Swimming is one of the best all-round forms of exercise you can do, and it’s hugely popular all over Australia. But many swimmers, while enjoying the water, aren’t particularly confident or secure in their swimming technique. This insecurity can dissuade them from getting in the pool often enough to improve their swimming, and it can sometimes take the enjoyment out of the experience altogether.
If this applies to you, don’t worry! We have put together this article to help you learn how to swim better and feel more confident in the pool.
Reasons to practise swimming
There are loads of good reasons to do more swimming practice. Swimming has a huge range of benefits for your physical and mental health. People who swim regularly notice a huge boost to their energy levels, a better quality of sleep and an improved level of overall fitness. They also feel healthier, more positive and less stressed, demonstrating what an important activity swimming can be for increasing your sense of wellbeing.
Some of the specific health benefits of swimming include:
- Exercise: Swimming is one of the best all-round forms of exercise you can take as it uses almost every muscle in the body. It’s a great way to get a swimmer´s body. Good for increasing strength, toning up and maintaining a healthy weight. It’s also extremely beneficial for your cardiovascular health, protecting you against problems such as heart attacks, strokes and diabetes.
- Relaxation: Swimming is highly beneficial for improving both mental and physical wellbeing as it promotes relaxation and reduces stress. This helps to reduce your blood pressure and alleviates the symptoms of anxiety and depression, enabling you to manage the stresses of everyday life more effectively.
- Recovery from injuries: Swimming is good for muscular injuries as it is a low-impact sport that you can enjoy at your own pace. You don’t have to put too much strain on yourself while strengthening your muscles and increasing your flexibility.
However, if you want to get maximum benefits and enjoyment from swimming, it is important to get your technique right. Here are our top tips for how to swim better.
How to improve your swimming
Getting in the pool with cold muscles is a recipe for disaster. You will not have the flexibility you need, and there is a risk of you getting cramps. A correct warmup involves a number of simple exercises that you can easily do at the poolside. Stretches, push-ups and sit-ups are ideal for warming up your muscles and increasing your overall strength and flexibility.
To give yourself an extra advantage, you might also want to do some planks and core exercises, just to keep all the muscles you need for swimming in great condition.
Structure your swimming practice sessions
Jumping into the water and splashing about can be loads of fun! But if you’re serious about improving your swimming technique, you need to structure your swimming practice sessions so you can get some real meaning out of them.
Start off by swimming 200 metres freestyle at a constant pace and pressure. Then help yourself to focus by concentrating on just your arms or legs. This helps you to understand your swimming technique better and create a strong rhythm.
The main part of your session should be dedicated to swimming laps. If you have a lap pool or other rectangular pool in your backyard, this is the ideal environment for learning how to swim better. You can concentrate on improving your lap times and strengthening your technique without any of the distractions and obstacles that you always find at a public pool. And, as you’re in the privacy of your own backyard, you won’t need to feel self-conscious or embarrassed about it!
While you’re swimming laps, try to use as few strokes per lap as possible. Remember, a champion swimmer can do an entire lap in around seven strokes! Nobody expects you to be that good, but aim for less than 20, only starting the next stroke when you start to slow down from the previous one. It’s all about using your body in the most efficient way and creating more length in the water – you might have noticed that the top swimmers all tend to be tall! Creating a longer shape will help you to push the water out of the way more efficiently so you can use less energy and swim for longer.
Finally, make sure you remember to warm down with some gentle swimming before getting out of the pool.
3. Work on your breathing
Good breathing is key to improving your swimming. A lot of swimmers tend to waste breath by gasping for air every time their face reaches the surface between every stroke. Part of becoming a better swimmer is learning to breathe more efficiently, using the air properly and reducing your breaths to one every three strokes instead of every stroke. This will help to reduce strain on your neck and shoulders as it means you are breathing on alternate sides rather than relying too heavily on one side or the other side of your body.
Learning to breathe more efficiently will also help you to keep your head in the right position when swimming freestyle. Many swimmers tilt their heads too far upwards or hold them too high, causing the rest of their bodies to drop too low in the water. This throws your technique off-course and slows you down. When you’re not breathing, your head shouldn’t move at all – you only need to tilt it slightly to the side to breathe.
4. Get your whole body working together
If you watch a top swimmer, their arms, legs and torsos seem to work together in synchronicity, propelling them forward through the water with what looks like very little effort. This is because they are using their bodies in the most efficient way possible. As you practise swimming, this will become natural to you if you get used to using the right techniques.
Your body position should be as straight as possible from your head to your hips so it can turn into each stroke to add more power. Keep your head low as this will keep your torso in a more streamlined position and reduce strain on your neck and shoulders. Doing this reduces drag and makes swimming easier. You should only tilt your head when you need to breathe.
