How to swim faster? Part 1
Swimming Faster is a fascination for many, I just finished a swim yesterday after a month of no activity due to my feet injury and also because race season is over. I felt funny not to train after so long but I am sure definitely out of breath swimming my usual 3 x 500m in the pool yesterday (no more races till 2013)
I have always wondered how to swim faster, Have you been wondering how to swim faster for months or even years without ever finding a satisfactory answer? If this is the case, well, you are in good company.
This article by enjoy-swimming.com describes six principles that will allow you to swim faster without becoming exhausted too quickly.
Swimming Smarter not Harder
For many coaches, swimming faster is the result of gradually increasing the length and intensity of swimming workouts so that the general fitness level increases.
While conditioning has its place, this is not all there is about how to swim faster, because swimming is a very technical sport. There are a few gifted swimmers that instinctively learn how to move efficiently in the water. Given enough time and practice, they will always improve. (this for me have not been the case..but I believe so)
But most of us only have a vague sense about our efficiency in the water. Remember, we are land animals! Because of this, swimming lots of lengths will often only make our bad habits more permanent, while our swimming technique only improves slowly or even not at all.
So what do we need to do? In fact, to learn how to swim faster and better with less effort, we need to swim smarter, not harder. Specifically, we need to work on two facets of our technique:
- We need to decrease drag in the water.
- We need to improve propulsion in the water.
The importance of swimming with the least amount of drag is often neglected. However, this is an area where we can greatly improve our efficiency in the water.
Water is much more dense than air. Drag in the water increases by the square of the speed at which we swim. So there is quickly an upper limit on how much force we can apply against the water to increase our speed.
On the other hand, reducing drag requires SKILLS rather than force. So there’s a lot of room for improvement there. That’s why it should be the top priority of learning how to swim faster.
Principle #1: Improving Your Balance
The first and most efficient way to decrease drag is to improve your balance. This means that you try to stay as horizontal as possible while moving through the water. When you do this, you disrupt the least amount of water molecules on your path, which translates into reduced drag.
As an example, while swimming freestyle, swimmers often lift their head to breathe or look ahead. When they do this, they lose balance and their hips and legs drop. Their body is less streamlined and generates more drag while moving through the water. Additionally, they need to kick harder to keep those legs up. Needless to say, a lot of energy is wasted while doing this.
Note that being as horizontal as possible is especially important for the freestyle and backstroke. For the breaststroke and butterfly, things are a little bit different because a body undulation occurs during the stroke cycle.
Principle #2: Swimming Taller
The next way to decrease drag is to make yourself as tall as possible in the water. The theory behind this is that for the same mass, a long tapered object moving through the water creates less turbulence than a short compact object. In fact this principle has been used by naval engineers since hundreds of years. I have learned to walk tall but I believe this
To swim taller in the freestyle stroke, you enter your recovering arm early in the water once it has passed your head. You also make sure to completely extend your recovering arm forward underwater before starting the down sweep and catch.
Principle #3: Compact and Efficient Kick
In world-class front crawl swimmers, the kick contributes for up to 10% of propulsion, while the arm stroke contributes for the rest. So an efficient kick is important for fast swimming, but less than what is commonly believed.
What is equally important is a compact kick, meaning that it should neither break the water surface nor move too low below the body line. Otherwise unnecessary drag is created which will only slow you down.
Once you have reduced drag to a minimum, you can work on improving your propulsion. Again, this is mainly done by improving your swim stroke mechanics, not by building bigger muscles.
to be continues in the part 2…