The world’s best swimmers didn’t become the best by accident! They have spent thousands of hours honing their skills and have dedicated their lives to the sport.
We’re not saying you have to drop everything and focus entirely on swimming like the pros do in order to swim faster, but you can definitely learn a few things from them. Check out these seven ways professional swimmers take their training to the next level. Apply these tips to your own swimming routine and watch yourself improve!
1. Set SMART Goals
The best swimmers are laser focused on their goals, and that’s a huge part of their success, but that’s not the whole story. How they set their goals also plays a major role in their achievements. They often use the SMART goals model. SMART goals are:
- Specific: What are you going to do? “Swim faster” is not enough. Try “Swim the 100 backstroke in 1:15” instead. That’s more specific!
- Measurable: Tie a number into your goal. In the example above, we’ve set 1:15 as our goal time. That’s easy to measure!
- Attainable: Set goals that you can actually achieve. Sure, a 100 backstroke in :59 sounds great, but if you’re at 1:18 currently, that’s not quite achievable right now. A three-second drop from 1:18 to 1:15 is more doable.
- Relevant: Your goals should be relevant to you. If the 100 backstroke is your best event, the goal above is great! If you’re actually a long distance freestyler, maybe it’s time to reevaluate your goals.
- Time-Bound: Give yourself a deadline to achieve your goal.
Using our example above, here’s a complete SMART goal:
“I will swim the 100 backstroke in 1:15 by November 1.”
Once your goal is set, write it down on paper! Put it in your locker, or tape it to your mirror so you see it every day.
With defined goals, you can work backward to create a training regimen that will help you reach your goal. Learn more about setting SMART goals here.
2. Follow a Personalized Plan
Fast swimmers are NOT doing random workouts they found on the internet. They usually work with a coach who creates a long-term plan tailored to their goals and competition schedule.
Related: Why You Need a Structured Swim Training Plan
And you should do the same! Obviously it’s not attainable for all of us to have our own private swim coach, and that’s why we built the MySwimPro app! Enter your times and goals and we’ll create a personalized Training Plan just for you.
What makes a “good plan?”
The best training plans incorporate the following factors:
- Progression toward a specific goal: Your plan guides you toward your goal over a few months or weeks.
- Workout specificity: Your training should focus on the skills you need to accomplish your goal, including speed, endurance and technique.
- Technical feedback: The best plans give you real-time feedback to help you improve. They should include drills!
- Adapts over time: As your fitness improves, your workouts should adjust accordingly. Workout duration may increase, your intervals might get faster, and you may incorporate more intensity or effort level variation into your training.
3. Work (Really) Hard
There’s no denying that elite swimmers work incredibly hard. But many non-pro swimmers work hard too! It’s time to be honest with yourself: Can you confidently say that you’re giving your all during every workout?
The best swimmers in the world have incredible work ethic, so much so that swimming is their job! We can certainly learn a lot from them.
Related: Analyzing Caeleb Dressel’s Freestyle Technique
There’s always going to be someone who is working harder than you, professional or not, but what’s important is that you are giving it your best every day and leveling up your training over time.
Wherever you’re at now, there’s a good chance you can push yourself a little harder. We guarantee that, at the very least, you can work smarter. Can you put more effort into your dynamic warm up before swimming, or your stretching routine after? What about your nutrition? Or the intensity you bring to your main set? There’s always room to improve!
4. Train the Mind
Swimming is more than just a physical sport. Your mental game plays a huge role in your success in the pool, and many pro swimmers can attest to that.
The best swimmers have a growth mindset, meaning that they know there’s always room to improve and grow – and get faster. They know that if they set their mind to something, they can achieve it. They’re able to visualize success in training and competition.
Related: Why Your Mental Game is So Important in Swimming
The best way to cultivate a growth mindset is to surround yourself with positivity. You can do this in your online community, your swim team, your coaches, your family…you get the idea. When you feel supported and understood, you’ll excel.
