It can be frustrating to muscle through the water when other swimmers seem to be gliding by and making it look so easy…how the heck do they do it?
Swimming is all about increasing efficiency and reducing drag so you move through the water like a torpedo.
With the right technique, you will swim faster with less effort, which makes it easier to swim longer distances without getting tired.
Let’s break down six things you can do to improve your freestyle. But first, let’s explain what it takes to actually get faster in swimming.
How to Swim Faster
Fast swimming comes down to two things: Decreasing drag and increasing propulsion. When you start to swim faster, it’s usually because you have done a little bit of both!
Increasing propulsion is pretty straightforward: You need to increase the power of your kick, pull and underwaters so you go further, faster. To do this, many swimmers will do dryland training to build muscle that will help them move faster in the water.
You might also work on increasing your stroke tempo or kick speed.
Decreasing drag is not so easy. And ultimately, good swimming technique minimizes drag as much as possible.
Related: How to Decrease Drag in Swimming
Think of drag like swimming in big, baggy clothes. They’re slowing you down and pulling you back. When your technique is bad, you’re doing pretty much the same thing, on a much smaller scale.
Most of the tips in this article are focused on decreasing drag and making it easier for you to move through the water.
6 Ways to Swim Faster Without Getting Tired
1. Body & Head Position
First up, make sure your body position and head position are on point. We see so many swimmers who are struggling to get faster, and a lot of the time their body position is awful. So let’s fix it!
When you swim, you want to be high in the water, with your hips close to the surface. The lower your legs are, the more drag you will create as you move, and the slower you’ll swim.
To improve this, a good place to start is at your head. Generally, your body position will follow your head. So if you are looking forward, your hips will sink.
Instead, try to look straight down at the bottom of the pool with your neck in a neutral position. This will encourage your hips to float closer to the surface of the water, and make it easier for you to swim!
We know it might feel weird to not look toward where you’re going, but use the black line on the bottom of the pool as your guide. When you reach the T, you know you’re close to the wall!
2. The Catch & Pull
Next up is the catch and pull phase of your stroke. With a few quick fixes, you can increase the power and efficiency of your pull tenfold!
Let’s start with the hand entry. In freestyle, your hand should enter the water about 18 inches, or half a meter, in front of your shoulder, with the middle finger first.
Imagine there’s a line that runs from the top of your head to your toes. Try not to cross your arms over that line! It’s much less efficient.
After your hand enters the water, stretch out as far as you can, and rotate your body toward the extended arm. In freestyle and backstroke, your body’s rotation can also help you stay afloat. Check out our favorite drills to fix your freestyle hand entry.
Then it’s time to start pulling. Initiate your pull with a high elbow with your hand, wrist and forearm in line as you start to pull straight back, keeping that elbow high.
This is called Early Vertical Forearm, and it essentially turns your hand, wrist and forearm into a giant paddle, so you can pull more water.
Make sure you pull in a straight line…none of that S pull funny business. They thought it was the best way to pull back in the day, but they were wrong!
As you pull, keep your hands somewhat relaxed with a slight space between each finger. It seems counterintuitive, but the space actually helps you swim faster!
As your pull ends, you’ll enter the recovery phase of your stroke. Keep that elbow high as you return back to your starting point.
To practice your catch and pull, try the Fist Drill. Swim freestyle with your hands in fists, which will make you really work for that Early Vertical Forearm. Try a few 25s or 50s and you’ll feel the difference!
For so many swimmers, breathing is a real struggle. They can’t figure out how to breathe without inhaling water, and they sink every time they lift their head for a breath.
To fix your breathing, we recommend the following:
- Don’t lift your head when you breathe! Remember, your hips follow your head position, so when your head goes up, your hips sink. And we don’t want heavy hips!!
- Don’t turn too far to the side as you breathe. You’re just slowing yourself down! If you can see the ceiling or the sky straight above you when you breathe, you’ve rotated WAY too far. Instead, focus on keeping one eye in the water and one eye out of the water when you breathe.
- Exhale while your face is in the water. We recommend exhaling out of your nose, but some people prefer to breathe out of their mouths. If you try to exhale and inhale when you turn your head, it’s not gonna go well.
