How to Swim Fast

High School

​Reducing Swim Resistance: The First Path to Swimming Fast

​There are six paths to swimming fast. The first path and the most important is reducing resistance in the water. This article will give you three techniques on ways that you can reduce your drag in the water.

​Now, I'm not talking about shaving the hair on your body. That's a very very small reduction of drag.

The reason that you want to reduce the drag on your body is that the faster you go, the more resistance you create. And the resistance increases four times as you double your speed. So you better get your body streamlined in the water.

The way that we have to reduce the water's resistance is to shape our body. How we position our body in the water is the best way to do it. There are others.

Besides shaving we could...

  • Go to a medievel torture rack and stretch us out
  • Find some spray that reduces surface tension on our skin
  • Have an operation to shape our heads like a torpedo.

​Those aren't really very practical. Neither is buying a $500 technical suit either. The best way is to adjust the shape of your body. Here's how to do it...

​Swim Tip #1 to Reduce Resistance

​The first way is to adjust your head position. Most of us swim by looking forward. This does a few bad things to our shape in the water.

First, it lowers your legs and hips. This creates a ton of resistance going forward in the water. Instead of being parallel to the direction you want to go, you are now closer to to perpendicular.

Try this next time you're driving. Put your hand out the window of the car. Put your hand parallel with the ground and feel how your hand cuts through the air.

Now, turn your hand so your thumb is up and your hair is perpendicular to the ground. Can you feel the air hit your palm and try to rip your arm backward like a big bear?

That's what happens when you lift your head up.

Also, the top of your head is more streamlined than your face. By lifting your head and looking forward, the flat part of your face cuts through the water.

​When you keep your head down, looking towards the bottom of the pool, the round top part of your head cuts through the water like a torpedo (see, you don't need an expensive, weird operation).

There's one added benefit for swimmers that is rarely mentioned. Looking forward when you swim causes you to extend your neck which causes head, neck and back pain. For you high school swimmers this isn't such a big deal but for master swimmers it is. Many start swimming because it's one exercise which is supposed to be easy on your body. But looking forward  can create worse conditions for your neck and back.

Bottom line: Look at the bottom of the pool to swim fast.

​Swim Tip #2 to Swim Fast

​The second technique is lengthen the body. We do this by leaving an arm extended in front of the body. This does a couple of good things for reducing swim resistance:

  • All things being equal, a longer body is faster than a shorter body. An 18 foot kayak is going to be faster than a 12 foot kayak. The extended arm has the effect of making your body longer, if even for only a second or two.
  • The extended arm and hand cuts through the water like a knife. The other option is to have the forearm and triceps hit the water first. Try the car experiment again. This time, point your hand to where you're going. Feel the hand cut through the air like a jet. Now, lower your arm and point your arm to the bottom of the street. Don't go too fast because this time, it really might rip your arm off.

​When you finish your pull with one arm, leave the opposite arm extended out in front of your shoulder for a bit. I teach that the lead arm stays out until the recovery arm comes past your head. This allows you to get the maximum benefit of the longer body.



​Swim Tip #3 to Swim Fast

​The third tip is similar to the second and it has to do with the lead arm. The arm needs to form a straight line with the side of the body. Swimmers tend to put the arm in front of the face, instead of the shoulder.

This does two things bad. First, instead of having the tip of the fingers cut the water first, it has the forearm cut the water. No need to do the car test (feel free if you want) but trust me. It creates a lot of drag and resistance.

The second negative is it tends to throw the body out of alignment. Instead of having the body be nice and streamlined it becomes wiggly and squiggly. This causes a ton of other problems with swimming fast as well. Instead, the lead arm should form a straight line along the side of body and shoulder. T

Try this; Place yourself against a wall opposite a mirror. Place your arm and side of your body against the wall. Notice how you have a straight line from toes to the finger tips. Now, move your arm away from the wall and place it above your head. You have to bend your elbow and you'll probably shift so that your body bends.

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About the Author

I help swimmer have fun, improve, get fast and learn about the great sport of swimming. I’ve always loved coaching the swimmers who weren’t as talented or world class fast but they loved the sport and they wanted to learn and improve. I want you to benefit from my coaching and training.

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