Why Swimming is the Ultimate Exercise

14 Reasons Why Swimming is the Ultimate Exercise

Choosing an activity to keep you fit and healthy all year round can be tricky. Running is tough on your joints, weights can require a training partner and cycling on the road can often be weather permitting.

So how about swimming?

Swimming is the ultimate exercise for health and vitality, it helps improve blood flow and lowers blood pressure. Swimming essentially keeps you healthier and happier for longer, it encompasses mind, body and soul; perfect for those who need an escape from the stress of everyday life.

As well as improving self-esteem, confidence and focus, swimming also has many physical benefits. Here’s just a few reasons why people choose swimming as their go-to hobby.

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Physical Benefits of Swimming

1. The Best Cardio

Swimming is predominantly a cardiovascular activity and is considered to be the best form of aerobic exercise. This is mainly due to the breathing control involved. Swimming is ‘hypoxic’ in nature, which means, holding your breath whilst exercising. This increases the demand for oxygen in the muscles and makes the heart beat stronger and faster.

2. Strong Muscles

Swimming builds muscular endurance. The resistance of the water produces a similar effect to that of weight training, but with far less stress on the joints. The amount of resistance can be increased with extra propulsion, acceleration and better timing. Take a look at the typical swimmer’s physique, muscles appear strong and toned with correct proportion.

natalie-coughlin-sizzling-body

 

3. The Perfect Balance

When compared with other activities like cycling and running, swimming offers multiple benefits. It targets the whole body and involves muscles that are under-used during everyday activity. The combination of cardiovascular and resistance elements builds a strong, healthy physique and provide an excellent all-round workout.

 

4. Torching Body Fat

Swimming for 1 hour can typically burn around 500-700 calories, similar to a 1-hour run at a challenging pace, I know what I’d rather be doing, swimming! Regular swimming burns through calories like a sports car burns through petrol, hence the reason why hunger levels are usually very high right after jumping out of the pool, metabolism is through the roof.  We’ve heard about the insane diets of Olympic swimmers, often consuming up to 10,000 calories per day to fuel their training. The majority of us don’t need to swim for four hours a day, but we can reap the rewards of good calorie blasting workout.

 phelpsfly

5. Posture

Back problems are becoming more frequent, especially later in life. We are a generation of ‘sitters’. At school, at work, and at home we spend lots of time sitting down, we often slouch with poor posture and without engaging our core. Swimming encourages correct posture, similar to gymnastics.

Improving your posture can have a profound effect on your physiology. If you stand up straight, pull your shoulders back and breathe deeply, your brain will get a message to become alert, vital and resourceful.

– Tony Robbins Unlimited Power

6. Flexibility

During swimming the muscles become very warm, especially if swimming in a heated pool. The water offers buoyancy to the body and reduces impact on the bones and joints. Swimming often involves a full range of motion which stretches the muscles and improves overall flexibility.10b59d40b9be0b777bfd8bb71f51a12b

7. Recovery

During intensive exercises like weight training lactic acid is produced, feelings of stiffness and soreness in the muscles can be reduced by swimming at a low intensity for long periods. Swimming is the perfect exercise for recovery and reducing lactic acid/toxins out of the muscles.

8. Co-ordination

There’s four main swimming strokes, mastering them all requires skill and persistance. As you develop your swimming skill set, balance timing and co-ordination all improve.

9. Pregnancy

Water is 12 times denser than air, it provides extra support during exercise which is essential for reducing impact during pregnancy. Swimming helps to strengthen vulnerable areas like the shoulders, back and core that can often become stained whilst carrying a baby.

10. Reduces Symptoms of Many Illness and Diseases

Swimming improves (BNDF) brain-derived neurotrophic factor which is the growth factor so important for the formation on new connections between nerve cells. It can also repair damaged nerve cells and increases brain production. Swimming is well known to help with arthritis and digestive problems too. If you struggle with symptoms from injuries illnesses or diseaes swimming can be a great way to reduce the problems and rehabilitate.

Psychological Benefits of Swimming

11. Self Esteem

Swimming builds confidence and raises self-esteem. During exercise endorphins are released by the body and interact with the receptors in your brain. Endorphins mask physical pain, similar to the effects of morphine. Producing this chemical naturally through exercise can have a profound effect on mental wellbeing and can even help to overcome addictive behaviours.

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12. Stress Reduction

Swimming at a moderate intensity releases the mood-boosting chemical called serotonin. People who suffer with stress and depression usually have low levels of serotonin, hence the reason why regular swimming can help to reduce depression. If you ever feeling a bit low, try jumping in the pool and swimming a few lengths. Be sure to notice an uplifting feeling as you glide through the water.

