Beginning swimmers, as well as seasoned ones, can feel discouraged if they happen to find their speed doesn’t increase after weeks or months of practice. As with any sport, it takes training to improve. Swimming is a full body sport that requires a little more physical effort both in and out of the pool to improve speed and power. The following tips should help anyone struggling to break a plateau, prevent injury and improve all-over athletic ability.
Out of the pool
Swimming may require you to be underwater for most of your exercise routine, but what you do on land can have a large impact on your swimming speed and efficiency. First of all, before you start and just after you finish any swimming session, you should be stretching all of the major muscle groups in your body. Spend at least five minutes stretching – each stretch should take about 15 seconds, and repeat each three times. Do the same after your swim.
Another great way to keep a swimming body in good shape out of the pool is to lift weights. It is not totally necessary to lift heavy weights, bands or body weight exercises will suffice. Focus on increasing the strength of your arms and shoulders. The stronger your arms, the more power you will be able to get from each stroke. Don’t forget to work your core as well. A strong core leads to proper balance and alignment, which are very important in keeping you swimming straight.
Massage is also extremely effective in supporting swimming health. It will release tension or tightness in tender joints like the shoulder and also allow your body to heal more quickly. Sore muscles play a huge part in endurance, and swimmers who are sore will more than likely not be able to swim as far or as fast as they would like. It is best to give your body a massage after each hard workout. This doesn’t mean you need to set up multiple weekly spa appointments. Apply self massage to tender areas and sore muscles by kneading, squeezing and stretching the skin over these areas.
In the pool
At the start of a workout, swim a few leisurely laps to warm up your muscles. These should feel as if you are gliding, relax your shoulders and just flow through the strokes. The point is to elevate your heart rate slightly, while avoiding any muscle or joint strain.
When it comes to the work you do inside of the pool, make sure you are focusing on technique. Improper form can be a huge drag, literally. Make sure that when you are kicking your legs you are hinging at the hip. Hinging at the knee is inefficient. Let your ankles be relaxed, following the flow of your legs.
Also make sure that your head and chest are not above your lower body. Keeping your head up forces the back half of your body down into the water, this creates a large amount of drag. Think back to swimming lessons when you were held up from the middle by an instructor and try to recreate that while swimming. Comfort is the first step to making improvements.
When moving your arms, hinge from the shoulder and keep your hands flat. On the back stroke, you will need to bend your elbows as you pull back, but be sure to keep them high and as close to you as possible.
Lastly, breathing can make all the difference. Make sure you are rolling your head from side to side and breathing bilaterally, that is once on the right and once on the left.