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How To Swim Faster : Everything You Ever Needed To Know

image of someone swimming faster

Have you ever wondered how to get faster at swimming?

Perhaps you’ve gazed at swimmers in the fast lane of your local pool, or maybe you’re already a quick swimmer wanting to take your speed to the next level. Learn everything you need to know about how to boost your speed with our guide on how to swim faster.

The key to quick swimming is a combination of technique and speed.

In this post, we’ll cover all the things you need to know about how to improve your swimming speed and have you gliding through the water faster than ever before.

After reading this post you’ll know:

  • What Is The Fastest Swimming Stroke
  • What’s Slowing You Down
  • How to improve your technique to improve your speed
  • Speed sets to integrate into your workouts
  • How to swim faster breaststroke
  • Five foods to boost your speed

So let’s jump in!

What Is The Fastest Swimming Stroke?

This post will focus mostly on freestyle, which is the fastest stroke. Although we will also touch on breaststroke – it’s good to know that if you want to swim faster, freestyle should be your stroke of choice.

What’s Slowing Your Swimming Down?

Before adjusting your swimming style, it’s important to understand what you’re currently doing that might be slowing you down. Pinpointing areas that need improvement will allow you to address them and rebuild any bad habits built into your muscle memory.

Here are a few things to look out for:

  • Head position – Holding your head too high or too low will slow you down. Keep your head in a neutral position with water cutting just around your hairline.
  • Body alignment – Picture a pole running from the top of your head through your body, like an axis on a globe. Rotating on this imaginary pole will help you keep your body straight and reduce extra movement from side to side that might slow you down.

  • Lifting your head to breathe – Breathing is vital for both buoyancy and respiration. Rather than lifting your head to breathe, rotate your body on that imaginary axis. Breathe when you have one goggle in the water, one out and quickly rotate back to centre.
  • Short strokes – Many people cut their strokes too short, especially when trying to swim quickly. While rapid stroke rate is useful for sprinting, entering the water too soon will cut down your catch and decrease the power of your stroke. Remember to extend your arm fully before entering the water and pull all the way through.
  • Kicking from your knees – Not kicking with your full leg will mean you mean you’re dragging a load of unused weight behind you. Make sure that you’re using your glutes, you can check this by putting your arms at your side, pressing your thumbs into your side to touch your glutes. If you’re kicking properly you’ll be able to feel your glutes activate.
  • Forgetting your core – It might not be the first thing you think about when you think about, but using the core is vital for strong, fast swimming.

Slow Down to Speed Up

Trying to swim faster without proper technique is impossible. Although you might make some initial progress, eventually you’ll hit a speed plateau. Plateaus can be frustrating, especially if you’re training for an event or have a particular goal in mind.

A sure-fire way to get faster at swimming is to combine speed sets with technique drills.

Slowing down can be vital in helping you learn how to swim fast.

Slower-paced drills provide an excellent opportunity to recalibrate your technique. Incorporate these freestyle drills into your workouts:

  1. Fingertip drag: After finishing a pull and recover your stroke, drag the tips of your fingers along the top of the water. This will help you become aware of your arm position and adjust your strokes.
  2. Catch-up: Keep one arm in front of you, either holding on to a kickboard or extended in a half streamline. Once you have completed the recovery with the opposite arm, switch and begin pulling with the arm that was extended.
  3. Underwater recovery: Swim freestyle as normal, but don’t finish your recovery outside of the water. Instead, when you finish your pull slide your arm in front of you underwater as you start the next stroke.
  4. Sculling: Position yourself on your front as you normally would. To scull, stretch your hands in front of you and move your palms in and out, as if you’re wiping a countertop, a window, or any other surface. This motion should propel you forward. You can also use a pull buoy to support your hips and legs while you concentrate on your arms.
  5. 3 Strokes and Glide: The name of this drill says it all! Take three strokes and then leave one arm at your side and the other extended in front of you. Keep kicking and glide for three to five seconds. Then take three more strokes and repeat.
  6. Closed Fist Drill: This classic drill will make you appreciate the importance of your catch. Make fists with your hands and swim as usual. Swim for a length or two and then open your hand into its normal position.

Once you have basic technique down it’s important to return regularly to drills to make sure you don’t lose the form you’ve developed.

How To Swim Faster Underwater

Whilst freestyle is the fastest above water stroke, the dolphin kick is the fastest way to move below the water.