13. Focus

Swimming at high intensity causes your adrenal glands above your kidneys to produce a hormone called norepinephrine. When increased levels of norepinephrine are pushed through your bloodstream during intense exercise the result is a spike in both focus and alertness. This explains partly the popularity of high intensity interval training. Let’s say you have an important interview, presentation or exam, increased levels of the brain chemical norepinephrine can help you to resist distraction and accomplish tasks.

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14. Accomplishment

During and after swimming you may feel a little buzz that makes you happy. This is no doubt dopamine. Dopamine is a ‘reward’ chemical that is released when we accomplish a task. It creates a level of motivation and acts as a natural mood lifter- similar to that of serotonin. Dopamine has some negative connotations due it being produced by alcohol, drugs and gambling, However, producing dopamine from exercise rewards positive behaviour and can therefore go a long way towards reducing negative behaviours and addictions.

All this being said, Swimming is the Ultimate Exercise and provides multiple health benefits.

 

Positive Thinking

How to Improve Your Swimming with Positive Attitude?

A Power Mindset

So, you’ve already done the hard part and started your journey of self-improvement. Now, how can you get the most out of your swimming lessons?  The answer; you require the power of positive thinking and an open mind. You will be amazed at the power of a positive mindset and the effects it can have on learning to swim. Positivity will enable you to try things that you never thought possible, you will be amazed at the outcomes and what you can achieve, if you first believe.

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Why is Positive Thinking So Important for Learning to Swim?

Positive thinking helps us to increase our energy levels and overcome challenges. As human beings, we transmit positive feelings to ourselves and those around us, we can alter our physiology and stand a little taller, have belief in our own abilities and exert confidence. Negativity on the hand can be very draining, leading to irrational feelings and behaviours. A negative mindset is a sure fire route to disappointment, or in our case, a poor swimming lesson.

Being aware of the little thoughts that pop into our head is essential for keeping a positive mindset, the fact that we can control our own feelings by deciding which thoughts to act upon is powerful. Next time you step into a challenging situation, be aware of your thoughts, think positive and see if you can change the outcome. Most importantly, remember, positivity is a choice.

 

Are Negative Thoughts Consuming You and Slowing Your Progress?

Think back to your last swimming lesson.  How many times did you shake your head, get angry with yourself and feel frustrated saying ‘I just can’t do that’? As teachers we see this type of behaviour all the time and our job is to reverse the psychology and breed positive energy. Remember in any challenge whether it’s learning to drive or learning to swim, you will most likely fail numerous times before you succeed. Every failure is one step closer to success.

As a beginner swimmer imagine yourself as a toddler learning to walk. You are in a brand new environment and you lack balance co-ordination and skill. The only way you can become more steady on your feet is to fall down time and time again. Will a toddler try to walk a few times then stop and give up, thinking ‘this walking thing really isn’t for me’? – No, a toddler will fall down a thousand times and get back up again until they have the skills to walk. The same principles apply to adults, when learning to swim. Prepare yourself for many failures before you succeed and keep a positive mindset.

The Power of Self-Talk

Many people don’t notice negative thoughts, it can be hard to recognise. But learning to understand your internal dialogue is the most important factor to achieving a positive outcome in any challenge. Once you learn to recognise your thoughts, you have the power to change them. You can start replacing these negative thoughts or words for something more positive.

Next time you’re in a challenging situation try some positive self-talk, say something like ‘I can do this’ or ‘stay calm, stay strong’ feel your energy levels change and enjoy the outcome.

Top Tips for Changing Mindset

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These few tips will allow you to start your swimming lesson positively:

  • Visualise your outcome- What does your favourable outcome look like, how does it feel, what does it look like?
  • Use positive affirmations- Before each attempt, say to yourself ‘I can, I will’ and ‘Yes’
  • Don’t expect amazing results- Set your sights low, small daily improvements will lead to large overall gains.
  • Smile! – Positivity will follow.

 

Persistence is the Key

We recommend books and YouTube videos on positive mindset and personal development, coupled with plenty of practice on your personal challenge. Combined together these tools could help you achieve your full potential.

It can be hard sometimes to develop a positive outlook, especially if you have fear. By practicing the quick tips above, you can start to impact your thoughts in a positive way. Surrounding yourself with positive people and good information will give you the tools to achieve.

If you would like to read more on positive thinking and swimming, my favourite books are ‘No Limits: The Will to Succeed – Michael Phelps’ and ‘The Champion’s Mind – Jim Afremow’.

Water Phobia

Water Phobia

If you suffer from water phobia you probably fall into at least one of the following categories

  • You’ve had a bad experience in the past
  • You were never taught to swim
  • You avoid swimming for fear of drowning

 

Water Phobia can make you feel nervous for many reasons, you might be scared of the water in general, or worried about going under. You might have already tried swimming in the past and failed, or maybe you think it’s too late for you to learn.

If you want to overcome water phobia and want to feel more confident, have a quick read of our tips to getting started, put together by our team of experienced swimming teachers.

