretch is important, because tight pecs tend to bring the shoulders forward and may impede your movement in the next exercise.
Once your pecs are nice and loose, find the nearest barbell. This next movement is an odd one, and i’m not sure if it has a name. Place your feet shoulder width apart, and put the core of your body into a nice athletic position. Grab the barbell, and stand up like you are at the end of a dead lift movement. If your shoulders are sloped forward, puff your chest straight up with the barbell in your hand. If you have severe muscle imbalances, this movement may be difficult even without weight. Repeat this movement 10 times, and do three sets of 10 reps.
Once the muscles in your back get stronger, this movement will start to become awkward, as your chest and shoulders will start to naturally sit in their proper place. At this point I recommend doing deadlifts. You do not need to do deadlifts with lots of weight, nor do you need to begin to train like a powerlifter. Just focus on doing the movement with good form and make sure to maintain thoracic extension throughout the lift. Maintaining this good shoulder posture throughout the lift will continue to strengthen your back muscles.
This might seem like a lot of unnecessary accessory work, but I promise you it will pay dividends. If you want learn how to swim faster, you must be healthy. If your joints are not working optimally, this will impede your training. Subpar training leads to reduced results, and a slower swim speed.
While knowledge is important, you HAVE TO practice a lot of this stuff. Remember at the beginning of the article, when I state you should only focus on one thing at a time? This is still true. In order TO PRACTICE, you must do drills that allow you to focus on only one aspect of your swimming. Showing these drills is beyond the scope of this article. If you are serious about taking your swimming ability to the next level, look into a program called total immersion swimming, it is really not optional. It’s hands down one of the best swimming resources in the world.Total Immersion Swimming contains a series of videos that goes over everything i’m talking about in extreme depth. More importantly, it gives INCREDIBLE drills that allow you to focus on any aspect of the swim stroke you can think of. These videos are what turned Turtle into a SHARK. While Turtle was the victim of smirking teenage lifeguards, shark swam so fast that the lifeguards themselves were impressed.
How to Swim Faster By Eating Properly
No one is going to argue that eating a healthy diet will improve your performance. However, people will argue endlessly about what a healthy diet actually looks like. I have no desire to join in on the great diet wars. I don’t know what is best for you, but I do know swimmers who perform at a very high level on a wide variety of diets. Some eat a high carbohydrate diet, and others crash post meal on such a diet and eat low carb. Some eat a vegetarian or even a vegan diet, and some eat an all meat diet. I have seen high performers shovel all sorts of foods in their mouth, so I reccomend experimenting and figuring out what works best for you. If possible, try to keep track of various performance metrics, and see how you fare on different diets.
How to Swim Faster Through Rest and Recovery
This is another important but highly variable factor. You basically want to train in such a way that maximizes growth. Growth can come in terms of speed and endurance. At some point in your swimming career, you should probably choose whether you want to focus on shorter races or longer races. World Class swimmers excel in both compared to the average person, but it’s still helpful to specialize at some point and pick a routine that aids in your particular focus. As a general rule of thumb, sprinters will work more intensely but have longer rest periods. It’s also important to have a long enough break in between actual workouts. As stated earlier, if you get injured, you can’t train, and if you can’t train, you can’t improve! So make sure you space your workouts out enough that you don’t get injured.
Winning Through Your Mind
The most important mental attribute to cultivate is patience. I know, I know, it’s not sexy. Good things take a long time to build, and your body is no different. We live day by day, and you will have many individual workouts where it won’t feel like you have improved much. If you remain diligent and steadfast in your workout routine, you will reach a point where you will look back on yourself from 3-6 months ago and be amazed at the progress you have made. Patience becomes especially important when it comes to the boring stuff. New swimming drills are exciting for about a week, but after that it becomes extremely tempting to slack off during them. Don’t do this! Swimming drills are extremely important, as they allow you to focus on one aspect of your stroke at a time. Drills allow you to build good swimming habits that will stick with you when it comes race time.
Swimming Through Time
While it doesn’t matter to some, other take great pride in the fact that they are joining a tradition (of swimming) that is as old as civilization itself. Ancient people in some coastal civilizations would swim for fun and profit. The ocean has always been an abundant source of food.In some cultures a person was not considered educated if they could not swim. The preoccupation with how to swim faster is relatively recent phenomenon. Swimming as a competitive sport seems to have emerged from early 1800’s England. In 1828, the first indoor swimming pool, St George’s Baths, was opened to the public. Within ten years there were regular swimming competitions, and the number of public pools in England grew rapidly. While none of this information will directly teach you how to swim faster, I do think it’s interesting all the same. You can ponder it while resting between your sets!
How To Swim Faster By Swimming With Friends
It’s difficult to maintain a steady practice schedule. Swim workouts are hard and it can become easy to skip them or slack off. Having a friend who keeps you accountable is invaluable. Swimming in a group is also more fun. You can’t talk to each other while swimming, but there is something about training(suffering) in a group that is oddly rewarding. Having a group of people to swim with is vital for long term adherence to a speed regime.