Ultimately, a positive mindset will make or break your performance. Push away the negativity and work to create an environment that breeds success.
Some athletes enjoy journaling or meditation to help improve their mindset and calm nerves. Give that a try – even just five minutes a day can make a big impact!
5. Listen to Their Bodies
The fastest swimmers are extremely in tune with their bodies. So much so that they’ll adjust their training plan to make sure their bodies can perform at the top level.
It’s common to change one (or more) of these eight factors based on how your body is feeling:
- Technique: Does your stroke feel “off”? Make changes and work on drills!
- Training: Does your training plan align well with your goals and schedule?
- Intensity: Are your workouts too intense? Or do you have more in the tank to kick it up a notch?
- Recovery: Does your body need more time to recover between workouts?
- Stroke: Are you training enough stroke variety to improve across the board? Are you doing too much freestyle, and not leaving enough time to focus on backstroke?
- Equipment: Are you relying too much on equipment? Or do you need to add some more tools to your arsenal?
- Resistance: Is the equipment you’re using providing enough resistance?
- Volume: Are you swimming too much or too little volume during your workouts?
6. Train Out of the Water
Dryland training is essential to swimming fast, and boy don’t the pros know it. They dedicate hours each week to the weight room to build strength and power that translates to the water.
But that’s not all that dryland can be used for. It’s also important to spend time on injury prevention between swims. If you don’t you might be stuck with a painful shoulder injury that keeps you out of the water.
If you’re new to dryland training, try incorporating one or two sessions per week to start. For personalized dryland training programs, check out the MySwimPro app!
7. Take a Holistic Approach to Performance
Ultimately, the fastest swimmers are really good at taking a holistic approach to their training. You won’t improve in the water by adding just one of our tips to your routine. You have to go all-in.
The pros take it even further, incorporating the following in addition to the tips above:
- Nutrition: Fueling with enough calories after workouts, and eating the right balance of food to give the body energy before workouts. Think of your body like a race car!
- Hydration: You sweat a lot when you swim! Drink lots of water and make sure you’re getting enough electrolytes.
- Recovery & Sleep: Prioritize 7-9 hours of sleep per night, and spend time stretching or foam rolling to help your muscles recover.
- Menstrual Cycle: Some women track their menstrual cycles and adjust their nutrition and training to align with changes in hormonal levels throughout the cycle.
If you’re committed to taking your swimming to the next level, take a page out of the pros’ book. Stay consistent. Just start somewhere!
For personalized training guidance, custom workouts and analytics, download the MySwimPro app. Share your best times and your goals, and we’ll create a Training Plan just for you!
Thanks, what exercises are the most effective out of the water?
Hi there! This blog post has tons of resources and examples for dryland exercises to help you get stronger! https://blog.myswimpro.com/2018/10/04/dryland-exercises-for-swimmers/
I recognize all the crafty ways to institute and then follow training regimes.
I recognize that they ALL will work if you abandon yourself to them…
However, after 55 years away from rigorous training, I no longer want to have that “gun” to my head.
My goal is to attempt to expend as few strokes as possible to complete a length.
My goal is to get at least to midway from a wall push-off with a stroke & a kick
My goal is to feel the water as I push against it/with it
My goal is to learn to glide, as flying through liquid air
My goal is to ignore the time it takes me, to meditate on exhaling as much as possible, as long as possible
My goal is to gain an endorphin rush, without pushing myself
My goal is to lose track of the numbers… of time, of laps, of speed, of breaths
My goal is to reclaim the simple joys of swimming
I swam competitively from 7th grade till my 2nd year in college. I attempted to reclaim my stamina in my 30s, but got sick to my stomach from my first workout… my last too. As I approach 75 years old, I have NO desire to compete or subject myself to time management, or pain. I will take my pain as a ritual cold shower to stay and keep awake.
But the days of performing better/faster/further are over,… for me
All of those are great goals, Richard! Happy swimming 🙂