4 Tips For a Faster Freestyle Swim

Libor Janek, masters' swim team coach and creator of the swimator blog, admits there's no quick way to learn the perfect freestyle stroke.

Newbies and experienced swimmers can improve their stroke by following four of Janek's tips.

Maintain Proper Body Position

You've probably seen people struggle with their stroke before. They allow their legs to sink the bottom, or try to lift the top half of their body out of the water to get ahead. No doubt these styles of swimming are ineffective and incorrect.

More: 10 Elements of a Perfect Freestyle Stroke Part 1

A big part of an effective freestyle is body position, Janek says. Without the right body position, swimmers will waste energy from increased drag. Oftentimes, newbies try to swim on top of the water and end up exhausting themselves.

"The proper body position in freestyle is horizontal alignment right below the surface of the water without sinking hips and legs," Janek says. "The key to achieving this position is the realization that a swimmer should not try to swim over the water, but through the water with the buoyancy supporting the body."

Swim the Line

Another ineffective stroke is the one that takes you all over the lane, wasting energy as your body zigzags down the pool instead of taking the straight route.  It's a telltale sign of an incorrect stroke.

"One of the main causes of zigzag swimming is also the crossing over of arms pass the middle line of the body," Janek says. "Beginner swimmers should think wide arms instead of pulling underneath of their bodies."

More: 10 Elements of a Perfect Freestyle Stroke Part 2
 
"If you slice a swimmer in half from head to toe with one eye on one half and other eye on the other, that middle line should be like a wall, and for example: the right hand should never get through that wall to the left side."

Once you fix you zigzag problem, you may notice increased speed and efficiency in your stroke.

Alternate Sides for Development, But Not All the Time

You may have heard of bilateral breathing when it comes to swimming. This is simply alternating the sides which you breathe from during your stroke.

When asked if bilateral breathing should always be the go-to style of breathing when swimming, Janek had a two-sided response, saying that in terms of health benefits it's the best, but shouldn't be your style of breathing at all times.

During races, breathing to just one side can help the swimmer get oxygen faster, increasing performance. Attempting to breathe bilaterally can hinder your effectiveness and slow you down.

Kick for Stability and Power

Some swimmers have a naturally powerful kick, which can help to propel them forward. For the rest, kicking is just a part of keeping afloat. The kick that accompanies freestyle is called the flutter kick and involves moving your legs up and down at the knees.

MoreNatalie Coughlin's Freestyle Kicking Tips

Janek is a firm believer in having a strong kick as part of your freestyle and explained its many benefits.

"Kick is one of the most important aspects of freestyle swimming," Janek says. "In sprinting, it is the key to fast arm turnover, in open water or distance swimming it is a key to a good sustainable tempo.

"Kick also serves for balance and for assistance with rotation."

Janek explains that freestyle is side to side, instead of flat on the stomach. The kicks helps the hips maintain this efficient side-to-side movement.

"Kick also helps with right body alignment," Janek says. "Without the kick, majority of swimmers' legs would sink as they are not as buoyant as our air-filled lungs. So, by employing a slight travel kick, we keep our body in the right horizontal right below the surface of the water alignment."

More: 6 Tips for a Smart Tri Swim

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