Here are five essential stroke technique tips for swimmers looking to improve their SWOLF score and become faster, better and more efficient in the pool.
By following a few simple tips, you can make noticeable improvements to your SWOLF score and boost the efficiency of your stroke technique, helping you become a faster, better and more all-round swimmer.
1. Breathing – never hold your breath
Getting your breathing right is crucial to executing a good stroke. Yet, it’s not breathing in that most swimmers struggle with, as you might think, but breathing out. Exhaling at the right moment during your stroke can increase fluidity, making it smoother.
Take the front crawl, for example. The entire time your face is in the water, you should be breathing out. That way, when you come to take a breath, all you need to do is inhale. At no point should you be holding your breath.
Whatever the stroke, when you’re not breathing in, you should be breathing out. This avoids tension in the body, improves the flow of oxygen around your body and helps you maintain a good body position while you swim. The less air you have in your lungs, the less drag your body creates as well.
2. Position – get your head in the right place
Good head and body positions are a must for efficient strokes, and you can’t have one without the other.
No matter what the stroke, you need to ensure your head is in the right place. If it’s not, it’s likely your body position won’t be right either. Get it wrong, and all you will do is create resistance and drag, which ultimately slows you down.
So where does your head need to be? For front crawl, you want to be looking forward, forehead just beneath the surface of the water. For breaststroke, you want to be looking down while underwater, with your chin just resting on the surface as you breathe.
3. Improving rhythm and timing – legs and arms must work together
An efficient stroke works like a well-oiled machine – everything fits into place at exactly the right moment. Good rhythm and timing will help you improve your SWOLF score and increase speed.
If a swimmer’s “timing” is good then the body (arms and legs) will work in harmony to drive the stroke rather than haphazardly pull it and kick it through the water. For each stroke, analyse what your legs and arms need to be doing and how they should come together. You can use the training videos here to perfect your technique.
4. Balance – streamline your body to reduce drag
Good balance in the water helps reduce drag, which in turn improves efficiency. To achieve better balance during your stroke, try to remain as flat (or horizontal) as possible as you move through the water. The science behind this is simple: the better your balance, the less water you disrupt and the less resistance you create.
While this is vital for all strokes, it’s especially important for front crawl and backstroke. Breaststroke requires some body undulation, but there are moments, specifically when the body is beneath the water, where balance is crucial.
For all strokes, keeping toes, ankles, hips, shoulders and head in a horizontal alignment when viewed from the side is vital to lower drag.
5. Body rotation – engage your core
Get your body rotation right and not only will you make the stroke more efficient, you’ll gain power too. To do this effectively, you’ll need to engage your core as you swim.
The back, torso and hip muscles are bigger and stronger than your arms and shoulders, and therefore have more endurance. When you get the two groups working together, you’ll be able to swim faster and for longer.
Rotation through the long axis is key for back and front crawl. The shoulders switch from side to side, lengthening and narrowing the stroke. This is slightly different for strokes like breaststroke, which have no rotation. The body and shoulders should stay flat and level.
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Disclaimer: Always consult with a professional healthcare provider before starting any diet or exercise programme, if you are pregnant or if you are potentially suffering from a medical condition.