Swimming my very first triathlon breast stroke was slightly embarrassing and convinced me that a couple of swimming classes wouldn’t go amiss. With a small number of simple tips my swimming technique, and therefore swimming enjoyment, rapidly improved.

Although swimming technique is often overlooked, it’s critically important in the sport. Spending a couple of hours on your technique will allow you to enjoy this fun and low impact sport. Sadly, most people have poor swimming technique. Poor technique will make swimming less enjoyable, hamper progress and could even lead to injury.

The following simple tips will improve your front crawl technique radically. Watch out for common mistakes, also listed below.

BODY POSITION

Your body should be horizontal to the water with your chest, bottom and legs up high to the surface. This will make your body streamlined without creating drag. A horizontal body position is maintained with a good kick (see below) and contracted abs – as if you’re doing a plank.

HEAD POSITION

Your head should be positioned so that you look diagonally forwards (100 degrees from the torso). Keep your head still except for when breathing to the side, when your head, led by your body rotation (not just moving the head), will move to one side. Only lift your head out of the water when sighting.

FOOT POSITION / KICK

Your feet should be close to the surface and kicking calmly to maintain your horizontal body position and give propulsion. Your kick will also help your body to rotate to breathe. Your kick should come from your hips.

HIPS

Your hips should be rolling your body a little from side to side, following the arm that pulls back, and a little more when breathing. Body rotation also helps you to reach and glide. Use your core strength and kick to achieve this rotation.

ARMS/HANDS

Your forearm and hands are used for propulsion. Before catching the water, glide with one hand in front of you and only start the catch when your recovery arm is out of the water. Finger-tips enter the water first, gliding with one hand in front of you lengthening in front of the same shoulder (avoid crossing the centre line).

When you start the catch, keep your elbow bent and facing directly sideways and your hand down and back with the palm facing the back of the pool after which you press the water back behind you with the palm still facing the back of the pool.

After pressing the water back behind you, the first thing to exit the water is your shoulder followed by your upper arm, elbow, forearm and hand. Keep your elbow high as you bring your hand back in front of you and dive your fingers straight into the water again.

BREATHING

Exhale under the water so that you only have to inhale when you rotate to breathe. Good body rotation will help you to breathe as you will only have to turn your head a little to breathe. Turn to breathe when your underwater arm is close to your hips, towards the end of the catch.

COMMON MISTAKES

  • Using the shoulders or head to rotate the body instead of the hips
  • Kicking from the knees instead of the hips
  • Only using the head to rotate for breathing instead of using the hips
  • Holding your head up high, leading to neck and back muscles getting strained
  • Overreaching the shoulders instead of rotating the body to create the reach and glide
  • A fast arm turnover; longer and slower (not too slow) strokes are often more efficient

When trying these tips out, don’t think about everything at the same time. Break the technique tips up into different swimming drills which allow you to focus on one area at the time.

Swim one length drill and then one length of front crawl, thinking about incorporating the aspect of the drill.

The smoother, the faster!