Here Is How to Swim Faster, According to Coaches (Plus the Best Way to Improve)
Swimming is a challenging sport. Everyone knows swimming can be a physically demanding form of exercise. For a lot of people, swimming is really hard! If you are struggling to pull yourself through the water, don't worry. It is normal! Plenty of people are in the same boat as you.
Luckily, we happen to be experts in the sport of swimming, and we've got plenty of easy tips and tricks to help you improve. Want to get faster in the water? Just keep reading.
There are many ways you can improve your swimming. Let's start off by talking about technique.
Improving Your Technique Will Make You Swim Faster
Having good technique is instrumental in swimming. It allows you to move faster through the water with less effort. The most basic stroke in swimming is freestyle, sometimes called the front crawl. It is the fastest stroke and involves the least effort. Here are five tips you can use to improve your freestyle technique to swim faster:
1. Head positioning
Pay attention to where your head is while in the water. Head positioning is important in swimming. Wherever your head goes, your body goes. If your head is too far down, then your hips will come up too high. If your head is lifted too high, then your hips will sink. Your goal should be to keep your head in line with your spine. You can do this by looking straight down at the bottom of the pool. Having a good head position also helps to prevent injury to your neck and back.
2. Shallow, small kicks:
There is a misconception in swimming that the bigger your kicks are, the more powerful they will be. This is not true. When it comes to kicking, the smaller the kicks, the better! Your kicks should just slightly break the surface of the water. Keep your legs straight, your toes pointed, and don’t bend your knees too much to have a hydrodynamic kick.
3. Arm speed
Another misconception in swimming is the faster you move your arms, the faster you will go. While this can be true for elite swimmers, it may not be the most efficient use of energy for an amateur swimmer. Keep your arms at a steady pace and focus on pulling more water, instead of just moving your arms faster.
4. Swim tall
If you watch the Olympics, you've probably noticed that many swimmers are tall! This is because being tall allows you to pull more water. Obviously, we will not recommend that you try to grow taller, however, by stretching as far forward as you can, you will gain a few inches! Think about extending your arms out as far as you can during each stroke. Many swim coaches tell their swimmers to try touching the other end of the pool with each stroke.
In addition to the previous tip (tip number 4), swimmers rotate their core while they swim. By rotating your body after each stroke, you are able to extend your arms farther and grab more water. Think about rotating your shoulders with each stroke. While you are pulling water with one arm, make sure your opposite shoulder is outside of the water.
Once you have improved your basic technique, there’s still a lot you can do to be a faster swimmer. Keep reading to learn more!
Being Healthier Overall Will Help Your Swimming
It’s no secret that being a healthier person overall will improve your swimming. There are a lot of ways you can get healthier. Here are five things you can do outside of the pool to make yourself a better swimmer:
- Stretch your shoulders and chest: Shoulder flexibility is extremely important to swimmers. Nearly all swimmers have flexible shoulders and chest muscles. With flexibility comes the full range of motion. Below are a few stretches you can do to help your swimming. To prevent injury, make sure you do these stretches after you work out for the best results. Hold each of the following stretches for 15 seconds, 4 times each:
- Corner Chest Stretch - Find a nearby corner in your house or gym. Face the corner, bend your elbows 90 degrees and press your forearms and palms into each side of the wall. Lean in towards the corner. You should feel the stretch in your chest.
- Kneeling Table Stretch - Kneel on the floor and rest both hands against a wall or table. Lean down and put your head between your arms. You should feel this stretch in your back and lats.
- Arm Circles - Do slow arm circles and arm swings. You should feel the stretch in your shoulders and chest. Do five on each side, four times.
- Chest Wall Stretch - Face the wall and stand about 1 foot away. Place your right arm against the wall (palm to the wall) parallel to the ground. Slowly start to rotate your body counterclockwise until you feel a stretch in your chest. Repeat with your left arm.
- Any other stretches you want to do! Make sure that you are stretching safely and remember not to push your body past what is comfortable. Improving flexibility is all about patience.
- Planking - Planking is one of the best exercises you can do to strengthen your entire body! It works your core, shoulders, back, and legs. Most importantly, planking works on your balance in the water. Balance is very important in swimming because it allows you to float in the water. Start by doing three sets of 20-second planks. Add rounds and time as you get stronger.
- Pushups - Pushups are a great exercise to strengthen your abs, chest, and shoulders. You can start by doing them on your knees and then moving up to your toes once you are ready. Remember, doing pushups with good form is much more important than the number of repetitions. Keep your head in line with your spine and make sure your bottom is not too high or too low. Start with 3 sets of 10. Increase your reps as you get stronger.
- Squats - Squats are an excellent exercise for swimming because they work the explosive muscles in your legs which are needed for kicking and pushing off the wall. Start with 4 sets of 10 and increase as you go. If you want, you can add weight by holding a dumbbell. If you do not have a dumbbell, you can hold a heavy book or even your favorite pet!
