Freestyle is the most efficient and fastest swimming stroke used in competition. However, if you watch any high-quality competition, you will notice, that there are many different ways of swimming freestyle. Some swimmers swim with straight arms, some with high elbows, some breath bilateral, some breath only to one side and so on, we cover this in our blueprint for faster freestyle. But there are several things that all professional freestyle swimmers have in common and that set them apart from any hobby athlete or amateur swimmer. In this article we are going to talk about 5 quick tips, which will help you improve your freestyle stroke and help take your freestyle swimming to next level.
Quick Tip #1 - Maintain a proper body position at all times
When you are moving through the water, your goal is to swim with the least amount of resistance possible. To do this, it’s important that you maintain a proper body position at all times. Some coaches will even tell you that a proper body position is one of, if not the most important factor to swimming efficiently – and that’s definitely true. Often swimmers try to influence their body position by rotation, breathing patterns or kick. But the secret to a proper body position while swimming freestyle lies in your head (position). Your head directs the position of the whole rest of your body.
If your head position is too high in the water, your hips and legs will sink. If your head position is too low in the water, your hips will be on the water surface, but your head will cause massive amounts of water resistance and slow you down. To obtain the optimal head position and as a result of that the optimal body position, instead of looking straight down or straight ahead, keep your head at about a 45 degrees angle. This will not only enable you to comfortably see the bottom of the pool and what’s ahead of you, but will also bring your hips and legs into a perfect body position with the least amount of water resistance.
Keep your neck and back muscles relaxed and aim to maintain a 45 degrees head position anytime you are not taking a breath. To feel the effects of this tip, swim 2 laps with your chin tucked and your eyes looking down, 2 laps with your head at 90 degrees, looking forward, and 2 laps with your head at 45 degrees. You will notice a huge difference in your entire body position and in your swimming efficiency.
Quick Tip #2 – Reach as far as possible with every stroke you take
Most swimmers lose a lot of potential forward thrust when they cut off their stroke. Instead of placing your hand in the water and beginning your pull just in front of your head, aim to place your hand in the water as far in front of your head as possible. After placing your hand in the water, you should extend your reach an additional 5 inches by further extending your arm forward from your shoulder through rotating. Before you begin each stroke, your arm should be completely extended and just below the water surface.
By extending your reach for every stroke, you can add as much as 25% extra “pull” to your stroke. If you practice keeping your stroke long and efficient, you will be able to swim faster and more powerful with less strokes. It takes some time to get used to this, however, the results will be worth it.
Quick Tip #3 – Acknowledge the importance of turns and finishes
Most swimmers spend countless hours improving and optimizing their stroke, but forget about the importance of turns and finished. Swimming is a sport which is learned through repeating movements. If you are repeatedly doing sloppy turns and finished in practice, you will end up doing your turns and finished in a competition the same way.
Instead of spending extra time after workouts practicing turns and finishes, eliminate bad training habits and use every turn and finish during your workout as an opportunity to get better. If you can make it a habit to turn fast, do a proper streamline after every turn, avoid breaths into and out of your turn, and finish fast on every repeat you swim during your training sessions, you will soon come out of every turn and finish ahead of your opponents.
Quick Tip #4 – Finish your stroke like you started it
We all know that feeling towards the end of the race, when the arms are getting tired and we are starting to shorten our strokes. But by pulling your hands out of the water too early (at waist height or earlier), you are missing out on enormous forward thrust. As your arms complete the underwater pull, they should be fully extended beyond your waist to reap the full potential of your pull.
Avoid bending your elbows towards the end of your stroke during every stroke you take in training. Instead of pulling your arm out of the water early, extend it all the way until your pull is finished. By finishing your stroke properly, you swim will be more efficient and powerful while taking less strokes per lap.
Quick Tip #5 – Kick, kick, kick….
Yes, kicking takes up huge amounts of energy. But kicking can also make or break your entire freestyle stroke. Regardless of your events, having a technically correct and constant kick is essential to a proper freestyle stroke.
A proper freestyle kick should consist of a fast, alternating, up and down motion of your feet. Your goal should be to create little to no whitewater by keeping your feet below the water surface. Only your heels should tap the water surface. While you are rotating your body, make sure to rotate your legs and feet as well. This way you will avoid a scissors kicking motion while your body is rotating. Finally, instead of taking massive kicks, try to keep them small but quick. Avoid extending your kick beyond the alignment of the rest of your body. As with all the previous tips in this blog post – make sure you make a proper kick a habit for yourself.
Now it’s time for you to take the guesswork out of swimming faster! Make a plan for how you will implement these 5 quick tips to improve your stroke into your training and competition. Remember that changing your stroke is like changing a habit. Implement these tips into every lap you swim, every turn you take and be consistent. It takes time to change habits. To measure your improvements, we recommend training with the all-new TritonWear device. The wearable device tucks under your cap and records your workout as you swim. You remain focused on training and implementing the 5 quick tips to improve your freestyle stroke while TritonWear captures the intel you need to swim faster. To learn more about how TritonWear shows swimmers their strengths and weaknesses based on data collected while you are swimming click here.