Yes, you read that title right…you can swim faster using less energy. Seems counterintuitive, but it’s possible!
When you refine your technique and build strength in the right places, you move through the water with less drag, which allows you to swim longer distances more quickly. Read on for four ways to improve your swimming speed and efficiency, plus a free swim workout to try!
How to Swim Faster
Swimming faster comes down to two factors: Reducing drag and increasing propulsion.
Water is 800 times more dense than air, and small changes in your technique and body position can slow you down big time. Learning how to reduce drag will make a huge impact on your speed!
When you combine reduced drag with increased power in your stroke (propulsion), you swim faster. It sounds simple, but can take months or years to master.
4 Ways to Improve Swimming Efficiency
1. Improve Your Body Position
Your head position dictates where the rest of your body sits in the water. If you lift your head up, your hips will sink, which increases drag. When your head is in a neutral position, your hips float to the surface of the water: your ideal hip position.
60-80% of your head should be below the surface of the water. If you can see the bottom of the pool, your head is most likely neutral. It can be helpful to think about swimming “downhill” to achieve proper head and hip position.
2. Work on Streamline
Streamline is arguably the most important position in swimming. You go fastest in streamline off of a dive or the wall — learning how to minimize drag in your streamline will help you swim faster overall. You want to make your body like a torpedo off the wall!
Related: How to Have a Perfect Streamline
It all starts with your hands. Stack one hand on top of the other, and wrap your top thumb over the bottom hand.
Squeeze your elbows to your ears, and maintain a neutral head position. Your core should be engaged, and your legs should be squeezed tightly together, with your toes pointed.
In your swim workouts, try to push off the wall in a tight streamline and do a few dolphin kicks before you start swimming.
3. Improve Distance Per Stroke
Distance per stroke is measured in the number of strokes you take in each lap. If you take fewer strokes per lap, your distance per stroke is higher — and you swim more efficiently. If you take more strokes, your distance per stroke is lower.
Related: How to Improve Distance Per Stroke
As you get more experienced swimming, you’ll start to notice the optimal number of strokes it takes for you to swim a length of the pool. This is your Maximum Distance Per Stroke (MDPS). There are a few ways to improve your MDPS:
SWOLF is a combination of the number of strokes you take and the amount of time it takes you to swim 25 meters. The lower your number, the more efficient your swimming!
Apple and Garmin watches (as well as the MySwimPro app!) automatically calculate SWOLF for you.
Improving your rotation in freestyle and backstroke will set you up for a strong Early Vertical Forearm catch and a powerful pull. Rotation should come from your hips and shoulders.
Swimming has its limits when it comes to building strength — you need to supplement your training with dryland if you want to get faster and improve your distance per stroke.
Dryland can include weight lifting, bodyweight training, yoga, cycling, running and more. It’s up to you to find the best dryland workouts for your needs — we recommend incorporating your activity of choice 2-3 times per week for maximum benefits.
For swimming-specific strength training, the KayakPro SwimFast Ergometer is a great option.
The SwimFast is designed to complement your pool training to help you build strength and technique out of the water so you can swim faster.
It’s perfect if you have limited access to a pool, or if you’re tight on time. Spend just 15 minutes per day on the SwimFast Erg and you’ll start seeing results! Some of our favorite features include:
- Variable Resistance Settings: Work on tempo at lower resistance, or build strength with higher resistance.
- Hi-Resistance Bands: Add extra resistance to build more strength!
- Rotating Bench: Mimics your freestyle stroke.
- Full Palm Hand Paddles: Help you work on proper hand position.
4. Improve Your Kick
You may not realize it, but your kick can actually be a major contributor to drag in your stroke! Many swimmers have a wide kick that extends past their body line. This is a no-no!
Related: The 5 Biggest Kicking Mistakes
In freestyle, backstroke and butterfly, your kick should be small and fast, and not extend higher or lower than your body line — about 18 inches (0.5 meters) is a good rule of thumb. Don’t bend your knees too much, either. Pretend you’re kicking inside of a bucket! In breaststroke, your knees shouldn’t open wider than your shoulders.
Proper kick technique will increase your propulsion and help you swim faster!
Swim Workout & Training Plans to Improve Freestyle Efficiency
If you’re interested in spending more time working on your technique and efficiency, check out the Technique Bootcamp Training Plans in the MySwimPro app!
- The Freestyle Technique Bootcamp is designed to help beginners improve efficiency and stroke mechanics. Workouts average 1,500 yards/meters.
- The Advanced Freestyle Technique Bootcamp is ideal for experienced swimmers. Workouts average 3,000 yards/meters.
Each Workout in these Plans is personalized to your speed and skill level, so you get exactly what you need each swim. Get specialized drills and coaching to help you improve every aspect of your stroke! Sign up for MySwimPro Coach to unlock these Training Plans. Use code SWIM35 to save $35 on your first year of training!
Try This Technique Swim Workout
Give this main set a try to work on swimming efficiency!
- 4×25 Drill, streamline focus
- 4×25 Drill, rotational power focus (1-2: 3 Strokes, 12 Kicks, 3-4: Freestyle with tap on opposite hip)
- 4×50 Freestyle, negative split strokes (take fewer strokes on the 2nd lap than the 1st lap)
- 4×100 Freestyle, descend 1-4
For more swimming tips and Workouts, download the MySwimPro app on iPhone or Android. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for weekly technique tips! Learn more about the KayakPro SwimFast Ergometer >