By Dan Bullock
Technique Swim Tips for Beginners, some Q&As
- How important is technique when you are learning to swim? Swim technique is harder to change later in life so the fewer mistakes made earlier when learning the more effective you will be later in your swim career.
- If you’ve never had swimming lessons/coaching, does this necessarily mean you will have a poor technique? Swimming is highly technical and not easy to change even for advanced swimmers. It is illogical and counter-intuitive so to get it right without instruction will be very hard
- Can you teach yourself a better swimming technique? Not the easiest since most struggle to imagine what they are doing right and wrong while in the water since it is such an alien environment. You can watch good technique, read good technique even picture good technique in your mind but this is rarely translated into correct movements performed.
- What are the main benefits of having a coach to help you improve? They will be the eyes you need to guide you and describe the mistakes you make. They will help translate the technical points you might be misinterpreting into fluid swimming movements.
- Which stroke is the hardest to master and why? They all have their complexities but perhaps Butterfly is most the difficult due to the very specific timing issues. If your timing is out you will struggle to take in air.
- What are the benefits of good swimming technique? Does it improve fitness as well as performance? Good technique will exhaust you less so you can do more of it at a steadier pace. The fitness benefits are well documented but until the mechanics of your strokes are efficient it will be hard to do much more than a few lengths. You are also less likely to injure yourself if the correct movements are made with the correct muscles.
- If you’ve never thought about technique before, which stroke should you start with and why? FC and Backstroke are perhaps the two least tiring if done well. Backstroke removes the need to time a head turn allowing for air to be taken when you want so could be considered an easier starting point. FC can create concerns since to do it well you need to put your face in the water. Depending on fitness levels and starting point Breaststroke might appear simple but done well is highly technical. Confidence, the ability to relax, and timing of the breath should be early aims regardless of stroke.
- Are there different techniques you should employ for pool / open water swimming and why? Swim movements do not necessarily need to change due to solely being in OW but you will need to add in a method for sighting and looking where you are going. If you are swimming in a wetsuit this will impact body position so we might take into account this change but legs still kick and arms still pull.
- What do you think is most important and why: stroke techniques or breathing techniques? Or do you need to have everything working in synch to swim effectively? The two are inextricably linked. Controlled breathing allows you to swim relaxed with a stroke that can be reproduced over and over. Swimming well with good technique allows you to breathe when you want. On dry land, breathing is not an interrupted stop/start function due to only being allowed a short window of opportunity to inhale. In the water, until you have better control of your swim technique your stroke will dictate when you get to take a breath and that can only lead to further frustration.
What is your top piece of technique advice for:
- A swimming novice: swim more frequently but perhaps for shorter periods. Tremendous gains can be made if you reduce the amount of time ‘unlearning’ between swims
- A swimming enthusiast: work with a coach, huge gains can be made for modest changes to your swim technique.
- An experienced, high-level swimmer? Check progress by performing some specific, reproduce able swim sets each 6 weeks or so. Measure if you are getting faster, fitter or swimming further. Add some accountability to your swimming. It might help get you to the pool on those days you are not so keen to go.
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