How to swim faster: Tips and techniques

Are you trying to learn how to swim faster, maybe for a swimming event or triathlon? If you are having trouble trying to improve your technique it can start to feel a bit like you’re treading water! Contrary to what some might think, moving your arms and legs faster when you’re in the water won’t necessarily make you move any faster, but it will make you tired.

As is the case with perfecting any skill, practice makes perfect. To get you off to a flying start we’ve compiled some tips for how to swim faster and improve your swimming technique.

Focus on efficiency

Moving your arms and legs quicker will not result in moving more quickly through the water. Instead, you are likely to reduce the economy of each stroke and use up more energy. Instead, focus on making each stroke count by making it as powerful and efficient as possible.

If you are keen to develop a more efficient stroke, one of the best things that you can do is join a swimming club. Training alongside other swimmers will enable you to pick up tips on developing a more effective, energy-efficient technique to propel you through the water. It also allows you to develop specific technical elements of your swim stroke.

Improving your technique

The best way to start moving through the water at greater speed is to perfect your technique, becoming more streamlined and reducing the amount of water resistance created when you move. The most effective way to do this is to work on your body’s position in the water, which will not only minimise water resistance but also allow you to more effectively utilise your core strength to power you through the water.

Our top 3 technique tips are

  1. Perfect your body position: Your body’s positioning within the water can create drag, or help you glide through the water effortlessly. Focus on keeping your body parallel to the bottom of the swimming pool, the more your legs sink through the water, the harder you will have to work and the slower you will move.
  2. Develop a killer kick: As we discussed in our blog post on breaststroke technique, around 75% of your propulsion through the water is generated from your kick. It, therefore, makes sense to work on maximising this element of your technique. A stronger kick aids your body position by ensuring that your legs stay high in the water.
  3. Work on your breathing: Developing an efficient breathing pattern gives your technique the best chance to succeed. If you are struggling for breath with each stroke, this will have a knock on effect, compromising your speed through the water each time you need to take a breath. 

For specific technique tips about breaststroke technique, check out our blog which goes in depth on the things you need to master to become a breaststroke world beater!

Body position

You can improve your front crawl speed and minimise water resistance by aiming to keep your body horizontal and keeping your hips closer to the water’s surface. Engaging your core muscles will help you to keep your spine straight as you move through the water. You can also try lowering the position of your head, not enough to be totally submerged, but so that you are looking down as opposed to straight ahead.

Similarly to swim the breaststroke or butterfly stroke more effectively, you will need to maintain a streamlined body position, but there will be a few differences in the technique used for the front crawl. For breaststroke, you should still aim to keep a horizontal position but allow your hips to drop slightly, with your legs behind the rest of your body, not below. For butterfly, try to keep your hips and shoulders horizontal and your body as close to the surface of the water as possible.

To help with your body position in the water, it may help to include core strength training into your training regime. Whilst this workout idea comes from Strength Runner, the muscles that it targets are transferable to swimming and will help improve your performance as a swimmer if done consistently as part of your training plan.

Kicks and strokes

In addition to perfecting your body position, you’ll want to master those kicks and strokes to push you through the water faster. As most of your momentum when you swim comes from your arms, you’ll want to focus your strength on your arm pulls. Use less energy by doing fewer kicks within your stroke cycle; fewer, more precise kicks will propel you more effectively than lots of kicks that break the water’s surface.

If you are doing sprints of underwater swimming, incorporating a dolphin kick into your technique can help you move faster whilst underwater, especially when pushing off a wall. For breaststroke, where you are moving your legs out in a more circular motion, work on syncing up your timings so that your arms and legs are working together.

We have shared a link to our breaststroke guide earlier in this article, but if Freestyle is more your thing, check out this guide to performing the stroke with technical precision.

Training: Consistency and Structure

Don’t be disheartened if you don’t see immediate improvements in your swimming times, as it can take time to see progress once you start making changes to your technique. Following a consistent training plan can help you to stay on track and avoid slipping back into bad habits.

Regularly practising key technique drills can help reinforce the changes that you are trying to implement on your longer swims. And, if you are able, attending a regular swimming club night will help you with developing an effective routine and gives you the chance to speak to swimmers who have likely faced similar challenges.

If you like the sound of a training plan but don’t know where to start, check out this two-week plan from Sundried.

Need something a little more advanced for your upcoming triathlon? Check out this training plan from Triathlete (.

To see more blogs on fitness and exercise tips, head over to our main blog here.  

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