Learn to Enhance Your Swimming Stroke

October 12, 2008
Did you know that the best freestyle swimmers can swim 25 meters in 7-13 strokes? The goal of any freestyle swimmer is to swim efficiently, using a minimal amount of strokes. Sometimes people feel like they are wounded in the water when they try to swim freestyle, fluttering down the pool with much splashing and an exorbitant amount of strokes.

If you are a beginning swimmer or a long-time swimmer who finds yourself splashing like there is no tomorrow, or moving your arms too quickly and tiring them in a short distance, then learn drills that work on improving stroke efficiency and saving energy!
Do the following drills to enhance stroke efficiency and remember to visualize what you doing:

Drill # 1 Fist Swimming:
Picture yourself as polar bear cruising down the wave-swept Atlantic Ocean to escape the arctic waters (which they do in winter). The polar bear makes a fist as it swims to heat up its claws and hand.Step 1:  With your hands closed fists, pull yourself through the water using the surface area of your forearms. During the pull phase (when the hand goes into water), keep your elbow higher than your hand. As the hand passes beneath the shoulder, your hand, elbow, and shoulder should be in one line, perpendicular to your body.
Step 2: Maintain closed fists through the push phase (when the hand comes back up and gets ready to enter the water again). Relax in the push phase, keep your fists closed, maintain the proper head position, use a steady kick, and keep your strokes long and smooth.This fist-swimming drill is great for strengthening the forearm and working on the pull-and-push phase of freestyle. Try fist swimming several times across the width of the pool, and see how difficult it can be.

Drill # 2 Head-Up Freestyle: When doing this drill, imagine yourself as a great white shark tracking its prey. The Great White is the only shark that lifts its head out of the water. Its eyes can rotate 360 degrees because they have no nicitating membrane. Head-up freestyle is a good technique to practice to perform well in lake or ocean swims.

Step 1: Begin swimming with the head up and the chin just touching the water’s surface. Keep your head still and keep a reference point in front of you. Maintain high elbows and hold them through the pull phase (when the arm goes beneath the body and the hand pushes water).

Step 2: During the pull phase, keep your hand beneath your sternum and press through the push phase (when the hand is back out of the water as arm stretches out to get ready to re-enter the water). Head-up freestyle can be practiced in a pool, ocean, or lake.

Drill # 3 Single-Arm Freestyle: Imagine yourself as a flying fish gathering enough speed and momentum from one fin to fly out of the water in a short burst of speed and then return to freestyle stroke. Flying fish literally fly out of the water with speeds up to 40mph and then return back into a swimming rhythm. Single-arm freestyle will help you develop speed and strength by working on one arm at a time.

Step 1: First, begin swimming regular freestyle with your right arm, placing your left arm by your side.

Step 2: While pulling (arm underwater pulling water) with your right arm, breathe to your left side only (and to the right when pulling with your left arm). Time your breaths so that you initiate head rotation when your right arm enters the water. Once your hand is past your stomach, finish through by pushing your hand past your thigh as far as you can. When your right arm comes out of the water for recovery before it re-enters, your right shoulder will be out of the water and your left shoulder will be in the water.

Step 3: When your arm exits the water for the recovery, bend your arm and keep in a high elbow. Your arm and hand should be relaxed.Single-arm swimming is good to practice in a 25-yard pool. Practice doing single-arm swimming with the right arm for 25 yards, then switch to the left arm and repeat as much as you want.

All these drills will turn you into a “swimtastic” freestyle swimmer, as long as you already know how to swim freestyle.



 * If you would like to learn to swim in a few sessions or need a swimming ‘tune-up,’ Alicia Weber teaches swimming and aquatic training classes in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Central and South Florida. Contact her at Alicia1@Awinningway.ws for info.