Swimming faster

Hi. Having dabbled in tris a few years back and then concentrated on running I'm kinda hankering after another go (my running is at a standstill!). So I "swim like a fish" or so I've been told, very elegant, very stylish (bi-lateral breathing) but nowhere near quick enough. So, how do I get quicker? Lessons? I think my main problem is my leg kick is crap (can't get any rhythm) and I don't think my underwater stuff is "strong" enough.

This probably sounds an inane and impossible question but hell I thought I'd ask it anyway!

Cheers, Amanda


  • I have the exact same problem. Near-perfect technique (apparently!) and not exactly slow, but could definitely be a lot faster and don't know how to go about it.

    Had a coached session recently where the coach said - if you get young boys and young girls in the pool and tell them to swim to the end, the boys will usually get there first, even if the girls have a better technique. Reason? Power and force. The boys might splash about all over the place but are just using more power than the girls. So he told me I really have to just get off my *rse and put some wellie into it.

    One thing I've found helpful is to really concentrate on being able to "feel" the water pressure on your palms throughout the whole underwater section of the stroke - so you are really catching and pulling/pushing the water. The first session I did where I paid attention to this, my hands were tingling afterwards from the extra effort!

    Oh and you could do some kick sets to improve your leg strength and kick?
  • Hi Dr Nic. I did wonder about the leg kick stuff as I'm sure when I tried that before I just about went backwards! It's catch 22 though as I'm using the swimming as a "rest" for my poor old legs :)

    I'm going tomorrow before work so will try the focus on my hands/water pressure and see how that works.

  • No probs. But if your kick really is that "weak" then it is definitely worth strengthening it up as, if nothing else, a good kick keeps your body position in the water.

    Maybe think about a coached session? I paid £25 for 3 hours and it was really useful (group session)
  • I think a lesson or two from a "pro" is the way to go and will do that if I really get back into tris this year. I guess I'll get FLM out of the way and then see what the summer brings :)
  • If speed is down to power, would it be worth doing weights to build upper body strength?

    I'm just a pool plodder so might be talking out my butt!:o)
  • when i do weights for schwimbling (very infrequent) I mostly do lats and tricep stuff. Dorsal raises etc help too. General all round strength does help, but obviously look at the physiques of swimmers, sprinters are real powerhouses, the longer distance they are the longer and leaner they look.
  • Oh dear...I don't conform to this! *LOL*
  • (to be honest i was thinking of rebecca cooke and mark foster, so you probably couldn't get more extreme!! i'm sure you'll be fine in your extra long race with all your muscles!)
  • Coached session I agree Dr Nic!

    I tried one of the endless pools at the recent SwimCycleRun show - 10 minutes with a bit of coaching - filmed and then a stroke critique afterwards.

    My thing - like Dr Nic is just getting more power - but I was tole to concentrate on the glide to increase stroke length reduce the number of strokes (something to do with reduced drag?!) Has really helped me to focus and seems to work for me.

    If you look at the website for the show there were several professional coaches selling group or individual courses.
  • Thanks Petal, will check the site out. Swam 1600m before work but felt too tired to try anything new and just plodded along as usual.
  • Found these sessions and have started using them (without a coach) to some effect - at least it gives me focus!
    spelthorne swim sessions .

    However, I would be very grateful for any advice from anyone about improving my leg kick - its OK position ing, toe in etc. but practically zero power!! Any Drills to help please.
  • Kick with (or without if you can bear it) a board! I'm talking lots, like maybe 8x100, 4 of them freestyle, 4 choice/IM. It will hurt as creates lots of lactic, but you will get better at it and it does create a stronger kick over all.

    Or get a pair of fins (if that's what people call them) and use them sometimes (like you would paddles) - apparantly helps with power but I've never used them.
  • Ouch!
    Must I do that much?
  • Well, no. Try 4x100 first maybe, 2 free 2 choice, then build up. See how you go maybe, some people find it easier than others.
  • expect your shins to burn, bit like aerobics in the 80's!! feeeeeeel the burn.

    but although it hurts it doesn't stay hurting once you finish!

    another tip would be maybe once you've buolt more strength up, vary the kick as in alternate a length kinging hard and fast, and a length doing deeper kicks. with breaststroke kick i alternate short sharp kicks with long glidey ones.
  • Top tip, mate.
  • Ta - all advice will be tried (at least once!)

