As simple as it sounds, there’s really only two ways to swim faster.
- Decrease Drag
- Increase Propulsion
Watch this Whiteboard Wednesday episode to learn more!
Or, you can listen to this episode on Soundcloud:
Drag is the resistance that your body creates in the water. Remember, that water is 800 times more dense than air so your body is going to create a lot more drag in the water than on land. Drag is what slows you down; therefore, to swim faster, you must decrease drag!
How do you decrease drag?
When you adjust your head position and look at the bottom of the pool, you’ll improve your hip position and raise your legs in the water. Instead of your legs dragging through the water, they should float at the surface. The only way to do this is by keeping your eyes on the bottom of the pool…it will feel like you’re swimming downhill.
Beyond improving your body and head position, you can reduce drag by rotating. In long-axis strokes like Freestyle and Backstroke, you don’t need to fully rotate to both sides each time you take a stroke, but by rotating, you not only improve efficiency by increasing your distance per stroke, but also reducing the amount of space you occupy in the water.
Additionally, you can reduce drag by making your kick smaller. Kicking can actually slow you down and cause more resistance by way of drag than propulsion you are creating. It’s often counterintuitive, but you can swim much faster without kicking by keeping your legs straight and in line with your body. Kicking is only beneficial when the amplitude of your kick fits inside the amount of displacement your body creates in the water.
Increasing propulsion primarily comes down to improving the efficacy of your catch. Yes, you can improve your kick, and this will play a role in increasing propulsion, but your biggest improvement (with regard to propulsion) will come from improving the way your fingertips, hands, and arms catch the water.
Related: 5 Freestyle Drills for Advanced Swimmers
There are three main phases of the catch:
- Initial Catch – when your fingertips first slide into the water at a 45 degree angle. Your arm should extend straight out from your shoulder.
- EVF – (Early Vertical Forearm): Watch this Whiteboard Wednesday to learn more.
- Pull Phase – Pulling your body through the water using your hand and arm as an anchor. This phase continues through the exit when your hand leaves the water and begin the recovery phase.
It sounds simple, but it’s true. Start with technique and build speed and endurance off of that. Without technique, you essentially have nothing to build off of. Once you start to get a feel of the water and your stroke technique is consistently improving, it’s time to apply training techniques to improve your performance. The best way to do to this is with speed.
“If you want to swim faster, train faster”
How to Train Faster
You might be thinking to yourself, it’s not that easy to just ‘swim faster’. You are correct, without changing anything, it’s very hard to all of a sudden swim faster. On the flip side, you do have more control over how fast you can swim in training than you think. Here’s a few tips how you can do that!
- Add Rest – Yup! Just give yourself more time to recover between repetitions and you will swim faster.
- Shorter Distance – You can still do the same total distance of workout in shorter repetitions. This will allow you to hold onto your speed for more reps and keep your technique sharp.
- Add Equipment – this is the most immediate way to swim faster with more effort. You can combine equipment to swim shorter reps with more rest to produce above-race pace performance.
First focus on technique, then teach your body how to swim faster. It’s hard work, but that’s the best way to improve your performance and get to the next level of swimming!
If you’re looking for swim workout ideas, download the MySwimPro app to start your Personalized Training Plan. You’ll get detailed technique videos, drills, and a calendar of Guided Workouts that are tailored to your specific goals.
If you’ve made it this far, you’ll definitely be interested in our video about How to Swim Perfect Freestyle.
I hope this Whiteboard Wednesday was helpful in mastering the perfect freestyle. Have questions? Leave us a comment below! For more tips like this, follow our series on the MySwimPro YouTube Channel!
If you’re looking for swim workout ideas, download the MySwimPro app to start your Personalized Training Plan. You’ll get a calendar of Guided Workouts that are tailored to your specific goals. Use code SWIM35 to save $35 on your first year of MySwimPro Coach >
Ok, saw the video on dryland exercises. Good grief, if I could do those I wouldn’t need any exercise. I’m 68, old swimmer. Feel like I’m losing strength, losing speed. Any suggested exercises for the average aging guy?
PS great app!
Hey Robert, thanks for the support. We totally understand that video is a little advanced, but there are always alternatives for a lower intensity approach. Try slowing the exercises down, or focus on bodyweight movements. In the meantime, We will work on producing more videos that show more options. Thanks again! -Paige
You have mentioned some great points! I feel swimming close to the surface can also help increase speed. Since, when you swimming near the surface, you encounter less water resistance.
You have explained every step and points in a great way. I am trying to improve my swimming every day.
I have read all the points but video at the end opened my mind and now it’s the time to implement them.
Glad you found this post helpful! Happy swimming!
I’m a 68 year old female. I swim a km in 35 mins in backstroke every 2 weeks. An hours drive away. I have a right hand shoulder injury and still work long hours as a florist. I’m always sore and tired. Gluten free/ dairy free. Can you help me improve my speed and health. I want to compete in the masters when I’m 70. Nancy
Hi Nancy, If you are able to get to the pool more often, that will be key in improving your speed. Even 2-3 times per week should help you see some speed improvements! You may enjoy these training plans in the MySwimPro app: