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How to perfect your swim stroke



For would-be swimmers, there are techniques and exercises to turn even the most inefficient doggy-paddle into an effective stroke.

Perfecting your swimming technique will not only help you swim laps at the local pool for exercise, but also allow you to train for a marathon or handle yourself in more open water.

Here are some tips for perfecting your swimming stroke.

Head Position

One of the things that keeps a lot of swimmers down is their desire to keep their head out of the water. It’s a natural inclination – you want to be able to breathe, and it seems like the best way to breathe is to lift your head out of the water. However, this can really mess with your stroke if you lift your head too high, throwing the line of your body out position and forcing your legs to do more work to compensate. Instead, you want to keep your head nice and low, level with your body, so that it forms a straight line from head to toe. All you need is to lift your head a tiny bit out of the water. Any more is unnecessary and will actually make things harder.


Now that you know how to hold your head, you want to make sure you’re breathing right. There are two key points here. The first is to never breathe on the same side twice in a row. That means, if you’re swimming and you go to the left to breathe, you want to go to the right for the next breath, alternating accordingly. The second key is to coordinate your breathing to your stroke so that it’s consistent – you breathe when your pulling back with your arm.

Arm Technique

In freestyle, your arms are what help you crawl forward through the water. The key here is to remember that you can twist your body as you pull each arm back. Always keep your head forward, but allow your torso to move with your arm. With your arm, you want to reach out and pull through the water. Then, push the water away as your arm raises back to recover.

Kick Technique

Just as important as your arm technique is your kick. When kicking, the most crucial thing to remember is not to get carried away – just because you’re moving your legs faster doesn’t mean your body is going to go faster. You want to avoid reaching too far out or down into the water with your kick, and you want to keep your legs loose – loose at the knee, loose at the ankle and loose at the hips. You don’t want them too loose, but within reason. Stiffness of knee or ankle will destroy your momentum and tire you out.

Body Rotation

As you reach with each hand, you want to rotate your whole body at the hips in the direction of that arm. This is extremely important, because failure to do so will restrict every other part of your technique – poor body rotation will make you kick and pull too hard with your arms, make it harder to breathe and make it harder to keep your body level in the water. Like any other endurance sport, half the battle is efficiency, and much of the efficiency comes from not sabotaging your own technique. Because everything in your body stems from the core, this is the first and last place you could make a difference in your stroke.

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