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Here’s some common misconceptions to considering before you start.

  • The first trip to the pool is literally sink or swim, the water will be very deep
  • Everybody will be looking at me because I can’t swim
  • I have to get in and swim straight away
  • Some people just simply aren’t meant to swim

 

The Right Pool

Here’s 3 key points to consider when choosing a suitable pool.

Step 1 – Find a quiet swimming pool that’s not going to be too busy or noisy

Step 2 – Find out the depth of the pool, 1.25m is perfect (just below chest height for most adults)

Step 3 – Safety, make sure you are with somebody who can swim or at a pool with a lifeguard

 

Preparation

So you’ve’ found a suitable swimming pool.

What’s next?

The most important factor is acclimatisation, the first couple of visits to the swimming pool should be spent getting accustomed to the pool and building water confidence. Not necessarily swimming.

Pick a day when you have plenty of time, it’s important to be fully relaxed. No rushing!

Arrive to the pool and take some time to and observe your surroundings, if there’s a lounger or a Jacuzzi that’s great just sit and relax for 15minutes. It’s very important not to rush the initial stages.

 

Getting Started

When you feel completely ready to enter the pool. Get in by the steps and hold onto the side. Take deep breaths, stay relaxed.

Exercise 1

Walking through the water

Hold onto the side of the pool with one hand and walk around the edge, feel the resistance of the water against your body as you walk up and down. Bend your knees a little and submerge your shoulders under the surface. Take long strides through the water with balance and control.

“Keep breathing slowly to stay relaxed”

 

Exercise 2

Practice floating (whilst holding the side)

Learning to float first is essential. By holding the side of the pool you can help support your body whilst learning to balance. Your first few attempts will probably result in legs sinking, however after some practice you should be able to lie on your front with your legs stretched out behind you.

“Try to imagine yourself floating on top of the water surface”

 

Exercise 3

Putting your face in

This is an unusual feeling the first time, after a few attempts a really enjoyable experience.

Take a deep breath, close your mouth, submerge your head under the water, count to 5, come up for air.

Help stay relaxed by breathing small bubbles out of your mouth. When confident with this exercise try and extend the amount of time spent with your head under.

 

All three exercises will involve a little trial and error, it’s completely normal. It might be 15-20 attempts before a certain exercise feels natural. Learning to swim is essentially lots of trial, error and repetition. Specific exercises like the ones highlighted above can be practiced over and over again to improve confidence, coordination and balance.

For more information on learning to swim, check out our step by step guide to Mastering the basics

Swimming for Weight Loss

Burn those unwanted pounds

As well as the obvious benefits of swimming on the cardiovascular system, heart, lungs and muscles. Swimming can torch unwanted fat and burn those extra pounds in double quick time. Swimming for weight loss is a great way to trim up before a holiday and get lean, ready for beach season

Here’s a the most common swimming for weight loss questions, answered.

How much swimming do I have to do to lose weight?

30 minutes 3-5 times per week.

Weight loss is all about consistency, repeatedly burning more calories than you consume and ending each day with a slight calorie deficit. 30 minutes of exercise a day is optimal. If you can’t commit to 5 days at the pool, start with 3. Alternate swimming with walking and jogging. But be sure to get your 30 minutes of exercise a day, as a minimum.

swimming for weight loss

How much weight can I expect to lose?

2-4 pounds a week, 1 stone a month, 30 lbs in 10 weeks. Everybody’s different depending on body fat percentage and starting weight

Firstly.. Set your 10- week goal, assess how much weight you would like to lose. (For example 2 stone, or 28lbs)

Break this amount down into manageable weekly goals.  (3 lbs a week over 10 weeks = 30lbs)

Have a wall chart with your 10-week goal, your weekly targets, your session count and your distance covered. Fill in your chart each day, this will help you track your progress.

How many calories can I expect to burn?

500 calories per 30 minute swim (Double that of walking)

Swimming requires more energy due to the amount of muscles used. Have you ever wondered why you often feel so hungry after swimming? Your body has used all of its energy and burned through your breakfast. It’s time to refuel with a good wholesome meal. Swimming on a regular basis will help to you to improve both appetite and metabolism.

What stroke should I swim?

Mix it up, keep the body guessing. Alternate front crawl, breaststroke, backstroke. The more variation you put into your workouts the better results you will see. The body adapts very quickly to the same stimulus so keep changing it up to maximise results.

But I’m not a confident swimmer

Just get started. Breaststroke is fine for now, but get a few swimming lessons booked to improve your stroke technique.

6 lessons with a swimming coach is enough to learn the correct technique for swimming with your head in the water. After which you should feel confident to build up your distance and duration.

How should I swim?

Here lies the key to burning lots of calories… Interval training!

Swimming leisurely breaststroke just won’t cut it past the first few weeks.

