Working on technique regularly will drastically improve your overall swimming efficiency, speed, and confidence in the water. We’ve put together a a 10-step video series that will help you master the fundamentals of freestyle!
Whether you’re a fitness swimmer, masters competitor or elite triathlete, every swimmer will benefit from the instructional video content provided in this series.
Check out our tips below, then check out MySwimPro Coach to unlock hundreds of technique videos and drills in the MySwimPro app.
In this series, we break the stroke down into 10 fundamental components.
Related: Tips for a Perfect Streamline
Streamline is the fundamental body position in swimming. Start by standing up tall and extending your arms overhead with one hand over the other. The thumb of your top hand should wrap around the hand underneath. The goal here is to minimize resistance. A solid streamline is how you start every length in swimming.
Once you’ve mastered pushing off the wall in streamline, you’ll notice you take fewer strokes, and carry more speed into your first stroke. You’ll also engage your core as you begin to heighten your body awareness in the water.
2) Hand Entry
You’re most efficient when your hand enters the water about 18 inches in front of your shoulder at a 45 degree angle. Enter with your middle finger first with little or no splash. Once your hand is in the water, drive forward to full extension and let gravity take over. Try and relax. Think about sliding your hand into the water with every stroke rather than muscling through.
3) Rotational Momentum
Driving your rotational momentum from the hips is a necessary part of swimming fast. To work on rotation, try the 3 strokes + 12 kicks drill. Take 3 strokes and balance on your side for 12 kicks with the bottom arm extended forward. Focus on keeping your balance and a proper body line. You should be completely on your side with your head down during the duration of the 12 kicks.
Remember that rotational power comes from your hips and then your shoulders. You can try this drill with fins to help keep your balance and keep you moving fast enough to really feel the effect of the drill.
4) Head Position
Looking at the black line on the bottom of the pool is the key to moving through the water efficiently. When you push off the wall, your eyes should be focused on the bottom. Keep them there as you swim.
The higher your head is, the lower your hips and legs are, so focus on keeping your head in line and eyes down to reduce drag and keep your hips near the surface.
Getting into a good breathing pattern can make all the difference in being able to swim only one length at a time or for one hour at a time. Focus on keeping one eye in the water when you rotate to your side to breathe. The arm opposite to the side you’re breathing on should remain extended and in line with the rest of your body.
The more comfortable you are breathing on your side, the less your head will come out of the water. Try and get into a rhythm. Many swimmers breathe every two or three strokes.
Related: The 5 Most Common Kicking Mistakes
Kicking is fundamental to efficient swimming and training. Many swimmers kick with bent knees, thinking it’s more powerful. Contrary to conventional wisdom, a smaller kick is faster than a larger kick. The key to having a fast kick is creating speed through the hips. Think short and fast over big and powerful. Kicking in streamline on your back is a good way to practice.
Fins are also a helpful tool to help you develop a short and fast kick. Sometimes not kicking at all is the best way to improve stroke efficiency. It’s up to you to experiment with what works best. When you start to use your legs, make sure they’re helping propel you forward and not slowing you down.
The key to a powerful catch is Early Vertical Forearm. To practice EVF, try Fist Drill! Ball up both your hands into fists and swim as you normally would. By reducing the surface area of your hand, you’re forced to pull the water more efficiently with your entire arm. This really engages your forearms and forces you into EVF. As you extend forward imagine you’re reaching over a large log to pull yourself forward.
Once you go back to normal swimming, the nerves in your hands should feel alive and swimming should feel effortless.
8) High Elbows
Having a high-elbow stroke simply means your elbow is always above your hand, whether it’s in the water or out of the water.
To practice high elbows in the recovery phase of your stroke, try Zipper Drill. At the end of every stroke, zip your hand up across your torso and into your armpit before reaching forward and placing your hand In the water.
This will also help you engage your back muscles and help prevent shoulder injury down the road. No matter what your speed, keeping your elbows high is a must for efficient swimming.
9) Follow Through
Your follow through is all about the last third of your stroke. Ideally, you want your hand to exit the water near your hip, completing a full stroke. This phase of the stroke is often lost first when you get tired.
Try the Follow-Through Drill to work on this. Engage your triceps to make sure your hand is exiting the water on a full stroke. It should feel like your hand is accelerating through the pull-phase of the stroke. Don’t get lazy here, make sure you’re getting the maximum distance per stroke and follow through in a straight line.
10) Silent Swimming
When you swim, you’re creating resistance. With Silent Swimming, we want you to not only just feel the way your body moves through the water, but also listen to it. Use all your senses and try to focus on the noise your hand makes as it enters the water. Listen to the sound your body makes when you exhale under water. Try and relax. It’s usually best to finish every workout with a few lengths of Silent Swimming to really connect with yourself and the water.
Bonus: How To Swim Smarter For The Rest of Your Life
Beyond continuously improving your technique, the key to swimming faster is consistency and intensity. Make sure you’re in the water regularly to really to develop a feel for the water. It doesn’t have to be every day, but two to three times per week is enough to get into a good rhythm. Up your intensity with equipment.
Fins, paddles, and a snorkel are great tools to not only elevate the intensity of your workout, but reinforce proper stroke mechanics. At the end of the day, make sure you enjoy your time in the water.
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