How To Swim Faster
So you want to swim faster, huh? You are just in time and in good hands. The art of swimming faster like in other sports all comes down to the technique.
Water is denser than air, so to swim faster we need to
- Decrease drag
- Improve propulsion
Drag results from the constant rubbing against the water molecules by the swimmer’s body, which slows forward motion. As the swimmer moves faster through the water, pressure drag starts to build; this type of drag develops at the swimmer’s head.
Most people often neglect the importance of swimming with the least amount of drag. However this is the area we need to pay close attention to if we need to increase our efficiency in the water.
Reducing drag requires skill rather than force.
There are three types of Drag that act on a swimmer; friction, wave, and pressure drag.
Frictional drag is the result of the interaction between the swimmer’s body and the water molecules and serves to slow down the swimmer.
Wave drag, occurs when the swimmer or any object moves through the surface of a liquid. The pressure around the swimmer’s body increases because of the different water velocities, which result in waves.
Pressure Drag. As the speed of the swimmer increases, pressure drag becomes a factor. The faster the swimmer is moving, there is increased pressure on the front region of the body (the head).
In the lines that follow, i’ll discuss with you the various ways to reduce drag.
- Wear Skin-tight clothing. This reduces your body’s profile and keeps clothing from acting like a parachute in the water.
- Remove hair. Hair increases drag. Most competitive swimmers wear a swimming cap over their hair or shave their head to minimize drag at the front of their body.
Both male and female competitive swimmers usually shave the hair on their arms, legs and anywhere skin is in contact with the water.
- Improving Your Balance .The 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 . 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.
- 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. 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 downsweep and catch.
- Compact Kick. 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, you can work on improving your propulsion. This is mainly done by improving your swim stroke mechanics.
- The first way to improve propulsion is to roll more from side to side with each arm stroke.This enables you to better engage the large back muscles in addition to the shoulder muscles. However, floating on your side is counter-intuitive at first and requires some practice for getting used to.
- Secondly,You should engage the large back, hip and torso muscles while rolling from side to side. The synergy between your core muscles and arm muscles allows you to apply more force to your swim stroke.It is a little bit like a baseball pitcher when he throws the ball: first his body twists backward, then his hips initiate a rotation forward which is channeled through his upper body into his shoulder, arm, hand and finally into the ball, with an acceleration at each step. Once you have integrated this technique, you will be able to swim longer and faster and tire less quickly, as your core muscles have more endurance than the ones in your shoulders and arms.
- This is the last piece of the puzzle on how to swim faster with less effort. Before applying propulsive force in the water with your arm, you need to make sure that your hand and forearm are aligned and facing backward. You can then effectively move your arm backward like big paddle. This swimming technique is often called the “high elbow catch” in the freestyle stroke because you need to keep your elbow above your hand to be able to successfully do this
- Kick Efficiently. 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.
I hope you will be able to apply these techniques to swim faster. Let us know your experiences in the comments.