To maintain constant weight loss, as your fitness levels increase, it’s essential that you push your heart rate up and shock your body to get the desired results. Mix up the strokes including Front crawl and Back stroke.  Swim Intervals rather than continuous laps. 2 lengths fast with 30 seconds rest (10 times) is far better than swimming 20 lengths straight. The idea is to elevate your heart rate then recover and repeat.

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Should I follow a specific diet whilst trying to lose weight?

The nutrition is just as important as the exercise.  Fuel up before you swim to give yourself plenty of energy. Try bananas as a pre-workout snack. Limit calories in the late in the day, fish and vegetables is a great meal evening meal for weight loss.

For more information on Specific Training and Nutrition Plans contact alistair@swimnow.co.uk

Always consult your doctor before taking up an exercise program.

Swimming Nutrition

Food for Swimming

Swimming Nutrition is often a hot topic for discussion. Trying to find time to swim with a busy schedule is challenging enough, then there’s the question, what do i eat. When, how much, at what time, have I eaten enough protein etc.

Here’s a quick breakdown of what to eat and drink, before and after you swim. It’s time to drop those excuses and hit the pool!

 

Pre-swim food

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The ideal time to eat before training is 2 hours. This allows the body to digest the food and turn it into fuel for your muscles before your swim. Any longer than this and you may experience low blood sugar levels during your swim which will impact on your performance; any shorter than this and you may feel nauseous from trying to swim on a full stomach.

Pre swimming nutrition should include a high carbohydrate, low fat meal 3 hours before moderate intensity exercise is ideal. Here is a list of Ideal meals to eat 2-4 hours before exercise:

  • Wholemeal pasta with a tomato based sauce and vegetables
  • Rice salad
  • Jacket potato with beans and salad
  • Mixed bean hotpot with potatoes
  • Stir fry
  • Wholegrain cereal with your choice of milk/yoghurt

Pre-swim snacks

Inevitably not everyone’s schedule will allow for a full meal before a training session. If you don’t have time for a meal, then I recommend a low fat, high protein snack an hour before you swim. Scientific studies show that maintaining a steady blood glucose level when exercising allows you to perform better and sustain your exercise much longer. Here is a list of ideal snacks for this purpose as they slowly release energy to your muscles as you swim, maintaining a steady blood glucose level.

  • Fresh fruit
  • Cereal bar
  • Shakes/ smoothies
  • Porridge
  • Toast with jam

Just remember this one basic rule of swimming nutrition- The closer you are to the start of your exercise session, the smaller your meal should be.

swimming nutritionPost swim fuel

After exercise your body needs to refuel as quickly as possible to aid recovery.

During exercise you will have depleted your glycogen stores, depending on the intensity of the exercise it can take between 20 hours and 7 days to restore these levels. After your swim you need to refuel with a high carbohydrate meal or have snacks on hand to have little snacks often throughout the rest or the day to help rebuild your glycogen stores.

If you train regularly without sustaining your glycogen stores between workouts you will not be able to train as hard or as long, and not achieve your training goals. This process of refuelling improves the more you exercise, this is why an elite athlete is able to train every day, often multiple times a day, where as a beginner needs to build up a few times a week.

During the first 2 hours post- exercise, replenishment is most rapid. It is important to start the refuelling process as soon after exercise as possible. During the next 4 hours the rate will slow but remain higher than normal, so it is important that you eat a in this window. The longer you leave your recovery meal the less effective it will be. This can result in prolonged fatigue and muscle soreness.

Post swimming nutrition should include both carbohydrates and protein to encourage muscle repair and recovery. Your meal should include protein: carbohydrate in a ratio of about 1:4. Each of the following meals/snacks have this ratio and are excellent for muscle recovery:

  • Baked beans with 2 slices of wholemeal toast
  • Wholemeal pasta with broccoli
  • Boiled eggs and wholemeal toast
  • Hummus and vegetables
  • Dried fruit and nuts
  • Milkshake, banana and a cereal bar.

Hydration

Staying hydrated is extremely important during any exercise however, it can be easily overlooked in swimming. When you’re in the water, although you don’t often feel it, you are sweating just as much as if you were running/cycling as the same intensity. Staying hydrated during your swim is much easier if you are fully hydrated before you even enter the water.
The American college of Sports medicine recommends drinking 5-7ml of water per kg of body weight slowly between 2-4 hours before exercise. So someone weighing 70kg should drink approx. 490ml of water leading up to exercise. Drinking a little extra, ~100ml 5-10 minutes before you start swimming will be able to replace any sweat loss immediately.
During swimming
It is thought that for a low to moderate intensity session lasting an hour or less plain old water is perfect for rehydration. For higher intensity exercise such as sprints or really pushing yourself for an hour an isotonic drink is recommend. These can either be purchased or made at home by adding cordial/ squash to your drinks bottle and a little bit of salt, the very end of a tea spoons worth. This replaces any electrolytes you lose through sweating at a fraction of the cost.

