Having touched on technique with our last blog post on fitness, we thought it a good idea to expand a little on what is a very important aspect of learning to swim. Swimming is such a technical exercise, and if you are to maximise your potential in the water, knowing the correct technique is essential.
One challenge for the developing swimmer is learning the many nuances of each particular swimming stroke. But before we go that far, let’s first learn some basic guidelines to improve your performance no matter which stroke you’re learning.
1. Don’t forget to breathe
A common mistake many beginners make is holding their breath while their face is in the water. When you do that, carbon dioxide builds up in your lungs and you don’t replenish the oxygen your body needs. The result? You easily get exhausted and constantly feel out of breath.
To avoid this unpleasant feeling, remember to exhale steadily out your mouth and nose while your face is in the water.
Teaching children breath control and how to blow bubbles and exhale properly is really one of the key fundamentals of learning to swim and to create a platform for stroke development later on.
At TTTT we teach children to breathe bilaterally, i.e. inhaling on every third stroke, when they first learn to breathe to the side. Bilaterally breathing allows you to breathe easily on either side of your body. It is especially helpful when you’re swimming in open waters or you suddenly find difficulty inhaling on your natural breathing side. Breathing bilaterally also prevents an imbalance in development of muscles on one side.
When inhaling, don’t lift your head out of the water as this will cause your hips and legs to drop. Instead, rotate your torso a little bit and let your head roll just until your mouth clears the water.
2. Loosen up!
Trained swimmers and athletes make swimming look like an effortless act of gliding along the surface of the water. Their secret? They don’t fight the water – instead they keep their whole body relaxed and focus their energy on propelling their body forward.
I know this sounds simple… until you’re in the water! But it’s actually easy to get yourself used to it. Just practice the art of floating and be hyper-aware of your form. Once you feel more comfortable, you’ll be able to channel your power exclusively for propulsion. You’ll be amazed at how much more efficient and relaxing it is.
At TTTT we teach our students to be happy and relaxed in the water from their first lesson, whether they are 5 months old or 75 years old, as being relaxed is critical to get your body in the right position and therefore to being able to swim well.
3. Kick from your hips
Ever noticed how someone makes a big splash as the tops of their feet slap the surface of the water? Well that’s not because they have stronger legs than you do – they’re just simply kicking the wrong way!
The movement should start from the hips, not from the knees. Move your thighs (not just your legs), and keep your knees relaxed and your toes pointed. If at first you feel sore in your hip-flexor muscles, that’s a good sign that you’re doing it right.
4. Extend your arms fully
With each stroke, reach forward as far as you can before beginning your underwater pull. Extend your arm from your shoulder as if you’re trying to touch the ceiling while upright, then catch the water with your hand before executing the pull.
Another important thing is to finish the stroke, i.e. completing the underwater hourglass pull. Many swimmers bend their elbows at the waist area and pull their hands out of the water prematurely. Don’t make the same mistake! Make sure your arm extends down to your upper thigh before doing another stroke.
These simple tweaks can smooth out your stroke for maximum efficiency, which means you’ll move farther along in the water while expending less energy.
Finally, the most important tip is to learn to swim with the help of a professional swimming instructor. As with any sport, an expert will be able to easily identify errors in your technique and help you improve it further.
We all develop bad habits when we first learn to swim, and they can be hard to break later on. So it’s always best to learn proper execution and technique right from the off.