One of the biggest misconceptions about swimming speed is that in order to swim faster you have to move your arms faster.
"He who pulls the most water wins, not the one who moves their arms through the water like a windmill," says Melanie Valerio, who won gold as part of the freestyle 4 x 100 relay team at the 1996 Summer Olympics. In fact, windmill arms won't get you to the other end of the pool faster; they'll get you there more exhausted.
There are hundreds of ways to improve your stroke and learn how to swim faster. But you should start by streamlining your body, getting a good hold on the water, and practicing these often-overlooked techniques.
Keep Your Kick Shallow
"You don't need to kick hard or fast," Valerio says. You just need to kick effectively.
That means allowing your feet to point like a ballerina and letting them break the surface of the water, says competitive swimmer Drew Porter, founder and owner of Quixotic Racing. Kicking too far under water just creates drag.
Test the theory yourself: Porter often has athletes kick with their feet at a 90-degree angle to their shins. Sometimes, they even move backward in the pool. When they point their feet and break the water, they know where the surface of the water is and can keep the kick where it should be.
More: How to Swim Faster
Straighten Your Knees
If your kick still isn't getting you anywhere, you may be "kicking from your knees." In other words, you may be bending them too much so they flail instead of helping you power forward.
One way to know if you're guilty: Turn over on your back and kick your way down the pool. "If you see your knees break the surface of the water, you're not kicking right," Valerio says.
The remedy: "Put on a pair of fins," Valerio recommends. "They extend your whole leg like a mermaid and prevent you from kicking from your knees." Do a few sets with fins, then do a few sets in which you try to mimic the movement without them.
More: Swim Fast to Get Fast