- Burpees - Burpees are a combination of all the exercises we have just discussed. Plus, they help with your endurance (more on endurance below). To do a burpee, start in the standing position, drop down so your hands are on the ground next to your feet and you are hunched. Kick your feet out so you are in a plank position. Then, do a pushup. Jump your feet back in, and then jump up to standing. Do all of this as one movement but keep good technique in mind. Tip: if this form of a burpee is too challenging, remove the pushup and add it back in when you are ready. Start by doing 4 sets of 5 burpees and add more as you improve your strength.
3. Eating healthy - Eating healthy will improve your overall swimming. Our bodies are like sports cars; if you put crappy gas into a nice car, it won’t run very well. The same goes for our bodies. In order to get to our optimal performance level, we have to fuel our bodies right! Here are some tips for healthy eating:
- Every day, try to hit all five food groups - When sitting down for each meal, make it a goal to get an item from every food group. In case you need a refresher, here’s a list of the five food groups and some healthy foods that belong to each group:
- Fruits and vegetables: carrots, apples, celery, grapes, tomatoes, watermelon, etc.
- Proteins: Fish, meat, etc.
- Fats: almonds, peanuts, olive oil, avocados, salmon
- Dairy: milk, yogurt, cheese, etc.
- Whole Grains: Bread, oats, pasta, granola, etc.
- Try to avoid processed food - Try to stay away from food that’s heavily processed. The more processed a food is, the less nutrition it will have. Examples of some common processed foods include chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and sugary drinks.
- Eat complex carbs, not simple carbs - Carbohydrates are important in athletics because they fuel your body. However, you want to make sure you are getting the right type of carbs to fuel your performance. Simple carbs are foods high in sugar and won’t sustain you for very long. Complex carbs are harder to break down and will give you more energy for longer periods of time. Some examples of complex carbs are whole grain pasta, brown rice, and veggies.
- Drink plenty of water - Hydration is essential to swimming fast! Just because you are in water doesn’t mean you aren’t sweating. Rehydrate with water whenever you can. Try to avoid sugary drinks like soda and punch. If you find the taste of water to be boring, try adding fruit or veggies to give it flavor.
- Biking - This can be stationary or around your neighborhood. Biking is a great way to get your heart rate up. Plus, it has a low impact on your joints.
- Running - You can run outside or on a treadmill. Just 20 minutes of running a day will improve your endurance.
- Speed walking - If you feel like running is too strenuous, start with speed walking. Grab your dog or a friend and walk around your neighborhood.
- Jump rope - Jumping rope isn’t just for kids! It is a great exercise and will improve your endurance while strengthening your legs and core.
- Aerobic fitness classes - There are many services that offer aerobic fitness classes, either online or in person. There are free videos available on the internet if you don’t want to go to a gym. If your goal is to improve endurance, make sure you find a class focused more on aerobic capacity than strength training.
- Take the stairs - When given the choice between stairs and the elevator, always take the stairs!
- Walk or bike instead of drive - If you are going somewhere close, why not walk or bike!
- Park far away - If you do have to drive someplace, park in the farthest spot possible! It will give you a little extra exercise walking into the building.
Swim Practice Makes Perfect - The Best Way to Get Faster
Though this may seem obvious, the best way to become a better swimmer is to practice! Here are some tips for practicing swimming and staying motivated:
- Go to your local pool - If you want to get better at swimming, you have to swim. It is that simple! Make a goal for yourself to go to your local pool multiple times per week and then follow through.
- Join a swim team - There are thousands of swim teams across the country and many of them have programs for young children, adults, and every age group in between. If you join a club, you will be swimming with other people at the same skill level. You will also have a seasoned coach there to give you advice and input on your stroke. Joining a team will give you scheduled practice times and this may push you to swim more than if you were on your own.
- Hire a personal trainer or swim instructor - If you’re not up to joining a club, consider hiring a personal trainer or private swim instructor. You can even ask someone who has a swimming experience to watch you. It can be extremely helpful to receive advice from someone who understands swimming.
- Record yourself - In addition to asking help from a coach, you can record yourself and watch it! It’s likely you will be able to pick up on something you can do better and implement it.
- Bring a friend - If you find you aren’t feeling motivated to go to the pool, get a friend involved! That way, you will hold each other accountable and it can make the workout more fun.
- Use the right equipment - While practicing, make sure you are using the right stuff. Form-fitting swimsuits are going to help you swim faster than baggy, loose suits. Make sure your goggles don’t leak and your swim cap stays on tightly!
- Mix it up! It’s completely normal to get bored of doing the same exercise over and over. To avoid monotony, mix up your workout! You don’t always have to go swim laps for an hour straight. Experiment with different strokes and equipment. Try kicking and pulling or doing drills. There are many swim workouts available online for all levels of swimmers that you can try.
Becoming a better swimmer is definitely possible. You can do it! All you need is a little determination, time and effort, and some swim gear. Be sure to look into our other articles On Deck!