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After decades of swimming, most experienced swimmers look back and see a few cringe-worthy mistakes that made their swimming journey tougher.

Whether they didn’t train correctly or spent too much time with the wrong mindset, many swimmers had to learn the hard way…but not you!

Avoid making these common mistakes to fast-track your swimming progress and make the sport more fun. Check out our video below for how to swim faster. Plus, fix these 10 mistakes!

1. Breathing Off The Wall

When you push off the wall, the moment you take a breath of fresh air – your momentum immediately slows down. It’s important to delay that first breath as long as you can go.

First of all, in freestyle you should never lift your head up when it comes time to breathe.

We always recommend that you push off the wall in perfect streamline, take a few strokes with your head underwater, then once you are absolutely ready to breathe, take that first breath! In freestyle, make sure you breathe to the side. In butterfly, this can look like doing 1-3 strokes with your head down.

Obviously this does not apply to breaststroke or backstroke.

2. Not Pushing Off The Wall In Streamline

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. 

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. 

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. 

If you want to know how to swim faster, 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 Do Streamline

Let’s break down streamline position into 4 sections: Hands, head, hips and legs:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Hips: Keep the core engaged and squeeze your butt. Think about becoming rigid like a pencil.
  4. Legs: Squeeze your legs together and point your toes. 

Practice this on land a few times before hopping in the water. 

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3. Not Doing A Proper Warmup And Cool-Down

So many swimmers think hopping in the pool and swimming a few hundred meters at an easy pace counts as a proper warmup…unfortunately that doesn’t cut it!

You should already be warmed up before you swim your first lap – that means it’s time to add a bit of dynamic stretching to your routine! 

Spend 5-10 minutes on your dynamic warmup to get your blood flowing and prime your muscles and joints for swimming. Try this dynamic warmup before your next swim!

When you take the time to warm up before your swim, you can spend more time working hard in the pool.

4. Swimming Too Fast In The Warmup

Your warmup sets the tone for your workout — a good warmup will prime your muscles and get you ready to perform during the main set. Swimming too fast in your warmup (or no warmup at all) can put you at risk for injuries, and means your body might need some extra time to shake off the cobwebs after you dive in. 

Whether you want to crush the competition in a race or simply beat your lane mates in practice, swimming faster is a great goal. But many swimmers neglect one key aspect of their training in their quest for maximum speed gains: Swimming slow. 

It might feel counterintuitive to hear that you need to swim slow if you want to swim fast, but hear us out. Incorporating more slow swimming into your training can help refine your technique and build endurance so you’re in top shape when it comes time to swim fast. 

Take it easy in your warmup and get your body ready to crush the rest of your workout.

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5. Not Taking Enough Rest Between Sets

To be clear, it’s ok – and encouraged – to push yourself hard in the pool. It goes too far, though, when swimmers think they need to swim to absolute failure in every workout. 

This burnout often happens when swimmers do not take enough time to rest on the wall between sets.

You should not swim so hard that your technique starts to fail. Doing so sets you up for injuries and can also create bad habits that can affect your technique and efficiency in the long term. 

Instead, find a balance. Workouts should be challenging, but doable with good technique most of the time. 

In the MySwimPro app, you can customize your workout settings so that the rest periods between sets and set groups fit your needs. Plus, if you swim a Guided Workout, every workout and interval speed is personalized to your specific goals and times. The app will quickly learn how fast you’re swimming, and will recommend adjusting the intervals if needed.

Think about finishing every workout the way you want your next workout to feel – you should be able to swim a few laps with perfect technique at the end of every workout!

6. Not Training Fast

This might sound obvious: If you want to swim fast, you need to train fast. Most swimmers know this, but when we take a look at their training, they aren’t pushing themselves hard enough. 

Sometimes, this comes down to the type of training you’re doing. If most of your workouts are longer with shorter rest, you won’t swim as fast. Instead, try adding in a few workouts or sets that involve shorter sprints with more rest. You’ll be able to increase your effort and swim faster because your body has more time to recover.

Ultimately, it comes down to speed variation. Every set in your workout should have an intention. Whether that’s easy swimming during warmup, threshold work during a main set or all-out sprints from the blocks, avoid sticking to the same moderate pace all the time. 

7. Only Swimming Freestyle & Ignoring Other Strokes

Some swimmers get stuck swimming the same type of workouts over and over. Maybe they stick to a style of training that they enjoy most or they avoid swimming strokes they aren’t good at. And while that works for a little while, they eventually plateau, get bored and struggle to swim faster.

Instead, we recommend adding lots of variety to your training. Mix longer workouts focused on endurance with shorter workouts focused on speed. 

