Swimming is the world’s most popular sport and physical activity. As a low-impact exercise, swimming provides numerous health and fitness benefits. Swimming is for people of all ages. It works for all the major muscle groups in the body through the rhythmic motions of different strokes. Swimming improves cardiovascular endurance, muscle strength, flexibility, and physical conditioning. It’s also an excellent calorie-burning exercise.
Beyond fitness, swimming is both a recreational activity and a competitive sport. Recreationally, swimming is enjoyed at pools, water parks, lakes, rivers, and oceans. Competitively, swimming is one of the most prominent Olympic sports. In the Olympics, athletes compete in different stroke and distance events. From youth swim teams to masters swimming for adults, people of all skill levels participate in swimming competitions. With proper technique and training, swimming can be a lifetime sport for staying active and healthy.
This article provides tips on improving at swimming through proper technique, training, and practice drills. The goal is to cover the essential skills and knowledge to become a better recreational or competitive swimmer. With focus and persistence, significant improvements can be made.
Obey Basic Swimming Safety:
Swimming is an excellent full-body exercise and recreational activity. It does carry inherent risks if proper precautions aren’t taken. Obeying basic swimming safety rules is crucial.
The number one rule of swimming safety is never to swim alone. Whether swimming laps at the pool, enjoying a lake, or swimming in the ocean, always swim with a partner. Having someone with you ensures that help is right there in an emergency. Your partner can assist you or alert lifeguards. Solo swimming removes this essential safety backup. Accidents, like a misjudged distance, sudden cramps, or medical emergencies, can happen anytime. With a partner present, the situation can be immediately addressed rather than becoming life-threatening.
Lifeguards provide useful supervision for casual swimming but aren’t a substitute for a one-on-one partner. Lifeguards have broad oversight duties and may need to immediately see a swimmer in distress. They must also be able to reach them fast enough. A partner’s sole focus is providing direct assistance. Ensure children always have an adult actively watching them in the water. It is not for just a lifeguard on duty. When planning ocean or lake swims, bring a partner or arrange for on-shore spotters. Open water brings additional challenges like waves and currents, and there are no pool walls to grab onto if needed. Don’t risk swimming alone.
Learn Proper Breathing Techniques:
Proper breathing techniques are essential for efficient and effective swimming. Here are some tips for learning and practicing proper breathing techniques:
- Put your face in the water and exhale through your nose and mouth. As your face enters the water, breathe fully to empty your lungs. This allows you to breathe again when your face is out of the water.
- Time your breaths with your arm stroke. As one arm pulls through the water, turn your head to the side to breathe. Breathe to the side, not straight ahead.
- Inhale through your mouth when your face is out of the water. Keep your mouth open slightly to allow air in. Avoid taking sharp “sniffing” breaths.
- Exhale slowly through your nose and mouth as your face returns to the water. Aim to get most of the air out before your face goes back in.
- Keep exhales active and controlled. Don’t hold your breath. Continued exhalation propels you forward.
- Find a breathing pattern that works for you. Two or three stroke cycles per breath are common for beginners. But find your natural rhythm.
- Get comfortable alternating breathing sides. Always turn your head differently. Breathe to both sides for balance.
Practicing proper breathing takes time and repetition. Be patient with yourself as you work to improve your technique. Mastering when and how to breathe and establishing a steady pattern are keys to efficient swimming.
Work on Leg Kick for Swimming Improvement:
The leg kick is a critical component of swimming efficiently through the water. Focusing on improving your kick can help increase your speed and endurance. There are two main kicks to practice – the flutter kick and the breaststroke kick.
- Keep your legs straight and toes pointed.
- Kick from the hip, keeping knees soft but not overly bent.
- Kick up and down in short, fast movements, using your ankles to provide additional force.
- Aim for 6-8 kicks per arm stroke.
- Kick just below the surface without creating splashes.
Work on timing your flutter kick correctly with the stroke cycle and generating propulsion with each kick. Engage your core and hips to prevent your legs from dragging. Kicking too deeply or slowly will create drag and reduce rhythm. Do kick sets with a kickboard or without using your arms to improve form.
The breaststroke kick is important for generating forward momentum in the breaststroke. To perform a proper breaststroke kick:
- Keep your knees together and ankles flexed.
- Thrust your feet in a ‘whip kick’ by externally rotating your legs from the hip.
- When feet are fully extended, snap your feet together using an ankle flex.
- Draw your knees up under your body and repeat the whip kick motion.
Focus on making an explosive whip kick while keeping your knees close together. Time the kick so that your legs are drawn up when your arms come forward underwater. A strong breaststroke kick can greatly enhance your breaststroke speed. Do kick sets with a kickboard to improve the timing and power of your kick.
