A swimmer’s natural enemy is drag, and many swimmers create more drag for themselves than they realize. There are several common ways swimmers can unknowingly interfere with their own forward momentum, but it’s nothing a few simple drills can’t fix. We’ll take a look at some of the most common contributors of drag, and how swimmers and coaches can fix these issues while training.
Eliminate Arm Crossover
When swimmers start to become careless in their stroke, they tend to cross their arms over the centerline. This is especially likely when swimmers become fatigued and begin to breathe more often — the motion of turning their head to breathe can throw off arm placement, leading into the arm crossover when swimming freestyle. This arm crossover movement decreases the effectiveness of a swimmer’s catch and subsequent recovery, reducing the power in their stroke. With a less effective catch and recovery, more drag is created as the swimmer “catches” less water.
To fix this, swimmers can incorporate several sets of drills into each workout focusing solely on arm movements. The best drill for the arm crossover issue involves having a lane to yourself. If you can find an open lane, swim directly over the center black line. Using the line for guidance, be sure to keep each arm on its respective side of the line as your complete each stroke. You’ll also need to lift your head higher than usual during this drill to monitor your arm movements. Remember to also pay close attention to your arms as you breathe, as this is when you’ll be most likely to fall back into the crossover habit.
Slice, Don’t Push, Through the Water
It’s no surprise that pushing the water, rather than slicing through it, creates extra drag. Many swimmers will flex their hands at the front end of their stroke as they try to reach their full extension, turning their palms forward and essentially creating a wall between them and the lane of water ahead of them. Rather than using that full extension to push further forward, then, this wall stops forward momentum and creates extra resistance.
To fix this issue, focus on relaxing your wrists. Overemphasize by letting your fingers hang limply throughout the entire stroke, and watch your fingers and palms closely to ensure they don’t ever point upward during any part of your stroke. Another drill that could potentially help with this issue is the fingertip drag. This drill is typically used to help swimmers focus on high elbows, but it can also help to keep fingertips limp. As you move your arm forward to complete your stroke, let your fingertips drag the top of the water until your arm is fully extended in front of you.
Avoid Aggressive Kicking
Some swimmers will amp up their kick in order to compensate for poor upper body form or sinking hips. The mentality is that a hard kick will help to raise hips back up to the surface and make up for a weak pull. Instead, kicking faster and more aggressively wastes energy, and can actually create more drag rather than propel you forward.
To slow down your aggressive kick and to become more purposeful with each kick, you’ll want to incorporate swim fins in your workout. Fins will exaggerate your kick and force you to slow it down. As you slow down and focus on the movement of your legs, you should get a better feel for what is most effective in propelling you through the water. To reduce drag even further, be sure to kick with your entire lower half — not just your feet. Kick from your hips all the way through to your toes, and remember to kick up as well as down.
The best way to become a faster swimmer is to identify where you are creating extra drag, and to fix those issues in your training. If you know you have one or more of the above issues in your own stroke, try these drills in your next workout!
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