Swimming Stroke Techniques
Mastering swimming stroke techniques will not only improve your speed and efficiency as you move through the water, it will likely increase your enjoyment of the sport. The key elements of any stroke including the basic front crawl are body position, arm stroke, and kick. Breaking down and examining each element will help improve your entire stroke.
- Focus on body position. Your body position dictates the efficiency of your entire stroke as you move through the water. You should be looking slightly forward with your forehead just below the surface of the water. Your body should be parallel to the pool floor. Your neck and back should be relaxed.
- Remember to reach. A short stroke will cause you to have to take more strokes and spend a greater amount of energy. Your hand should not be entering the water directly in front of you. You should be reaching all the way forward with your arm, your shoulder rotating forward, your body rotating to its side. A long reach creates a smooth and efficient stroke and sets you in a good position for pulling more water in your underwater stroke.
- Practice the S stroke. The underwater portion of your arm stroke should form an S. This will help you to pull more water and propel you forward. As your hand comes under the water you want to move it away from your body at your shoulder line to form the top of the S, then move in towards your body at about your waist and away again at your hip to finish the S before it exits the water. During this portion of the stroke you want to make sure your hand is cupped with your fingers tight together so you are pulling water and not just moving your arm through it.
- Always complete your stroke. Proper stroke completion as your arm leaves the water is the final element to a good arm stroke. Just like with the length of your stroke reaching forward, an incomplete stroke will cause you to use excessive energy. To make sure you are completing your stroke, brush your thumb along the side of your thigh before removing your arm to begin your next stroke.
- Let your kick help you, not hurt you. In the basic front crawl your kick only composes a small portion of your momentum - about 10%. However, like a proper arm stroke technique, a good kick can help you maximize your energy and efficiency, and a bad kick can tire you out and slow you down. In front crawl, your kick helps keep proper body position in the water while adding a little bit of forward push. The kick is composed of short alternating up and down motions with both feet. The movement should start at your ankles and stay underwater just below the surface. A splashy kick will use excessive energy.
- Incorporate practice drills in your work out. Grab a kick board and concentrate on a proper kick technique. Work on isolating one arm at a time by either swimming each length only stroking on one side, or by playing a form of catch up where you leave one arm extended in front of you until you complete your stroke with the other arm.