Swim Faster, Less Effort

person swimming on an olympic pool

Swimming faster for less effort… that’s the dream isn’t it?! Actually it’s not as difficult or as far fetched as you might think. Try this as an experiment: do 2-3 100m reps with 30 seconds rest – aim to swim at around race pace. Now follow that up with another 2-3 100s with only 10 seconds recovery. For the majority of less comfortable swimmers, even the first 100 in the second set will be harder, let alone the second and third reps. What changes between the two sets? Stress and panic sets in…

If you have your body position and kick all dialled in well, then these are less likely to fail as you get put under stress. With these two elements working properly, you’ll be using minimal energy to cut through the water. But they don’t really make you fast…

The part of your stroke that really makes a difference to the speed that you travel is what your arms do. Specifically the part where your hands are underwater and levering the body forwards. The speed of your recovery does very little to influence the speed that you travel. In fact, throwing your arms forward is likely to have a negative effect on your travel because it will push your body deeper into the water and cause you to brake. By launching your arm forward you will be forcing your head and shoulders down into the water. Very much in the same way as with a rowing stroke, the power phase of the stroke should be in proportion to the recovery, giving the boat – or the body – time to travel through the water.

Now with the power underwater, it really is a case of taking control of the water. If you rush, snatch or grab at the water, it won’t work with you, and things get far harder to control. Remember the saying “less haste, more speed”. If you’ve done any sculling drills, then you’ll know how you can get a hold of the water. The biggest problem for less comfortable swimmers is thinking that they have to keep moving and keep fighting the water to move forward. The reason why top sports people – Dan Carter, Johnny Wilkinson, Lionel Messi – or Phelps, Thorpe, Rebecca Adlington look so good at what they do, look like they have time, is because they recognise that they do have the time and slowing themselves down accordingly. That way, you can really take control of what you are doing and how you are doing it.

This should help you go much further for each individual stroke, with less effort – and hopefully faster! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here! Remember, you can always get your swimming reviewed in the endless pool with our video swim analysis packages.

See what’s up next week for our #SwimTechTues tip!

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