- Find a breathing pattern, and stick with it! Many swimmers breathe every two strokes, others do every three or four. Whatever helps you maintain a consistent stroke rhythm is what we want! You’ll get less tired because you’re giving your body a steady supply of oxygen.
To work on your breathing technique, try the Paddle Drill. Place a hand paddle on the crown of your head and swim freestyle. Your forward momentum will keep the paddle in place, and you’ll be forced into proper breathing technique to keep it from falling off.
4. The Kick
Next we’re gonna focus on your kick. Specifically, your knee bend and the width of your kick.
Your freestyle kick should come from your hips, not your knees. When you bend your knees a lot, you’re limiting the potential of your kick. You’re essentially just using your lower leg to kick, instead of your whole leg.
When you kick, your knees should be slightly bent, but not too much.
Next, take a look at how wide your kick is. You might think that it will be more powerful if you try to kick as wide as possible each time, but that’s actually creating more drag. Instead, keep your kick to no more than 18 inches wide. Try not to kick wider than your bodyline to reduce drag.
It’s better to have a short, fast kick than a large, slow one. Like with your breathing, choose a kicking rhythm that works best for you. Many swimmers choose a six-beat kick, which means they kick three times for every arm stroke. And other people (mostly distance swimmers) like a two beat kick, which is one kick per arm stroke. Check out our video on kick patterns to find the one that works best for you!
Streamline is the foundational position in swimming. Your proper freestyle body position is a version of streamline!
Streamline is also the fastest you’ll ever be in the water, because when you do it right, you’re creating the least amount of drag. And we want to maximize your time in streamline as much as possible! Every time you dive into the pool or do a turn, there’s a chance to get a speed boost from your streamline and underwaters.
You can practice your streamline position right now!
- Stand up, and squeeze your arms together overhead.
- Stack one hand on top of the other.
- Engage your core, squeeze your legs together and point your toes.
- Make sure your head is in line with your arms. Think biceps by the ears! That’s streamline!
When you push off the wall, imagine your body is a torpedo, rocketing through the water.
Add a few dolphin kicks to push yourself even further. Similar to your freestyle kick, try not to overdo it on your dolphin kick. Tighter and faster is better.
To work on your dolphin kick, set a goal to take a certain number of kicks off of each wall for the duration of a set or workout. Two, three, 10…pick a number that’s challenging but doable and get going!
6. Follow a Swim Training Plan
All the technique stuff we’ve talked about so far is great, but you won’t get better unless you put it all into practice! Yep, that means you’ve gotta swim a lot.
Even the best swimmers get tired when they swim. But that’s because they’re pushing themselves hard. Once you get in shape, just swimming on its own will not be the reason you’re tired. You’ll be able to vary the structure and intensity of your workouts and start pushing yourself harder to improve your performance.
To get there, you need a structured plan that helps you progress toward your goals. In the MySwimPro app, you can get a personalized Training Plan that’s geared toward your swimming speed and skill level, with specific drills and workouts to help you focus on technique, speed and endurance.
Plus, if you swim with a smartwatch, you can track your improvement over time, including your best 100 times, stroke efficiency, heart rate and more. Remember, what gets measured, gets improved! So if you’re ready to start training, download MySwimPro and let’s get started!
To take things a step further, add a few dryland training sessions to your schedule to build strength and endurance that will translate to the pool. You can only build so much strength in the water, so try lifting weights, doing yoga or whatever cross-training activity you enjoy.
Related: How to Cross-Train for Swimming
You have the option to add short dryland workouts to your swim training plan in the MySwimPro app, so give those a shot if you’re new to strength training!
If all the stuff we’ve covered in this article seems like a lot, that’s because it is! Once you start working on your technique, don’t expect to swim perfectly after a week or even a month. Even the best swimmers in the world aren’t perfect!
Improving takes time, so be patient and stay committed to your plan and your goals. It’s about getting 1% better every day. Choose one or two things to focus on during each workout, or even during each set. Commit to getting out of your comfort zone and pushing yourself to be better.
We’d love to hear what you think! Let us know in the comments if you have any tips or tricks for swimming without getting tired. If you’re ready to start your swimming journey, download the MySwimPro app and get your custom Training Plan today!