The most efficient way to improve your swim time is by working on body position. If you are one of those rare people with perfect body position, you’ll have to work on arm turnover. I’m just talking about freestyle in this post so don’t try to apply these techniques to the breaststroke or the butterfly. I’m not sure what is transferable and what is not.
Even if you think your body position is perfect, you should work on body position because not only does it make you faster, but it makes you more efficient. Efficiency translates to less energy used to swim, which means you can swim longer and farther.
There are drills you can do to help with your body positioning in the water, but what position should your body be in? it seems simple when you watch other swimmers. They are on their stomach, move their arms around in a circle, kick their feet, and turn their head to breathe. Voila, swimming!
If only it were that simple.
The problem with this is that it doesn’t talk about your position in relation to the water. You need to be right at the surface or below the surface of the water. Ideally, you’re a little below the surface as you swim. You create less drag this way, which translates into more speed and less work.
First, you need to have balance in the water. If your balanced in the water you feel like a torpedo long and lean with your shoulders and chest pushed down in the water. You feel like your swimming downhill. Your heels, shoulder (on rotation), hip (on rotation), and head (also on rotation) will break the surface. If you don’t stay balanced your feet sink and you create drag, which slows you down.
To learn and practice balance in the water there are two main drills (I’m trying to keep this fairly simple. I’m sure there are a billion drills).
The superman: Lay face down in the water. Stretch your hands out in front of you and push off the wall. Kick your feet lightly. Press your shoulders and head down into the water without bending at the waist. Practice this until you run out of breathe before your feet sink.
Your chest is like your buoy. It’s where all the air is that helps you float. If you press it down into the water, your feet come up.
Kicking should not churn up a bunch of water like you’re a speedboat plowing through waves. Kick from the hip with a slight bend in your leg (like a Barbie leg). There should be a little splashing.
The Skate: start in superman and roll onto your side. There should be a point where you are comfortable. If you are straight up and down on your side try tipping a little forward. Too far back and you’ll roll. Too far forward and you can’t breathe. Your lower arm should be stretched out above your head. Your upper arm should be down along your side.
You head should be low in the water. If you are looking up out of the water, the water should be at the edge of your goggles. You should be able to see it in your periphery vision. When face down, your neck and spine should line up. If you pull your head up, you create drag. Look at the bottom of the pool not in front of you. The back of your head should be just below the surface. Your hip and shoulder should break the surface of the water. Again, you should be pressing down with your chest area, which would be your lower shoulder on your side.
You can drop your extended arm away from your head to help create balance. Try a 1:00 and 2:00 position. If you get to three you’re going to have issues. Thinner people usually have to drop their lower arm more than heavier people. Imagine your body being long and lean. Keep it in a straight line.
Kicking should be the same, a light kick to keep you moving forward.
Practice the Skate on both sides until you are very comfortable on either side position.
Once you have practiced these two drills, the superman and the skate, until you hate them and then at least five more times you can move on to the skate and roll. Which I will talk about in the next post.
Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…