Improving your swimming technique can be an overwhelming task. Swimming has so many different technical aspects and developing all these can be confusing and frustrating.
If you are someone who is working hard on your technique, you want to be focusing on one or 2 things at a time and you also want to make sure these things are worth your mental and physical energy. Unless you are an elite swimmer aiming to do the best you can in a competitive pool or open water race under FINA rules then you want to keep it as simple as possible and focus your time and energy on the things that are going to make the biggest improvement in your stroke. The hard part is identifying what these things are.
Swimming is not rocket science and when understood properly it is actually quite simple. To keep it as simple as possible we can break freestyle into 4 main parts:
1. Body position
2. Underwater pull
3. Arm recovery
In most cases, the biggest improvements in your swimming will come from the first 2 parts; body position and underwater pull. These 2 parts form the basis of freestyle, body position – reducing drag as much as possible, and underwater pull – maximizing propulsion as much as possible.
Let’s briefly go over each of these aspects of freestyle:
The fastest and easiest way to move through the water is in the most streamline position possible at all times. If your body is a bent banana at any stage during your stroke you are going out of streamline, creating drag and slowing yourself down. When swimming freestyle think about being tall and straight as you rotate side to side reaching towards the end of the pool.
This is where everyone (including Olympians) can make improvements, no matter what stage you are at in your swimming working on your underwater pull will always result in improvement. Your underwater pull is your main form of propulsion moving you forward. Getting the right angles of your hand and arm when pulling back underwater is key to being as efficient as possible. Check out our article on the freestyle catch and pull for more on this aspect.
Recovering your arms back over the top of the water to get ready for the next stroke is fairly straight forward and likely not something that is going to make large improvements in your freestyle – unless you have it completely wrong! The main thing to get right here is relaxation. Whether you are a high elbow recoverer or a swinging arm recoverer make sure to have a relaxed hand and forearm.
Unless you are wanting to become a sprinter kicking is not something you need to be amazing at. You still need to be able to kick properly and need a certain amount of fitness and strength in this aspect, but becoming really good at kick takes a lot of work which you could be putting into other aspects of your freestyle.
Improving on your freestyle technique does not have to be an overwhelming and frustrating task. Keep it simple, narrow your focus in on the main things that will make the biggest improvements and form better habits. Find a good coach and identify what you need to work on. Our members in the Swim360 Virtual Swim Squad send me videos of them swimming every 3 or 4 months so I can identify what their most important issue is that they can make the most improvement on. This way they can be sure they are putting their energy and time into the right areas.
Carl is head coach at Swim360 Coach, a former Olympian and national champion freestyler. Carl now uses his skills and passion for coaching and competing in the open water.