Why changing your breathing technique can help your freestyle swimming
When you’re swimming face down, it’s important to continuously blow out into the water between your breaths to the side. This gets rid of the CO2 build-up in your system and it means that when you rotate to the side to breathe you only have to inhale in the short window available, not exhale and then inhale.
Visualise a long, smooth exhalation through either the nose or mouth (whichever feels more natural).
What you are looking for: Less tension in your body and better stamina. Also, those bubbles might be noisier than you are used to.
How to hone your leg kicks during freestyle swimming
A gentle leg kick will help lift you high in the water, but it’s easy to burn a lot of energy and create drag with poor kicking technique.
To counter this, think about keeping your legs straight as you swim. Point your toes as you kick gently and try to tap your big toes together as they pass each other.
What you are looking for: Less oxygen demand and easier progress through the water.
How to recover your arms over the water during freestyle swimming
How you should recover your arms over the surface of the water is a debate that has rumbled on between swim coaches for decades. The most important thing to remember is to keep that forward carry nice and relaxed and try to get good clearance between your hand and the surface.
If your hand and elbow are too low you might notice them brush or hit the surface, lane rope and even other swimmers.
What you are looking for: An easy, loose movement over the water. You might notice this challenging your range of motion in your chest, shoulder and lats (back muscles).
How to improve your pull-through and propulsion in the water
On a fundamental level, swimming is simply about propulsion through the water. So, from the very front of your arm stroke to the very back you should be trying to press the water backwards in order to push yourself forwards. If your arm pushes the water down, up or to the side you are just wasting effort.
Visualise having a smiley face drawn on the palm of your hand and as you swim focus on keeping it facing to the wall behind you.
What you are looking for: An easy and direct feeling to your pull-through.
Why it’s important to keep a sense of rhythm during freestyle swimming
When you’re working on your technique it’s easy to get quite robotic in your movements as you’re concentrating so hard. But efficient swimming should be fluid and rhythmical. Try to swim with a sense of purpose and rhythm, perhaps turning your arms over a little faster than you might be used to. If your cadence is normally a bit on the slow side then speeding it up slightly can feel easier, not harder (it sounds counterintuitive, but give it a try).
The ultimate tool to work with on your rhythm is a Finis Tempo Trainer in mode 3. Just place it under your swim cap and swim to the beep (it’s a bit like a metronome – which is why some people call it a ‘wetronome’).
What you are looking for: An enjoyable connection with the water and a sensation of moving quicker without any additional effort.
You can read more articles about swimming technique in the latest issue of Swim magazine.