Streamline is the fundamental body position in swimming. Whether you swim long axis strokes (freestyle and backstroke) or short axis strokes (butterfly and breaststroke), there’s some aspect of streamline involved no matter what, from your push off the wall to your body position.
Keep reading to learn more about streamline basics, plus a few drills to help you get off the wall (or block) faster and improve your technique.
What is Streamline?
Streamline is the fastest position in swimming. Each stroke incorporates some aspect of streamline in its technique, from the glide between breaststroke strokes to the rotational forward momentum of freestyle.
When you do streamline properly, you’ll reduce the drag your body creates and turn it into a torpedo, rocketing off the walls and gaining some extra ground (or water!) before you start your stroke.
How to Do Streamline
Let’s break down streamline position into 4 sections: Hands, head, hips and legs:
- Hands: Stack one hand on top of the other. Wrap the top thumb over the bottom hand. Extend your arms overhead, locking out your elbows and squeezing your biceps to your ears.
- Head: Your head should not extend forward past your arms, and you should not look forward at your hands. Keep your eyes looking straight down. Hint: if you can feel your ears on your inner arms, you’re doing it right.
- Hips: Keep the core engaged and squeeze your butt. Think about becoming rigid like a pencil.
- Legs: Squeeze your legs together and point your toes.
Practice this on land a few times before hopping in the water.
Why Does Streamline Matter?
- Extra Momentum
When your streamline is on point, you’ll carry more momentum into your first stroke off of the wall, helping you swim faster overall. This matters especially when you start doing flip turns – you want to maintain as much speed into and out of the turn as you can.
So, the more you can take advantage of streamline (ideally with a few dolphin kicks) off of each wall, the faster you’re likely to swim.
- It’s Faster
You may have noticed that many pro swimmers go a full 15 meters off of each wall during races. This is for good reason! Streamline dolphin kick is faster than all 4 strokes. With that in mind, it’s important to maximize your time in streamline to take full advantage of those speed benefits.
If a pro swimmer does 15 meters in streamline off each wall in a 100m IM, 60% of their race is underwater.
With that in perspective, refining your streamline can play a huge role in your swimming speed and efficiency. And if you don’t plan on racing, hear us out…the better your streamline, the faster you’ll swim in practice, too!
How to Improve Your Streamline
Incorporate these 3 things into your swim workouts to refine your streamline:
- Make Every Turn Count
When you do a swim workout, every push off of the wall is a chance to perfect your streamline. Don’t go on autopilot – instead, work on having a tight streamline, pushing off the wall hard, and keeping your body solid and strong with every turn.
- Streamline Kick
If you kick with a kickboard most of the time, swap that for streamline kick on your back or your stomach. Kick sets are a great chance to work on arm, head and hip positioning in streamline.
- Incorporate Dryland Training
Streamline (and swimming in general) is very core-focused. You can fast-track your streamline improvements with a few days of dryland training each week. Focus on building core stability and shoulder mobility for prime streamline gains. Hint: planks are your friend!
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Drills to Improve Streamline
In addition to the above strategies to improve your streamline, give these drills a shot during your next workout:
Just Float: Take a breath, push off the wall as hard as you can and glide, holding streamline until your body comes to a complete stop. You can do this from a dive (off a block or the side), too.
Related: How to Dive Off the Blocks Faster
Patient Push-offs: When you push off the wall, wait a full second before starting your dolphin kick and beginning your stroke. You should be able to think the word “streamline” before you get going. Doing this will train you to take advantage of that streamline glide rather than cutting it short to start your stroke right away.
Swim Sets to Improve Streamline
Give these swim sets a try to work on streamline! You can do these in freestyle, backstroke or butterfly.
Set 1: 4 x 50 Free or stroke
- Kick halfway or 15m off the turn
- Can also focus on a specific number of dolphin kicks off each wall (ex. 5 kicks off of each wall)
Set 2: 4 x 75 Free or stroke, build dolphin kicks by 25 (pick a number that’s challenging for you). Example:
- 1st 25: 2 kicks underwater
- 2nd 25: 3 kicks underwater
- 3rd 25: 4 kicks underwater
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