Practice Arm Stroke for Swimming Improvement:
The arm stroke is a critical component of swimming efficiently through the water. Mastering a strong arm pull will help you glide farther with each stroke. Focus on the following techniques for the major competitive strokes:
Front Crawl Arm Pull:
The front crawl arm stroke starts with your arm extended above your head. Drop your arm into the water with your hand angled slightly outward. Pull the arm through the water with a slight S-shape motion and push the water backwards as your hand moves underneath your body. Allow your arm to extend fully before lifting it from the water and reaching forward again above your head. Time your breathing to the side as one arm is pulling through.
Backstroke Arm Pull:
Drop one arm straight into the water above your head with your thumb for a backstroke. Pull the arm back towards your hips and keep your arm relatively straight throughout the stroke. Use your lat muscles to provide power as you push the water backwards. Lift your arm out of the water as it passes your thigh, and reach back overhead to repeat the stroke with the other arm.
The breaststroke arm motion starts with both hands extended forward under the water. Bend your elbows and pull both arms back simultaneously in an outward motion, using your chest muscles. At the end of the pull, allow your hands to sweep inward slightly. Lift your arms forward again and repeat the pull. Time this with the whip kick. The key is keeping your elbows high as your hands push back through the water.
Focus on smooth strokes that maximize your reach and power with each arm pull. Work on timing and coordination between your arms, legs, and breathing. You’ll notice yourself moving through the water more swiftly and efficiently with refined technique.
Improve Body Position for Swimming Improvement:
Proper body position in the water is crucial for swimming efficiently and minimizing drag. A streamlined position allows you to move through the water with less resistance. Here are some tips for improving body position:
- Work on swimming with your body in a straight line. Avoid sinking or arching your lower back. Keep your hips, legs, and feet near the surface.
- Roll your body slightly to the side as you swim. Rotating from side to side allows for a longer stroke and reduced drag. Avoid twisting at the waist.
- Keep your head aligned with your spine by looking straight down. Lifting your head leads to your hips dropping.
- Extend your arms fully on entry and keep them straighter for longer. Reach forward with your fingertips first.
- Extend your arms at entry and pull through the water in a straight line for freestyle and backstroke.
- When breathing in freestyle, turn your head to the side while keeping one goggle in the water. Avoid lifting your head straight up.
- In breaststroke and butterfly, press your chest down and forward and keep your hips high.
- Point your toes by extending your legs and ankles to maintain a streamlined position.
Practicing drills for alignment and balance can build proper muscle memory by working on swimming with a snorkel or kickboard for feedback. Having strong core strength also helps hold a solid body position. Focus on small adjustments to get your body in an efficient line through the water.
Increase Endurance for Swimming Improvement:
Improving your endurance in the pool is crucial for being able to swim longer distances. It also helps you have the stamina to finish workouts and races strong. There are several effective ways to build up your swimming endurance over time.
First, work on steadily increasing your total yardage during practices and workouts. Swim a little further each time before taking a break. Mix up distances of nonstop swimming, like trying 75s, 150s, 200s, or more. Work towards being able to swim 400-500 yards continuously.
Third, include swimming longer durations at a more manageable, aerobic pace. Try 30-45 minutes of swimming, where you can maintain a consistent pace without stopping. This type of slower-distance swimming will improve your cardiovascular fitness.
Fourth, incorporate different strokes like freestyle, backstroke, and breaststroke as you work on endurance. The variety engages different muscle groups and helps prevent overuse injuries. Mixing strokes keeps endurance swimming interesting, too.
Fifth, mimic race distances like 500, 1000, or 1650 yards in practice. Mentally, preparing to swim race distances is essential. It develops the endurance you need to complete them at swim meets.
Building swimming endurance takes time and consistency. Following these tips will help you become a more robust, better-conditioned swimmer able to complete longer distances. The endurance base is essential for peak swimming performance.
Add Swimming Drills for Swimming Improvement:
Adding swimming drills to your training regimen effectively improves specific aspects of your stroke and technique. Drills isolate certain movements to ingrain good habits and break bad ones. Focusing on drills in practice translates to better form and faster times in the water.
Kicking drills isolate the legs to develop a strong flutter kick. A strong kick provides balance and propulsion in the water. Some examples of kicking drills include:
Kickboard kicking: Holding a kickboard and kicking while arms rest on the board. Focus on consistent fast kicks.
Vertical kicking: Holding the side of the pool, kick up and down without boards or arms stroking. Engage the core and kick from the hips.
Pulling drills isolate the arms and upper body to refine your pull and catch. A strong pull will help you grab more water and minimize drag. Some examples of pulling drills are:
One-arm swimming: Swim with one arm extended forward while pulling with the other arm only. Switch arms halfway.
Catch-up drill: Let one arm extend forward before beginning the pull with the other arm. Exaggerate the lag between arms.