The tips below can help you improve your pace underwater:

  • Keep your streamline tight – a tight streamline will help reduce drag and keep this speed longer after you leave the wall.
  • Don’t forget the up-kick – dolphin kicking underwater should be like a wave motion travelling up and down through your body. Yet many people forget that kicking up is just as important as kicking down when underwater.
  • Kick from your hips – the rhythmic motion of the dolphin kick should originate at your hips, not your knees or ankles.

Layer on the Speed

While technique is important, you’ll also need to push yourself in terms of speed. But how?

One of the best ways to swim fast is to inject speed training into your workouts.

Practice building speed early in your workout. This will help you maximise your potential rather than trying to sprint and push yourself to the max after a long session when you’re already fatigued.

Incorporate speed work early on after you’ve finished your warm-up using these sets:

  1. Speed Set 1
    1 x 25m build speed throughout the 25 / 1 x 25m sprint as fast as you can (rest 20 seconds)
    1 x 50m sprint for the first half of the first length, swim a moderate pace for and then sprint the second half of the second 25 (rest 20 seconds)
    1 x 25m sprint / 1x 25m easy with a focus on good technique (rest 20 seconds)
  2. Speed Set 2
    1 x 25m sprint / 1 x 25m moderate pace (rest 20 seconds)
    1 x 50m build speed throughout and sprint the second half of the second 25 (rest 20 seconds)
    1 x 25m easy / 1 x 25m sprint (rest 20 seconds)
  3. Speed Set 3
    1 x 25m moderate pace with a focus on fast, good kicks from the hips / 1 x 25m build (rest 20 seconds)
    1 x 50m moderate for the first half of the first length and second half of the second length with a sprint in the middle (rest 20 seconds)
    1 x 25m build / 1 x 25m fast with a focus on fast kicks (rest 20 seconds)

Repeat each Speed Set two or three times before moving on to your main workout. If you swim in a 50 metre pool you can modify accordingly.

How To Swim Faster Breaststroke

So far we’ve reviewed tips for swimming faster freestyle, but what about how to improve swimming speed for other strokes?

Although it’s the slowest of the four competitive strokes, it’s a great option to shake up your workout from time to time.

Here are few tips for adding breaststroke to your routine without slowing down too much:

  • Don’t fling your arms open too wide during the pull. Keep your elbows inside or behind your hands.
  • Be sure to keep your knees no wider than your hips.
  • Strengthen your legs to improve the power of your kick through dryland exercises such as squats.
  • Your catch should be no wider than an inch outside of your hips.
  • Swim ‘downhill’ – this means keeping your chest slightly lower than your hips and maintaining a tight streamline.
  • Keep your hips on the surface of the water.
  • Make your recovery short! Because your pull and kick finish at nearly the same time you’ll want to be sure not to linger for too long between strokes or you’ll loose momentum.

Eat For Speed

What you eat outside the pool is also vital for your improving your speed. Protein is an important part of any swimmer’s diet, but it can often be difficult to digest protein-rich foods during a workout.
Here are five foods you can incorporate into your regular diet:

  1. Low-Fat Yogurt – Yogurt is a great source of vitamin D, protein and potassium. It also has protein, which aids muscle recovery.
  2. Berries – Berries such as blueberries, strawberries and raspberries are choc-full of antioxidants. They make a great addition to a smoothie or shake.
  3. Dark Leafy Green Veg – Vegetables such as spinach and kale are fantastic sources of calcium and iron, not to mention one of your five a day.
  4. Beans – Beans are loaded with fibre and protein as well as important minerals such as magnesium, zinc and iron.
  5. Chocolate – Yes, that’s right! Well, not all chocolates. Unsweetened dark chocolate eaten in moderation provides a sweet treat and even has some antioxidants without sugar.

Beyond eating right, it’s also important to stay hydrated. Make sure you’re drinking enough H2O and not just swimming through it!

Don’t Go It Alone!

Improving your speed can be tough, but it’s not something you have to do on your own. Swimming with friends or a club is not only fun but can help push you to faster speeds without even realising it.

We hope you found these tips helpful. Working with one of our teachers can help you apply the techniques and drills discussed in this article and have you speeding down the fast lane in no time!

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by Alistair Mills

In 2016 I saw an opportunity for a new swimming company that did things a little bit differently and here we are almost 4 years later, having built a family of teachers and clients that we are all really proud of.

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