    I have to say its sh*te when you used to be the fastest in the pool.
    Now I'm still quite quick but when this great amazon of a women who looks seriously unfit gets in and just slaughters you its VVVVVV demoralising..
  • Say Fankoo again and I will smack you round the head with some large hand paddles before making you do 8x100 reverse IM. On 1:45.
  • fank...... ok.


  • interesting thread!

    i swim as cross training and know my style leaves much to be desired but i enjoy it nonetheless.

    What is meant by bi-lateral breathing. is that when you do three strokes and breath left and then three strokes and breathe right - doing freestyle of course?

    also, i got told recently that if your shins play up from running that swimming is actually bad to do. i see you mention about "shins burning"?

    one more question - how quickly/slowly should you kick with freestyle and should your kick cause any surface splashes or not?

  • ok,

    bilateral breathing just means alternate breathing (3's, 5's, 7's etc - as an aside, good drill for lung and -i think- anaerobic training is to do a lenght breath every 3, a length every 5, a length every 7, a length every 9, then back down, 7, 5, 3. etc.) and yes, freestyle, you'll find your own rhythm for breathing backstroke, fly i breathe every 3, breastroke every 1 or 2 depending on whether i'm working hard or not. Whatever is comfortably for you -like running.

    As far as shins go, i guess shin splints could be aggravated by 'aggresive' kick, but if you're just kicking a little to maintain body position i can't think any harm would come from it, the burn i talk about is mostly due (i think) to the lack of muscle on and around the shin - calf is much stronger, but isn't really utilised as much due to the nature of the movement. If you have no problems with your shins then don't worry about it, the burn feels like any other muscle 'burn' when in the gym etc. If you have trouble with shins then swim with a pull buoy between your legs untill they're better.

    as far as freestyle kick goes, well, most of the work from the kick is underwater -if you waste energy with half your kick above water, then it isn't propelling you anywhere. However splash is inevitable and doesn't mean you're doing it wrong. When you next get the chance watch some swimming races on telly, helluva lot of splash in the sprints going on, and a constant steady splash from kick going on in the longer distance races where there is less of a sprint element. If you kick fast and hard there'll be a lot more splash than if you do deeper slower kicks (which are better for toning i think -not that it's worked!!)
  • i wish i could write as many words on thesis stuff.

    hmmm gone back to wuk.
  • Moosey,
    don't some bacteria have flagella....?!

    Thats swimmin' aint it.?!!

    I see at least one full chunky chapter on this!!!!
  • thanks moosey most informative. what are you writing your thesis on?

    sorry if this is a really stupid question but when you say length breath what do you mean? do you mean every 3rd etc. length to do a length on just one breath? i'm sure that's not what you mean but can't work it out.
  • Have you tried reading Total Immersion by Terry Laughlin? It transformed my swimming (which was pretty awful before, it has to be said). This book teaches you to reduce drag and therefore increase speed, with less effort. Sounds unbelievable, but is actually true. It uses various simple drills to get you swimming flatter, longer and faster. I used to do 25 strokes per length (25m pool) - I now do 14. And I used to have to stop after 2 lengths, whereas now I can do 100.

    And re the weak leg kick, I thought I had a weak leg kick, and that's why my legs tended to drop in the water, but actually I needed to correct my whole position in the water, pushing down with my chest and keeping my head almost completely submerged. Now my legs float along at the surface and I kick much more freely as I'm not constantly trying to kick my legs up.

    I appreciate that you may all be better swimmers than me and know all about this stuff, in which case I'm sorry. But if not, I highly recommend this book.
  • Yogajoga, she means swim one length of the pool taking a breath every 3 strokes, one length breathing every 5...and so on.

    TI is indeed useful for some people, but remember that it is just one method of coaching..with a very good marketing campaign! Others may be just as valid, and more accessible to you in terms of actual classes.
  • yup nics right, meant breathe every 3rd stroke for 1 length, then breathe every 5th stroke for 1 length etc. sorry!
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