Post swim, water and salt levels in the blood both need to be replaced after any exercise intense enough to cause sweating. If you eat immediately after your session the salt levels will take care of themselves in most cases so just continue to slowly sip water throughout the next few hours after your session to replenish your fluid levels. Maintaining a healthy level of hydration every day, whether you intend to exercise or not, is vital for good recovery and an overall healthy body.

Swimming Nutrition – Data from the Health Sciences Academy Sports and exercise nutrition course.

Swimming Butterfly – Part 1

How to fly like Phelps!

Butterfly is known amongst swimmers as being notoriously hard. Whilst learning and perfecting the technique may seem gruelling, the rewards are worth it. Not only is butterfly the second fastest stroke, when swam correctly, it also provides an excellent workout. Swimming Butterfly is exceedingly fun and looks really impressive.

Benefits of Swimming Butterfly

  • Core Strengthflymusc
    The movement of the body through the water when swimming butterfly requires the whole body to move in perfect timing. This is known as an undulation. To create this rhythmic movement, all the major muscle groups are engaged so the stroke is smooth and flows naturally. This makes butterfly the ideal stroke for a full body workout.

 

  • Stamina
    Butterfly is also great for building anaerobic stamina. By swimming short sharp bursts training can become high intensity. Combine this with longer distances swims on breaststroke or front crawl for a more varied training plan. Involving different energy systems will help to achieve an all-round body workout.

 

Key Features of Swimming Butterfly – The Arm Stroke

The arm stroke can be broken down into 3 distinguishable movements; Push, Pull and Recovery.

The push and pull sections are most important for creating propulsion, whereas the recovery aids breathing. Combined together the Push and Pull should make the shape of a large old fashioned key hole

How to perform a butterfly arm stroke?

1. Push

Start with your arms fully extended out in front of you, angling your hands slightly out to the side to catch the water, sweep outwards with your arms until shoulder width apart.

2. Pull

Perform a semi-circle shape pull so to meet your hands below your chest. Turn your hands to face out and back. With a powerful, explosive, push extend your arms so your hands are down by your thighs. This is the fastest part of the stroke and provides the forwards momentum.

3. Recovery 

After the propulsive phase of the arm stroke, the goal is to get the arms back into position for another pull. Bring the arms over the water keeping them low, extended and relaxed. Hands should enter the water about shoulder width apart.

All three movements should fit together smoothly to create a rhythmic motion which aids the body undulation used for butterfly kick.

 

 Swimming Butterfly – The Leg Kick

The mistake a lot of swimmers make with butterfly kick is to make all the kicks the same size and strength. This quickly becomes tiring and is hard to maintain. To achieve a comfortable rhythm which is easier to maintain over a longer period, kicking sizes should be adapted to fit each part of the stroke.

How to perform a butterfly leg kick?

Butterfly swam correctly has a rhythm of 2 kicks to 1 arm pull.

The first kick is deep and strong, creating large amounts of propulsion, which aids the recovery of the arms.

The second kick however, is a much smaller, creating balance. Timing is crucial, just at the start of the pull as the hands enter the water.

Two kicks of different sizes gives smooth movement through the water and allows for constant propulsion during recovery and breathing.

 

Breathing

Breathing on butterfly is similar to Breaststroke in that the head comes up to front rather than to the side as with front crawl. It is important to keep the chin low and on the water if possible to avoid dropping the hips. The higher your head is, the lower your hips will be, ultimately causing extra resistance and slowing you down.

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Some Olympic athletes prefer to breathe to the side on butterfly as they feel it allows for more natural position without needing to lift the head too much. It is a legal technique, however, neither method has been proven to be more efficient than the other and the general consensus is to breathe to the front.

Try breathing both to the front and to the side when you practise and see which way you find most comfortable.

 

Here’s 4 of our favourite stroke drills to help you master swimming butterfly

1. Dolphin Kick

Practising butterfly kick with arms down by the sides is a good way of learning how to create the vital wave/ undulation action. As you press down with your head and shoulders you should feel your hips rise creating the wave through your body. Let your arms float by your side to get a sense of the power needed to help propel you through the water. Develop further by advancing to streamlined position dolphin kick.

 

 

2. Dolphin Kick (on back)

Butterfly kick on your back has more than one advantage. Its a great way to to practise the undulating action required in butterfly stroke, with the added benefit of working your core, hence swimmers strong abdominal muscles.

Try kicking with your hands by your side first. Push down with your head slightly to start the wave, feel the core muscles working hard to create the undulation and push the power down through the legs.

A common mistake is to move the upper body too much. Keep a strong upper body position and use the hips to undulate, thus creating a powerful, dolphin like action.

