In swimming, your success as an athlete hinges on how efficiently you can move through the water. It’s a medium that’s nearly 800x more dense than air, and requires an entirely different set of technical skills than any other land-based sport. For this reason, any flaw in form is magnified exponentially in the water.
Honing your technique is the best way to reach your potential in any activity, but this is truer in swimming than any other sport. Working on improving technique regularly can drastically improve your overall swimming efficiency, speed, and confidence in the water.
Technique in swimming is so vital that being able to move through the water efficiently determines how well you swim far more than being in great shape does. Two swimmers with a comparable VO2 max will most likely not swim with the same efficiency and rate of speed. You don’t have to be in amazing shape to work on the fundamentals, which is why everyone from novice to elite should work regularly to improve their stroke mechanics.
Alex Popov is one of the greatest freestyle stroke technicians of his time, and his superior technique can be attributed to why his 50m Freestyle World Record stood for 8 years before falling to the technical suit era. His legendary swim coach describes his technique below:
“Alexander has never practiced anything but perfect, flawless technique in the pool. He doesn’t know any differently. He has perfect body position and perfect application of strength. That is why he can swim so well even when he is out of shape–and it’s why he beats the best swimmers in the world.”
– Gennadi Touretsky
Triathletes Are Weakest At Swimming
When it comes to swimming, the big difference between a triathlete and a former competitive swimmer is that the competitive swimmer might be able to go 50% faster using the same level of work output. Why?
Most swimmers develop the proper stroke mechanics and feel for the water at a very young age. Many triathletes who come from a running or biking background spend countless hours in the water attempting to develop the illusive feel for the water swimmers have.
While you can’t win a triathlon on the swim, you can certainly lose one there. However, triathletes should not be discouraged. As a coach I am always excited to work with triathletes because they have much potential to improve their swimming efficiency with just a few minor stroke adjustments.
Freestyle Technique and Training Clinic
One of the best ways to discover proper stroke technique is to work on the fundamentals with experienced coaches. This weekend, Will Raynor, Michael Metzger along with myself ran an in-depth freestyle technique and training clinic for masters swimmers and triathletes in the greater Toledo, Ohio area!
The multi-phase clinic started with a classroom discussion on proper stroke fundamentals and the components of fast efficient swimming. We played multi-camera angle footage of distance swimmer Sun Yang. As the World Record holder in the 1500m Freestyle, we dissected all the major elements of his stroke including the high-elbow catch, his body position, and overall swimming efficiency. We also discussed the swimming equation and symbiotic relationship between distance per stroke (DPS) and stroke rate (SR).
After the classroom we hit the pool, where Will and I demonstrated the drills we discussed to show what a long efficient freestyle looks like. Will was able to drop down to just 7 strokes by stretching out his body line and maintaining a balanced hip-driven freestyle. Together we demoed several balance and propulsion drills including:
- Max Distance Per Stroke (head position + rotational momentum)
- Front Sculling (working on catch and developing feel for the water with forearm)
- Catchup Drill (early vertical forearm with a steady kick)
- Single-Arm Freestyle (working on developing an early vertical forearm and rotating)
- Fist Drill (holding water with forearms)
All our athletes had the opportunity to work on every drill and receive stroke critique in a one-on-one coaching environment. Getting feedback from both the coaches and other athletes fosters an open and collaborative learning environment. Our goal is for every athlete to walk away with a fresh understanding of their stroke and what they can do to improve their stroke technique to ultimately swim smarter!
Looking for more swim workouts and drills?
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Start your 7-day free trial of MySwimPro Premium to unlock a full library of drill videos, workouts and training plans right on your phone or smartwatch:
- Beginner Freestyle Fundamentals (4 weeks)
- Get Fit – Freestyle (6 weeks)
- Enhance Speed (8 weeks)
- Improve Endurance (8 weeks)
- Get Fit – IM (8 weeks)
- IMX Pro Challenge (10 weeks)
- 10k Challenge (10 weeks)
- 5k Open Water (12 weeks)
- Open Water Plan (12 weeks)