Add more individual medley to every workout to ensure you’re covering every stroke, every day. If you balk at the idea of swimming butterfly, know this: You should be swimming your best and worst strokes regularly. You don’t have to do your worst stroke for an entire workout, but make an effort to mix it into your swims somehow.

The IMX style of training is a great place to start. If you swim alone, it’s easy to let yourself off the hook when it comes to training variety – try the MySwimPro app for personalized Training Plans and well-rounded workouts!

Add more individual medley to every workout to ensure you’re covering every stroke, every day. If you balk at the idea of swimming butterfly, know this: You should be swimming your best and worst strokes regularly. You don’t have to do your worst stroke for an entire workout, but make an effort to mix it into your swims somehow.

The IMX style of training is a great place to start. If you swim alone, it’s easy to let yourself off the hook when it comes to training variety – try the MySwimPro app for personalized Training Plans and well-rounded workouts!

8. Not Being Consistent With Training

How much time do you have per week to train? If you only have two hours per week to swim, we always recommend swimming three 40-minute workouts per week, as opposed to one two-hour swim workout.

Why do we recommend more shorter workouts? When you go more than four days without swimming, you lose your “feel of the water.” This means that your connection with the water decreases, and your workouts will become less effective because you’re restarting every time you hit the water.

As much as we all love to swim, there is also such a thing as too much swimming! Many swimmers don’t prioritize recovery time and end up swimming too much volume too frequently to see meaningful results. 

It’s helpful to think of your recovery time between workouts as part of your training – your body gets stronger in the down time between swims.

The good news is that you don’t need to swim 10 times per week to get faster. With the right plan, you can swim three or four times in a week and reach your goals easily. 

It comes down to finding a balance of swimming frequency and volume that works for you. If you like swimming five or more times a week, try doing so with less volume per workout to reduce the stress on your body. 

If you want to swim less frequently, it will be easier for you to increase your total volume per workout because you have more recovery time between swims.

This will vary from person to person, and also depends on the other fitness activities you do each week. 

9. Swimming With Improper Technique

Technique is probably the more important element of swimming!

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. 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.

10. Splashing A Lot By Swimming

The more you’re splashing in the water, the more energy you’re wasting! Think about all the sense you experience in the water…

Hearing, Touching, Smelling, Tasting and Seeing

We love the concept of Silent Swimming – this allows you to focus on all of your senses as you move through the water. The goal is to make as little noise as possible while you swim, which will help refine your stroke and pinpoint where you might not be as efficient in the water.

And most of all, being aware of your experience in the water will make swimming much more enjoyable! This is a wonderful opportunity to connect with your body, mind and spirit and simply relax in the pool. We always recommend a couple laps of silent swimming to end every workout!

Related: How To Drop 30 Seconds In 30 Days

BONUS TIP – Not Being Grateful

Especially as adults, we often forget that we choose to swim. Sure, it can be difficult or stressful at times, but we swim because we enjoy it. 

When the going gets tough, take a step back and find opportunities to express gratitude for swimming. Reflect on why you swim and what you find fun about the sport. 

Remember that you don’t HAVE to swim, you GET to. 

Steer clear of these mistakes and you’ll enjoy your swim training a whole lot more – and make progress more quickly. Share a comment with any tips, tricks or additional mistakes you think fellow swimmers would find helpful, and download the MySwimPro app to start a personalized swim Training Plan that’s specific to your goals!

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2 Comments

  1. Your videos are wonderful! Thank you!

    I am 73. I swim five days a week. I took it up a couple of years ago. Two problems I have are running short of breath and going too slowly. Not much strength. I am 5 feet 7 and weigh 110 pounds. No muscle at all so I am lifting weights. But all of a sudden, my turn is fine! I was a bloody mess when I was slamming into the bottom of the pool but it is good (for me) now. It is fun. What I am wondering is whether I should get a swimming lesson so that the teacher can tell me what I am doing wrong so I will fix it. What would be best, to swim 2 days and then work out with weights and then repeat? I can swim everyday but after I work out I need two or three days to recover. If you do not answer this, it will be alright. I loe the videos. The one about turning taught me how to do it. It changed everything! The lady teacher was very good. You are very good, great even. Thank you! Peace. Compassion. The world needs more of that now.

    • Paige Walters Biskaduros on

      Thanks for the support, Steven! Great job with your swimming. Swimming 2-3 times per week sounds great. Add in some weight lifting, but be sure to allow enough time for your body to recover. Check out this video for how often we recommend that you swim: https://blog.myswimpro.com/2019/06/26/how-often-should-you-swim/

      Plus, download the MySwimPro app for a personalized swim training plan and guided workouts. Thanks for watching! 🙂

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