Mastering the Swim: It’s all about technique… Part 1
Author: Kristen Avioli
As a coach and swim instructor, I am a stickler for technique. It’s one of the most important things to focus on to improve your swim. Technique first… and speed will come shortly after. Drills are key to improving technique, though most people dislike them. I love drills… well maybe not love… but I enjoy drills (coming in Part 2). I enjoy slowing down my form to think about proper hand entry, perfect head position, body rolling, and so on. If you are in the market to improve your swim, then start putting all your money down on technique: get more efficient and become a faster swimmer.
You might be saying “Alright Coach K … so I just spent all my savings on technique… what now!?” Oh I’ll tell you… Here are some key techniques and tips to think about next time you hop in the pool:
Good freestyle requires you to rotate and roll your body along an axis… your spine. Imagine your body as a rotisserie chicken, turning over and over on one long metal pole. Everything rolls together – your shoulders, your hips, your legs, your feet… AND your head. But here’s an important trick to head position. Your head will remain in line with the axis, and will only roll with your body to either side when you breathe. Which leads us to…
Your head should be in a neutral position. You don’t want to be looking straight ahead, because that will cause your hips to drop, your legs to drag, and your lower back to arch. Keeping your head neutral will allow you to see the bottom of the pool/(insert body of water here), as well as see forward when necessary. You should be able to move your gaze up and down, keeping your head in the same position. Your shoulders & head will be relaxed, your hips higher. Roll your head only when you need to breathe, and roll it with your body keeping everything in line. Your body will be in a better position which equals faster swimming with less effort.
Many swimmers enter the water with their hands in front of their head. WRONG. You want to enter the water slightly wider than your shoulders, which allows for better balance and more power. If straight ahead is 12:00, you want to enter the water at 11 & 1 or 10 & 2 O’Clock. It will feel wrong and awful if you are not used to this, but believe me it is right. Imagine yourself getting out of the pool – you put your hands wide and use your power to lift up. If you put your hands just in front of your chest, it’s harder to lift up your body (unless you have massive triceps). Having your hands at or just wider than your shoulders allows for more power, leverage and stability. This same concept applies to swimming. Contrary to what we were taught growing up, your hand should enter the water angled more towards your pinky than with your thumb. This will ease shoulder rotation, and with your hand entering ready to catch the water, you’re saving time and energy not doing an S-Pull to start the catch.
This is just a start to perfect technique. For now, integrate these three things into your workout, because you don’t want to think about too many things at once. I’ll share more techniques and good drills to incorporate them in to your workouts in Part 2. Til then… SWIM ON!
A former Division One collegiate swimmer and record holder, Kristen completed her first triathlon in 2008 and fell in love with the sport immediately. Never a runner or cyclist and only running short distances to entertain her sister Natalie during marathons, she decided to get crankin’ on the tri train. Since 2008, she has completed 12 triathlons, including a half iron man, 8 half marathons, and two marathon, and now loves to run! She is a USAT Level 1 Certified Coach, Swim Coach, and Adjunct Faculty Member at George Washington University.
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