Use your arms and hands like oars to pull your body through the water. If you hold your hands in a broad, flat position, this will help you to use your entire forearm to dig into the water, keeping your forearm at a right angle to your upper arm. At the same time, your abs and your lower back muscles should be taut as this will help you to propel yourself through the water using your arms and legs.
When it comes to your legs, it’s all down to the way you kick. Keep your leg muscles taut and your feet flexible so they can act like fins. If your feet aren’t particularly flexible, investing in a pair of swimming fins can really help your swimming performance. Small, fast kicks tend to work best as this technique gives your body stability in the water and prevents your legs from causing drag.
5. Work on your different strokes
Most swimmers tend to swim freestyle, so the majority of swimming practice advice is based around this stroke. But there are plenty of other swimming styles to choose from. It is important to be aware of all of them and work on your technique if you really want to be a better swimmer.
Here are some simple tips to consider when swimming in different styles:
Your arms and legs have to work together here, but it is important to work on them separately if you really want to get your technique right. This is a stroke that requires a lot of coordination, so make sure you have the correct technique for your arms and legs so they can work in synchronicity.
One common mistake that swimmers make when swimming breaststroke is that they pull their arms back too far on each stroke, sometimes reaching almost to the hips. You will be more successful swimming in this style if you use shorter, more powerful arm movements that don’t even reach as far as your torso.
Many people think of backstroke as quite relaxing as it allows you to watch the world go by as you swim. But if you’re serious about becoming a better swimmer, you need to think about the different elements of the stroke so you can achieve more power. Backstroke can actually be one of the hardest strokes to get right.
The arm movement is particularly important here as it needs to come from your shoulders in a fluid, rolling movement. When your hand comes out of the water, your thumb should emerge first. Your arm then needs to twist mid-stroke so your pinky finger goes back into the water first.
Another helpful hint when swimming backstroke is to keep your head low and in a relaxed position. Many swimmers hold their heads too high when swimming this stroke, causing the body to be in an uncomfortable position – the upper body will be too high and the lower body too low. This creates a lot of drag, so it is important to keep your head low, making yourself more streamlined and also more comfortable.
The butterfly is all about the arms pulling you through the water. You should pull with your arms once for every two kicks. This synchronisation can be difficult to get right. It can be a good idea to practise with one arm at a time – do one lap just using your left arm and your legs, then another lap with just your right arm and your legs, before putting the whole thing together.
Doing one-arm drills will help you to keep your body in a more stable position and ensure that your arms are pulling with equal strength. This will result in a more balanced stroke, which is easier for you and looks better, too!
One simple way to improve your swimming is to master the flip turn. This is the way of turning in the water that top swimmers use at the end of each lap so they don’t have to stop swimming between laps. Mastering this technique will vastly improve your swimming and quicken your lap times as there is no pause between laps.
If you can do a somersault in the water, you can do a flip turn. It is important not to look at the wall as you approach it. If you look at the wall, you will slow yourself down by keeping your head up and also worry yourself about making the turn in time. Instead, look down at the bottom of the pool. Start to turn a half somersault when you see the “T” shape on the floor of the pool that marks the end of the lane.
Tuck your chin in, kick hard once and pull your arms down until they are at your sides. Then tuck your knees up to your chest and push with your arms to roll you over onto your back. At this point, when your half somersault is complete, stretch your arms over your head with your hands together pointing into the pool, away from the wall. Uncurl your upper body so it is in a streamlined “torpedo” shape. Extend your legs so your feet are planted on the wall, with your knees and hips at 90-degree angles.
Push off from the wall using your legs and feet so your whole body is now in a straight streamlined shape. You should still be on your back at this point. Use dolphin kicks or flutter kicks to propel you, and twist your whole body to one side so you roll over onto your front. Keep your body in a straight line the whole time to maintain as much momentum as possible.
6. Improve your swimming practice with the right pool
If you really want to improve your swimming and you don’t currently have your own pool, having your own pool can be a great investment. It is so much easier to practise swimming when you have a pool in your backyard – you can just step out of the door and into the water, any time you choose. There’s no more need to wait for public pool opening times; you can get some practice in before work or enjoy a dip to relax you at the end of a busy day.
With so many pool shapes and sizes to choose from, it is easy to find a pool that can fit into your backyard and fit in with your lifestyle. The expert team here at Compass Pools Australia are always happy to help you find the perfect pool for you. Please contact your nearest dealership, and our friendly team will be glad to discuss your requirements.
For more swimming news and tips, check out our blog, which is regularly updated with articles about swimming and pools. We want to help you become the best swimmer you can be, and encourage a lifelong love of swimming for all!