Fingertip drag: Lightly drag fingertips across the water’s surface during recovery to keep elbows high.
The catch-up drill is a great coordination drill. It improves the timing between the arm stroke and body rotation. To perform it:
- Let one arm extend forward before pulling with the other arm. There should be a lag between when one arm finishes the pull and the other begins.
- Keep elbows high as your recovering arm relaxes forward. Avoid dropping your elbow, which can cause bad habits.
- Time the catch so your pulling arm catches the water just as your body rotates to that side. The rotation will give more power to your pull.
- Alternate arms continuously through the drill. Focus on perfect timing and technique.
Adding swimming drills to your workouts will refine your stroke mechanics and coordination in the water. Mastering these drills translates directly to faster times and better efficiency in your swimming.
Work on Starts and Turns for Swimming Improvement:
Improving your starts and turns is critical to swim times faster. Here are some tips:
Streamline Off Walls:
When pushing off the wall after a flip or open turn, immediately get into a streamlined position. Your body should be long, straight, and narrow. Extend your arms over your head, with one hand on the other. Point your toes. Hold this streamlined glide for as long as possible after leaving the wall to maintain momentum. Avoid any movements that create drag. A strong streamline is vital for fast turns.
Flip turns require timing your somersault underwater with the wall arrival. As you approach the wall, take your last stroke so your dominant arm enters the water first on the turn side. Then, tuck your chin, lift your knees to your chest, and somersault forward. Time the somersault so your feet hit the wall as your momentum carries your body vertically. Bend your knees as your feet planted on the wall, then explosively push off into a streamline. Practice the timing to ensure a fast turn.
With open turns, you touch the wall with one hand before rotating to push off with your feet. Time your last stroke so the hand closest to the wall enters first. Reach forward and touch the wall clearly with that hand while keeping your momentum. Rotate your body sideways, plant both feet on the wall with knees bent, and then drive off into a streamline. Open turns take more practice than flip turns to master coordination and timing. Drill them frequently to improve.
You can drop significant time and increase speed with focused practice on starts and turns. Mastering underwater streamlines, flip-turn timing, and open-turn transitions will make you much faster.
FAQs on Swimming Improvement:
FAQ 1: How often should I practice to see improvement in my swimming skills?
Answer: The frequency of practice depends on your current skill level, goals, and availability. A general guideline is to aim for at least three to four weekly sessions. Consistency is vital. Regular practice helps reinforce muscle memory, improve technique, and build endurance. Ensure that your training sessions include a mix of drills, endurance sets, and skill-specific exercises to see steady improvement over time.
FAQ 2: Can I improve my swimming technique without professional coaching?
Answer: Professional coaching can provide personalized guidance. Improving your swimming technique with dedication and the right resources is possible. Utilize online tutorials, instructional videos, and feedback from experienced swimmers. Focus on fundamental aspects such as body position, arm movement, breathing, and kicks. Recording yourself swimming and analyzing the footage can also help identify areas for improvement. Seeking occasional coaching sessions can enhance your progress.
FAQ 3: What dry-land exercises can complement swimming improvement efforts?
Answer: Incorporating dry-land exercises into your training routine can significantly improve swimming. Include activities that target core strength, flexibility, and overall cardiovascular fitness. Examples include strength training, yoga, Pilates, and cardio workouts. These exercises help build muscle strength and flexibility for effective swimming strokes. Remember to maintain a balanced approach, combining in-water and dry-land training to improve your swimming performance.
Final Words on Swimming Improvement:
In summary, there are several vital techniques swimmers of all levels can focus on to improve their performance in the water.
First, obeying basic swimming safety is crucial. Always swim with a partner. Let lifeguards know you are swimming, and be aware of your limits to avoid injury.
Second, master proper breathing techniques. Breathing correctly will allow you to swim smoothly and efficiently while getting enough oxygen. Practice exhaling underwater and inhaling, turning your head to the side.
Fourth, perfect your arm stroke. A strong stroke will propel you through the water. Keep your arm straight, enter the water above your head, and push through to your thigh.
Fifth, streamline your body position. Align your body horizontally and straight, ears down to ankles. This reduces drag so you can glide effortlessly.
And finally, increase your endurance. Build up your swimming distance and time while maintaining proper form. Endurance is key for completing races and swimming long distances. Improving these core swimming skills and techniques will help any swimmer advance to the next level in the water. You can achieve your swimming goals with practice and persistence.
Brooklyn is a professional swimmer. She loves to swim in different ways like swimming pool, the sea, river, etc. Based on her experiences, she is sharing her opinions about various swim kits that you essentially need for a swim. And this way a beginner can get proper guidelines on what swim kits she needs for a swim. Find her on Twitter here.