4 Ways to be a better swimmer

Published on 02 October 2018

 The opening of The Play Pool, our selfie-tastic ball pit for four to 12-year-olds, has us excited about the prospect of a summer packed with swims for fun, fitness and family togetherness. If you want to set a good example for youngsters in the pool or ocean it pays to brush up on your own freestyle swimming skills first. By following these four steps to a better front crawl, you and the family can transform from tadpoles to torpedoes in no time.

Streamline your position

Imagine you are swimming through a narrow horizontal tube and therefore need to make your body as long and streamlined as possible. In this position your lungs are like the centre of a see-saw, so you should make sure your alternating hand enters the water in front of your head (rather than behind it) to counterbalance your legs effectively. One of the most common mistakes is lifting your head instead of tilting your face to take a breath, which forces your legs to dip. By contrast, elite swimmers tend to have just one eye above the water when they inhale.

Rotate and breathe right

There are a few reasons why you want to be rotating your body from side to side as you take a stroke, keeping your lower back and abs taut as you do so. Firstly, you’re making yourself more hydrodynamic. Secondly, this allows you to engage the powerful lat muscles (among others) rather than relying on your shoulder for propulsion. Thirdly, rotating allows you to breach the surface to breathe without lifting your head and wasting energy.

Catch the water and push back

Instead of thinking of your stroke as a windmill motion, you might imagine the underwater motion as cupping a beach ball and flinging it behind you. You want to push the water back, not down, and pointing your elbow towards the ceiling after you first ‘catch’ the water will make your stroke more efficient. One way to check whether you are over-stretching at any point, which wastes energy and causes your body to over-rotate, is to swim using single-arm strokes and a kick board in the other hand. The goal is to splash as little as possible.

Kick from the hips

While the flutter kick of your front crawl only supplies about 10 per cent of your propulsion, it’s still critical you get it right as it also stabilizes your body in the water. The key is to kick by flexing from the hip rather than starting at the knee and remember you can only kick as wide as your imaginary tube (that is, the hole in the water carved out by your body) or you’ll be adding unnecessary drag. The most efficient swimmers have a strong downbeat and then relax on the upbeat, keeping the legs taut but ankles flexible. If you have stiff ankles, practice with fins until you can point your toes more.

Tips for the kids

A quality pair of googles is essential for getting kids comfortable keeping their face in the water during front crawl. Asking them to exhale continuously or hum a tune with their face submerged will help with this too. Setting a Superman challenge to see who can glide the furthest from a single push off the wall is a good way to get them used to the streamlined body position, and the flutter kick can easily be practiced while holding on to the ledge at the side of the pool.