 

3. One Arm Fly

Leave one arm stretched out in front for balance and use your other arm to pull. Concentrate on the keyhole shape and work on getting the last pull section as powerful as you can. Your hand should be entering back into the water shoulder width apart, however, your hands should never touch.

Breathing to the side, as if swimming front crawl, will make it easier to concentrate on your pull without having to worry about getting your breathing right to the front, although head movement should be minimised.

 

4. Easy Butterfly

Once you feel comfortable with the technique above, why not focus on building up your full stroke stamina?

Swim half a length (or as far as you are able) of perfect butterfly technique before switching to another stroke. Finish the length at an easy pace. This allows you to practise your butterfly without getting too tired and letting your technique falter. You will find the more you practise this, the easier you will find it to maintain your technique. Because gradually increasing the butterfly portion of the length is the best way to maintain efficiency.

Building Strong Foundations – Front Crawl

Front crawl has always been considered the ‘Meter eater’; it’s the go to stroke for most swimmers. It’s the fastest of the four strokes and the most efficient.

Swimming coaches use front crawl to make up the majority of their weekly workouts, because its by far the best stroke for aerobic and distance training.

Although it seems like a simple stroke it’s not easy. There are many factors like timing, body position, breathing and rotation that make this stroke difficult to master.

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Swimming effortless front crawl comes through hours of perfecting the solid foundations of the stroke:

We’ve highlighted four key areas to focus on when building strong foundations of front crawl:

  • A strong leg kick
  • Smooth rotation
  • Powerful arm pull
  • Efficient breathing

 

Kicking – The Engine

As the body rotates from side to side the direction of the kick also changes to make sure the legs are keeping in line with the body position. As the body rotates over to the side the direction of the kick will also change to the side, as it comes back to the centre the kick will follow.

It’s very poor technique to have your upper body facing one direction and your lower body facing another. They key is to try and keep everything in sync by rotating as one, therefore avoiding any twisting from the trunk.

When building a strong front crawl kick it is important to use all 3 kick positions, so that the body doesn’t have weaknesses when you rotate left and right.

The 3 kicking positions

  1. Left side kickingleft-kick

 2. Streamlined kickingkick-middle

 3. Right side kickingright-kick

 

The most propulsive phase of the kick is the downbeat. The depth of the kick should be between 16 and 20 inches with a minimal amount of movement from the knee.

The up kick is equally important, by bending the knee and contracting the hamstring, your foot can achieve a high position in the water.  The knee should bend  a little to get your foot into the correct starting position. The higher the hips are in the water, the less the knee should have to bend to get the foot into the same position.

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Coaches Tip ” Any kick above the surface of the water is wasted energy. Try to create a boiling water effect on the surface, by making sure your feet do not break the surface of the water”

 

 

 

Smooth Rotation – The Balance

Why rotate at all?
Power. There is a large percentage of sports that require trunk rotation to increase power. Racket sports, golf, boxing, cricket and baseball will all use the rotation of the trunk to increase the power.

The body’s rotation in front crawl generates much more power than pulling from a flat position in the water.

A lack of rotation makes breathing increasingly difficult, thus causing major problems with balance and timing.

Some swimming experts claim rotating onto your side will reduce drag and will enable ‘cutting through the water quicker’ I’m not convinced this is entirely correct, the evidence is not clear enough to justify the statement.

Increased power from rotation explained

As the body rotates on to its side the strong back muscles (lats) engage. The power from the initial arm stroke combined with the involvement of the powerful back muscles create large amounts of propulsion. The result is power and speed.

In a flat body position we are relying much more on the shoulders and arms to pull us through the water. This style will create some propulsion, however, it tends to be far less effective.

One key factor affecting rotation is head position. The head should sit in what I like to call a neutral position, resulting in a streamlined effect. When you’re trying to create the position with the least frontal drag the head should be in alignment with your shoulders. The line of sight will be straight down towards the bottom of the pool. A common mistake is having the head lifted or looking forward too much.

Pulling – A Powerful Front Crawl Arm Pull

Are you getting the most out of your pull?

Here’s two key areas of the arm pull that can help create a stronger more powerful pull.

The catch, is the most important area of the arm stroke and is the initial part of the pull. The goal is to take hold of as much water as possible. The surface area of the hand should be relaxed but strong to create a large paddle like effect. Fingers are pointed slightly down to achieve the angle most effective for propulsion.

 

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Coaches Tip: “Keep the elbow above the hand, fingers pointed slightly downwards”

 

 

The propulsive phase is where the power’s generated, the major muscles in the shoulder and back can get really involved and pull the hand through to the hip. Timing is essential, a slow acceleration of the stroke from the catch to the hip combined with a rotation of the body can result in massive propulsion.


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front-crawl-arm-stroke

 

Two common stroke faults can drastically decrease propulsion.

