If you want to be the fastest swimmer you can be, you have to work on improving your technique and your mental game. Practice and determination are key. The most important thing, though, is to get the technique down. Without proper technique, what is the point of practicing?If you want to learn how to shave seconds or even minutes off of your best race times, see Step below.
Improving Your Technique
1. Decrease your drag.
Swimmers often focus on swimming as fast as possible, not swimming with the least amount of drag. Drag is the resistance your body has against the water. Remember that it takes true skill, not just force, to bring down that drag. There are many ways to decrease your drag, such as improving your balance or swimming taller.
Exhale slowly as you’re swimming. Alan Fang, a former competitive swimmer, says: “A lot of swimmers hold their breath when their face is in the water, but that actually takes more time because when you turn your head to breathe, you have to exhale and then inhale again. Over time, that will slow you down. Instead, try to constantly exhale air out while your head is in the water, so when you turn your head to breathe, you can just inhale.”
2. Improve your balance.
This is a great way to decrease your drag. To stay balanced, maintain a position that is as horizontal as it can possibly be as you move through the water. This will make it so that the least amount of water gets in your path, slowing you down. This is especially important for the freestyle stroke, where you have to keep yourself from lifting your head too much, which disrupts your balance, so you have to kick harder to counterbalance.
This is a bit different when it comes to the breaststroke and butterfly stroke, because your body undulates instead of being perfectly balanced during the strokes.
3. Swim taller.
Try to make yourself as tall as possible when you’re in the water. The taller or longer you are, the better and faster you can swim. For example, to swim taller during the free stroke, you have to enter your recovering arm into the water early, once it passes over your head; you should extend your recovering arm forward as far is it will go before you begin the down sweep and catch.
Think about it: if your body is all scrunched up instead of stretched nice and tall, it’ll be more difficult to move through the water.
4. Kick efficiently.
When you kick, you shouldn’t break the surface of the water or move your legs too low below the body line—it all goes back to maintaining balance. If you do this, you’ll be off balance, creating more drag.
5. Improve your propulsion.
This does not mean you should focus more on strength than skill. Remember that about 10% of your speed comes from your legs, while the rest comes from your arms, so you should focus on pulling hard and making sure your legs don’t slow you down, but instead help propel you forward faster.
6. Use your sides.
Don’t be afraid to roll from side to side a bit more as you use each arm stroke. This will let you make better use of those big back muscles and will also make better use of your shoulder strength. It does take some getting used to in practice, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll have a better command of your strength, as well as your speed.
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7. Don’t forget your core muscles.
The core is made up of your back, hip, abdomen (abs), and torso muscles, and it’s especially important to use it when you’re rolling from side to side. Making use of those muscles will help you swim more cleanly and more quickly, though it may feel a bit awkward to place more emphasis on your core instead of your arms and legs, at first. Try purposefully tensing them up to keep your body straighter, too.
8. Anchor your arms.
In order to maximize your speed, you have to align your hand and your forearm and have them face backwards. This makes it easier to move your arm backward for strokes. You might have heard of this technique as the high elbow catch during the freestyle stroke, because you have to keep your elbow above your head to really master this move.
9. Maintain a neutral head position.
To swim as fast as possible, aim to have a neutral head position throughout your stroke. Keeping your head positioned this way reduces drag and makes strokes more efficient. If your head isn’t centered, you’ll be swimming to one side. Incorrect head position may be the reason you feel you are “sinking” because of lowered hips or muscular legs. You should be looking down, not up or forward, to keep your body as horizontal as possible in the freestyle position. To keep your head and eyes down, keep your neck relaxed; this will keep your lower body higher in the water.
If you’re more of a visual thinker, take this advice from the swimmer, Garret McCaffery: “Imagine you are a whale, there is a blowhole on your neck, and you need that hole accessible at all times so you can breathe or you will die. If your neck is angled you closed the hole and you can’t breathe. You need to position your head so your neck is at the right angle.”
10. Spread your fingers when you swim.
By spreading your fingers slightly, instead of clamping them together, you create an “invisible web” that can help exert 53% more force! The ideal spacing is 20-40% of the diameter of the finger. Though this will not make as big of a difference as the other steps, together it will help to make you faster.
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