Meet the challenge with Swim Smooth

Swimming is a fantastic sport to keep you fit and healthy and many of us love our time in the water. To help train for a land based charity challenge, swimming is a great way to improve fitness. If you are entering a triathlon event then it might be the case you can already comfortably swim breaststroke but jealously watch swimmers in the fast lane swimming freestyle (aka front crawl)? Or perhaps you can swim freestyle but find it a struggle and would like to be better at it?

To help Challenge 4 Life readers tune up for their events, we turned to Swim Smooth's Adam Young. Here Adam provides five simple tips to help you learn and improve your freestyle swimming so that you can develop a nice efficient stroke.
There's also lots of free information on the Swim Smooth website including videos and animation to improve your freestyle technique. Plus, for real enthusiasts the company organises a number of swim clinics throughout the UK. If you find these tips useful then visit their comprehensive website for further details

5 Tips To Improve Your Freestyle Swimming Technique

1. Exhalation

Here's a golden rule of good freestyle swimming: Whenever your face is in the water you should be exhaling. Here at Swim Smooth at least 90% of the swimmers that we see hold their breath under the water so that when they turn to breathe to the side they have to exhale and inhale in the short window of time available. Not only is this very hard to do but holding your breath makes you tense and you soon feel the CO2 building up uncomfortably in your system. By exhaling smoothly into the water between strokes you rid yourself of the CO2 and only have to inhale when you do go to breathe, which makes things much easier.
In years gone by swimmers were taught to hold their breath under the water as it adds buoyancy. However we now understand that this buoyancy is in the wrong place - holding your breath lifts your front end up in the water and then causes your legs to sink, creating lots of drag. If you feel as though your legs are sitting low in the water then work on your exhalation breathing technique and this should help bring them up.

2. Kicking (Part 1)

As adult swimmers, the level of propulsion we get from our leg kick is very small indeed and what little there is requires a lot of effort and energy to produce. Really we need to increase the propulsion from our arm stroke and minimise the kick - this is a much more efficient way to swim. With this in mind, the role of the kick is simply to keep your legs up high in the water, minimising drag for minimum effort.
To improve your kick technique, avoid kicking from the knee, which adds a lot of drag and uses a lot of energy. Keep your legs quite straight and kick with a light action from the hips instead. Don't worry if you don't generate much propulsion from you kick - even if you go nowhere with a kick board - that's not a problem. Remember, we're just looking for low drag and enough lift from the kick action to bring the legs up nice and high. With practise you should be able to kick quite gently and still do this.

3. Kicking (Part 2)

Here's a second tip to improve your kick: Turn your feet slightly inwards and aim to brush your big toes lightly as they pass. As you swim become aware of your kick and brushing your big toes lightly together with a regular tap-tap-tap rhythm. If you get any delays or pauses in this regular rhythm then you know you've got a problem there, perhaps a very wide kick or a scissor kick, which adds a lot of drag.

4. Finger Tip First Hand Entry

Back in the 70s and 80s swimmers were taught to enter the water thumb first with the palm facing outwards, this supposedly gave a cleaner hand entry into the water. Unfortunately a thumb first hand entry requires internal rotation of the shoulder to achieve and we now know this is the leading cause of shoulder injury in swimmers. Instead of entering thumb first, enter with the palm facing downwards and spear in at a slight downward angle:

If you have any shoulder pain during or after swimming, check your hand position as you enter the water. Correcting your hand entry can often cure shoulder pain all by itself. As a bonus, such a fingertip first hand entry also sets you up for a better catch and hold on the water. These are the two reasons why all elite swimmers now use a fingertip first entry into the water.

5. Understand Your Natural Style

Every year Swim Smooth help thousands of swimmers improve their swimming. Something that has become very apparent to us is the influence of body type, experience, gender and even personality on a swimmer's stroke. We've created a new system called Swim Types, which shows the six distinct ways people swim freestyle from absolute beginners all the way up to elite swimmers. Depending on factors such as your arm length, your muscle mass and your flexibility we'll show you your type and how to improve your freestyle specific to your style. If you've worked on your stroke and struggled to improve then it's likely the advice you followed was more suited to another type of swimmer. Discover exactly what you need to work on in your stroke to improve on our new microsite here:

More About Swim Smooth

Swim Smooth is a British swimming coaching company operating around the world. The British Triathlon Federation exclusively endorses our methods.
Have an unanswered question about freestyle? Visit their website - it's packed with animations, video and free articles to help you understand good freestyle swimming and improve your stroke. The site's very easy to use and is organised into areas for beginner, intermediate and advanced level swimmers.

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