Fault 1- Not extending the arm to finish off the stroke

You may think that this only affects the power of the pull. In actual fact it has a huge impact on both rotation and breathing. The body rotates whilst the arm pulls, however, when the arm doesn’t fully extend, the rotation is cut short. If the arm is properly extended to finish then the body rotates into the correct position and this gives us a great platform to breathe.

Fault 2- Arm sweeping across the body on the breathing stroke

On a non-breathing stroke the head looks straight down and can be used as a central marker. This makes it very easy to pull through directly past the hip and extend out the back. It’s not so simple on a breathing stroke. As the head turns to the side to take a breath in, if the arm sweeps across to pull closer to the opposite hip, this can cause the body to snake through the water and will also decrease the propulsion from the pull.

How to avoid these two stroke faults?

Exaggerate the hand to hip movement.

As you turn to breathe to the right, concentrate on what the left arm is doing. The aim should be to touch the left hip with the left hand as the arm pulls through the water, this will stop the left arm pulling across the bodies centre line when breathing.

Breathing – Efficient Front Crawl Breathing

Breathing in swimming, is like no other exercise. On many occasions i have worked with beginner swimmers who are keen cyclists or an excellent runners, however, their fitness just doesn’t quite transfer into the pool.

Why is this so?

Swimming front crawl comes with a hypoxic element, hence breathing is somewhat restricted. In front crawl, even if you are breathing every 2 strokes you are probably holding your breath for a couple of seconds each arm cycle.

Have you ever tried exercising whilst talking to a friend or coach?

What happens?

You find yourself more breathless than you thought you should be.

This is because as you’re talking you haven’t been taking enough oxygen in to cater for the level of exercise you’re doing.

The same applies with swimming, the hypoxic nature of the exercise makes it increasingly more difficult to breathe.

Front Crawl Breathing Simplified

Most swimmers simply don’t exhale well You can’t put a breath on top of a breath!

Breathing out is just as important as breathing in.

Firstly learn to exhale slowly and efficiently…  Read More about front crawl breathing.

 

Front Crawl Breathing

Front crawl breathing is possibly the most challenging part of learning to swim; it’s often a hot topic for discussion with many different opinions on what works, and what doesn’t.

 

Do you struggle with breathing and get exhausted after a short distance swim?

 

Here’s how to transform your front crawl breathing technique, with our 5 steps to a successful stroke

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1. Rotation

Possibly the biggest misconception is that you have to ‘lift’ your head out of the water to breathe. This is very poor technique and results in the body position dropping down in the water. The correct way is to ‘roll’ the head, just enough to clear the surface of the water. The goal is an efficient breath, returning the head quickly into the water.

 

As you rotate into the breathing position notice a shallow pocket of water. This is the ‘bow wave’. The bow wave is created by the arm pull, it provides a convenient little space to roll your head into whilst taking a breath. Use the bow wave to your advantage and try not to over rotate or lift your head.

 

Coaches Tip: “Roll, don’t lift”

 

Rolling the head must be accompanied by a small rotation from the body. Both head and body have to be in sync with one another to produce an effective breathing action. Be careful not to over rotate and remember the goal is minimum movement with maximum results.

 

Beginners tip: Stand in water around 1.2 meters deep (waist). Lean forward and put your face into the water, practice rolling the head to the side and looking along the line of the water level. Try and minimise the roll by keeping a portion of your head submerged and breathe out of the corner of your mouth.

2. Head Position

Any movement from the head whilst swimming can cause resistance. Unnecessary movement from side to side can cause a ‘snake-like’ action to occur and will ultimately result in loss of control and balance. The goal is to keep your head as still as possible. Therefore, the only time the head should move is during a breathing action.

 

Coaches Tip: “Keep the head still as much as possible”

 

Beginners tip: Draw an imaginary black line down the bottom of the pool and keep your eyes fixed on it. (If you’re lucky your pool will already have a black line down the middle). Return your eyes to the black line after every breath, focusing on a still head position.

front-crawl-head-body-position

3. Trickle Breathing

Trickle breathing is the preferred choice for most keen swimmers due to it’s continuous rhythm. It’s perfect for maintaining efficiency and minimising oxygen debt, especially on longer distance swims. If your aim is build an effortless technique, why not try trickle breathing and focus on exhaling? You’ll soon start to see benefits of improved relaxation and better timing.

 

How to perform a successful trickle breathing style?

Whilst swimming, turn your head to the side and take a deep breath of air through your mouth, fill your lungs. Hold your breath as you return your head to the water. Then, slowly let the air trickle out of the mouth or nose until all the air has been expelled, at this point you ready to start the cycle again. The key when mastering trickle breathing is to focus on the exhalation, experiment with both mouth and nose, pick the one that works for you.

 

Coach’s Tip “Focus on exhaling”

 

Beginners tip: Learn to breathe whilst holding the side of the pool first. Why? because building confidence first is essential, you can incorporate it into the full stroke later.

