Exercise 201: Stroke. Stroke. Breath. Improve Your Swim Technique

Portrait Of Young Female SwimmerCongrats, you’re one of the many black women who knows how to swim. However you may be limited to just recreational swimming such as on your last vacation to Jamaica. Your experience may be enough to keep you looking cute in the pool or out on the beach. If you’re ready to branch out to include swimming as part of your exercise regimen you need to know a few things to improve your technique to get the best out of your workouts.

It’s difficult to simply explain the best technique without being able to show you. I found a Wiki How post that may help with the visual. Here are the finer points of improving your technique.

  • Breath every fourth stroke. When we learn to swim as children we’re taught to breath every other stroke for the freestyle. This is actually inefficient and slows you down. So count each arm stroke in your head and as you extend your arm on the fourth stroke slightly turn your head to the arm extended over your head, don’t lift your head out of the water, take in a breath. Immediately turn your face back into the water and slowly blow the air out as you stroke. You should be ready for the next breath in by the fourth stroke. If you’re doing the breast stroke, butterfly or back stroke the breathing is much more obvious. For the breast stroke and butterfly you take your breath in as your upper body comes out of the water and blow it out quickly as your upper body goes back below the surface. For the backstroke breath as you would if you were running. When I run the best rhythm for me is two quick breaths in then one blow out. Figure out what works best for you.
  • Push the water with your arms. The arms, really the shoulders, have the power in the freestyle, breast stroke and butterfly. For the freestyle extend your arm over your head, bend your elbow such that the lower part of your arm forms about a 45-degree angle to “slice” the water. Your fingers should be tightly together. Having your fingers apart creates drag. As you pull your arm back in preparation for the next stroke it should be slightly bent so that it crosses down your body. You want to push the water down. Most people when they do the freestyle extend their arm forward then pull their arm directly back alongside their body. However when you do the backstroke you are pushing the water down alongside your body. The breast stroke and butterfly are more complex arm movements.
  • Kick. Kick. Kick. Your legs provide the motor. Most people think the kicking is doing most of the work in the freestyle. During swim practice we had to use kick boards. We held on to the boards and used only kicking to go up and down the pool. It’s much slower than using your arms. Because when we had to use just our arms by tying buoys to our feet we went faster than with kicking alone. For the butterfly you used your legs as one unit, sort of like a mermaid. That’s all arms and core work. The back stroke and breast stroke rely a little more on the legs. You want to have a nice flutter kick with straight legs. You don’t want your legs going too far below the surface.  If they’re bent too much it will create drag.

You can always take a lesson or two from a swim instructor. After two lessons they will be able to help you identify your areas of improvement and get you on your way. It’s important to get your technique right because it will enhance your workout because the wrong technique can cause injuries and may make you tire you out quickly. Now…into the pool.


Real Talk | Real Things | Real Results


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