Even if you know how to swim, few people have mastered the art and speed of great swimming. Whether you’re trying to break into competitive swimming or simply show up your swim buddies at the pool, there are some tips and techniques you can use to learn how to swim faster.
How to Swim Faster
1. Use Drills to Refine Your Swimming Technique
For the best results in speeding up your swimming, you’ll want to practice a variety of workouts. Many swimmers see improvements when their routines — including their warm-ups — are varied.
“Doing drills, such as pulling sets [no leg movement] and kicking sets [no arm movement] followed by swimming sets, will not only improve technique, but speed as well,” Whiteley says.
If you’re looking for workouts to do on your own, here are four swimming workouts that can help you add variety into your routine and improve key swimming skills like speed and endurance.
2. Reduce Swimming Drag
Swimming drag is anything that creates resistance and makes moving through the water slower. You can reduce the amount of drag you produce in a few ways. Whiteley suggests:
- Using a swim cap to reduce any resistance created by the hair on your head. (You can also shave all of your body hair if you want to eliminate this source of drag entirely.)
- Wearing a tight-fitting swimsuit to turn your body into a smoother, leaner surface, and eliminate any drag from loose material.
- Swimming close to the surface, since you hit more resistance as you go farther underwater.
- Focusing on your form. The more efficient your form is, the less drag you’ll have.
3. Work on Your Kick
Kicking efficiently is key to being a stronger swimmer. There are a few ways you can improve your swimming kick. One of the easiest is to use a kickboard. Focus on these points of form:
- Keep your ankles loose. Whiteley recommends that you allow your ankles “to act like a fin in the up and down motion” of your kicking.
- Use both legs equally so you stay balanced.
- Try not to use your knees. Kick (i.e., move your legs) from your hips to generate more power.
- Keep your legs close to the surface of the water, kicking back horizontally instead of downward.
You can also head to land to improve your kicking strength. Exercises like jumping rope will not only work your leg muscles, but they can also help increase your ankle strength, which is vital to a good kick.
4. Master The Flip Turn
When swimming freestyle laps in a pool, you can improve your speed by doing a flip at the end of each lap. A flip turn involves doing a front somersault just before the wall to get your body facing the other direction, and then forcefully pushing off the wall with your feet to propel yourself down the lane again.
To do an effective flip turn, start by making sure you can do the somersault itself. Practice in the middle of the pool until you’ve got it down — you want your flip to be tight and quick. Once you’re comfortable, then you can add it into the stroke.
As you approach the wall, don’t make the mistake of taking a breathe before you flip — that can slow you down. Then, “when pushing off the wall, form a streamlined position with your arms tight beside [your] ears, one hand on top of the other, like a torpedo. Glide, and then start kicking until you come to the surface to make your first stroke,” Whiteley says.
5. Focus on Your Head Position
When you’re focusing on the powerful parts of a stroke — arm movement and kick — you might forget to think about your head position. But that’s to your disadvantage.
“Keeping your head down while swimming freestyle will keep you more streamlined,” Whiteley says. And the more streamlined you are, the less drag you’ll produce, and the faster you’ll go.
6. Find a Coach
As with any sport, professional instruction can be invaluable. If you’re serious about learning to swim faster, consider enlisting the help of a swim coach.
Swim teams are the simplest way to get regular coaching. Many local swimming pools have swim teams for children and teens. For adults, look into joining a U.S. Masters Swimming team, which offers teams across the country for those 18 years and older. Click here to find a team near you!
And if team sports aren’t really your thing, you can also opt for one-on-one instruction. “It can be intimidating for some beginners to join a team,” Whiteley says. If that’s the case for you, he recommends considering private lessons.
Whether you’re taking advantage of the summer heat outdoors or using your gym’s indoor pool, these tips will have you swimming faster in no time!