Take a deep breath and submerge your head under the water. Hold your breath for a count of 2 seconds to allow your body to utilise the oxygen, then slowly exhale through your nose for a count of 4 seconds. Once all the air has been expelled, pause for a second then return to the surface for another breath. Repeat 5 times, aim for efficient relaxed breathing.

front-crawl-exhale

 

4. Explosive Front Crawl Breathing

 

If your goal is speed this is the style for you, front crawl sprinters often hold their breath for long sustained periods to fully utilise efficiency and minimise resistance. As a result, this style can be effective but exhausting, hence the reason why longer distance swimmers struggle with explosive breathing styles. Explosive breathing is also commonly used by breaststroke sprinters.

 

Explosive style front crawl breathing often utilises the anaerobic energy system (without oxygen) If your goal Is speed, sprinting or high intensity fitness training then this is the style for you.

 

Have you wondered why some people can run 5 km without breaking a sweat, but can’t swim a length of the pool without being completely exhausted? They’re using different energy systems for the run (aerobic/with oxygen), than the swim (anaerobic/without oxygen).

 

How to perform a successful explosive front crawl breathing style?

Take a deep breath, fill your lungs up. Keep your head still and cover as much distance as you can before you start to run out of breath. Exhale fully and quickly through your mouth, then pause for a second. Rotate early in the arm stroke to give yourself the maximum amount of  time to get another big breath.

 

Coaches Tip: “Try hypoxic swimming, train your muscles to utilise oxygen more efficiently”

 

Hypoxic training is basically restricting your breathing. With regular practice your heart and lungs will start to produce oxygen more effectively and your muscles ability to use oxygen improve.

Set yourself a target distance, maybe 25 meters, or one length. Try and cover the distance with as few breaths as possible. Lets say you complete the distance with 4 breaths, that’s a great start. Rest fully, then try the same distance again, but this time try and reduce the number down to 2 or 3 breaths. As you reduce the number of breaths per length notice improved speed and efficiency. Once you’ve mastered this, increase the distance and try again.

Beginners tip: Use a kick board. Take a deep breath and put your face in the water. Hold your breath and flutter kick your legs for as long as you can. Just before your our of breath, release all the air under water and produce as many bubbles as you can. Your ready for a fresh breath of air. Your goal is to improve distance each time and cover the length of the pool with as few breaths as possible.

 

5. Front Crawl Breathing Patterns

 

Bi Lateral breathing

Bi-lateral breathing pattern is great for distance swimmers, triathletes and open water swimmers. In most cases its either 3 or 5 strokes per breath, alternating sides from left and right.

 

Benefits of a bi-lateral front crawl breathing pattern:

  • Balanced stroke pattern with breathing to either side
  • Regular and often breathing helps minimise fatigue over longer distances
  • Improves awareness of other swimmers by looking both left and right whilst breathing (especially important for tactical racing, open water swimmers and triathletes)

 

Unilateral breathing

Unilateral breathing is great for speed over a short to middle distance. If you greatly favour one side and struggle on the other pick your most effective side and master it.

Benefits of Unilateral front crawl breathing pattern:

  • Reduced head movement
  • Increased efficiency and speed
  • Maximised oxygen uptake – from breathing to most effective side

 

Coaches Tip:  “Experiment with different breathing patterns, figure out the one that works for you.”

 

Time yourself over a specific distance and check your heart rate at the end of the swim. Fully recover then try again, this time with a different breathing pattern. Record your results, each time experimenting with a different pattern and logging your results on each swim. Evaluate your times and heart rate to examine the most efficient pattern. Your aim is to improve your speed and reduce your effort, easy speed and efficiency with relaxed technique is the order of the day.

 

Beginners tip: If you favour one side more than the other when front crawl breathing that’s just fine. Practice single arm drills to build up your confidence on the opposite side. When you feel ready have a go at bi-lateral breathing.

 

The Breaststroke Blueprint

Breaststroke is often thought of as one for the seniors, the image of the elderly lady gliding elegantly over the top of the water so not to discolour her blue rinse. In reality, this is a long way from the truth and these 5 tips below will transform your breaststroke technique into an efficient stroke that looks a lot more powerful than prehistoric.

 

Read More

Learning To Swim: Mastering The Basics

For many people, learning to swim can be one of life’s annoying little challenges.

Most non-swimmers fall into one of these three categories. Which one applies to you?

  1.   Had school swimming lessons a child but never quite grasped the correct technique
    Avoids swimming for fear of splashing around in the pool, resulting in complete embarrassment.
  2.   Had bad experience as a youngster
    Spent the next 20+ years avoiding all swimming activities like the plague, through fear of drowning.
  3.   Just never learnt
    Realises that to fully enjoy a holiday one must learn the basic swimming techniques.
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