The perfect stroke
If you’ve taken the plunge and started swimming, you’re bound to be reaping the benefits of improved fitness, more energy and a leaner, better body. And by improving your technique and stroke, your performance will get even better.
“You’ll see a dramatic difference with improvements to your technique,” says Dan Bullock, swimming coach and Speedo Ambassador. “Given how wrong some movements can be, even small changes, such as making sure water is pushing in the correct direction, will yield great improvements.
“Think of swimming like learning a language or a musical instrument: you need to give it time. Coordination, timing and learning new movements in the water make this a huge undertaking.”
But Bullock firmly believes that practice makes perfect. “If someone really wants to make progress, I recommend 14 sessions a month,” he says. “And continuity is important.” As is your choice of stroke.
“Front crawl and backstroke are the least tiring, if done well,” says Bullock. “Backstroke removes the need to time a head turn, so it could be considered an easier starting point, and to do front crawl well you need to put your face in the water.
“Breaststroke might appear simple, but, done properly, it is highly technical. Butterfly is perhaps the most difficult.
“But regardless of the stroke you choose, confidence, the ability to relax, and timing your breathing should be early aims.”
Swimming is technical and improvement is difficult even for advanced swimmers, says Bullock, who advocates professional coaching. “A coach will be the eyes you need to guide you and describe the mistakes you make,” he says. “They will help to translate the technical points you might be misinterpreting into fluid movements.
“You can watch good technique, read good technique and picture good technique in your mind, but getting a good coach involved will ensure you perform them correctly when you’re actually in the pool.”
Bullock’s top advice for swimmers keen to improve their performance is not to underestimate proper breathing technique: “Stroke and breathing techniques are inextricably linked. Good technique will exhaust you less, so you can do more of it at a steadier pace.
“The benefits of swimming are well documented, but until the mechanics of your stroke are efficient it will be hard to do more than a few lengths. You’re also less likely to injure yourself if the correct movements are made with the correct muscles.”
Dan’s top technique tips
• Tuck your chin into your chest, head down: drive your hands forward.
• Keep leg kick symmetrical. Propulsion comes as legs come together, kicking water backwards.