Swim Club Blog - Technique Or Fitness, Which Comes First?

Swim Club Blog - Technique Or Fitness, Which Comes First?


We all know that swimming is a 'technique' sport and learning stroke technique is an important part of performance. However, if you're training for long distance swimming, there needs to be a balance in your training as many swimmers can get tied up searching for perfect technique at a risk of poor conditioning.

I've heard many people tell stories of how their children are members of a local swimming club and they are surprised (to the point of offended) that the swimming club don't appear to do much stroke tuition, they prefer instead to just get them swimming.. a lot!! Triathletes in particular are fanatical about swim technique, so it's no surprise that when they see their children receive fairly limited tuition, they feel the urge to comment about the poor quality of coaching!

My usual reply is... "You're complaining that they don't do enough technique work, but your 11 year old is 3 minutes quicker than you over 400m... so who's in the wrong here?" 

Critical V Non Critical Factors

1. We've discussed this is a previous blog, there are some critical factors with swim technique which must be mastered. The critical fatcors are the basic/fundamental things which allow you to swim. Once you've got the basics, there are probably another 100 'non critical' things which you can then start to apply to 'fine tune' or 'perfect' your stroke. The reality is for most of us, we'll NEVER get there, so accept it.

2. Once you've grasped the basics, doing some swimming. Getting in the pool or open water and completing some decent volume each week, goes a long way to making you better. Triathletes are the most guilty of talking about all the tiny technicalities of the front crawl stroke and which sculling drill they will do today. The reality is, that at some point, a little 'hard graft' in the pool is what's required, but perhaps that's why they prefer to talk technicalities. 

3. There is a belief that you should always hold perfect form when you swim and if your technique falters you need to stop or you are at risk of just practicing bad technique. The issue is, if you are a weak swimmer, you'll never get past this problem as your technique will falter early due to lack of fitness. Once you have the basics, there's a lot of benefit from becoming well conditioned.

If you you have a high level of swim fitness, you will be much more capable of making those small stroke improvements and being able to hold them throughout a full session without your technique faltering. If you don't have that conditioning, your technique will always fall apart as soon as you try to swim hard or swim any distance.

So Technique Isn't Important?

That's not what I said. You need to have the basic fundamentals of the stroke initially and you then need to develop your conditioning by swimming regularly and completing decent volume. Once you become well conditioned, you can then look at the list of small changes that you need to implement to fine tune your stroke.

What about drills? 

Most (but not all) are crap and don't benefit amateur swimmers. A drill is more technical and requires a greater level of ability than simply swimming. Most amateur swimmers can't even swim well, so believing they'll somehow be able to 'drill well' is wishful thinking. In most cases, the drills simply don't translate. You don't see the benefit transfer across to their swim stroke. 

Final thoughts...

Don't over analyse or become over reliant upon technique work. It can become an obsession and many people spend their entire time in the pool, swimming with an over-thought mechanical stroke, or repeating drill after drill. On top of that, you'll spend all your time being frustrated and learn to hate swimming. 

Don't focus on the detailed aspects of the stroke. Take a step back and look at the qualities of great swimmers. They all have relaxation, timing and flow. 

More often than not, focusing on tiny movements and corrections results in an awkward, mechanical movement with lack of fluidity. Focus on then basics, find a relaxed rhythm and keep the stroke fluid and smooth. 

And remember... most people lose technique when they get tired. If you don't do much swimming, you'll get tired pretty quickly. 

Join our coached open water swim sessions

We deliver an open water swim session every Wednesday & Saturday from April 17th. The location is perfect for novices and you can swim in skins or wetsuit. To read more and register GO HERE

We also offer 1-2-1 coached lessons, for more info email testing@theendurancecoach.com 

Need a new wetsuit or buying your first?

We've got a range of wetsuits in store and a huge amount of experience! If you're buying from us, you're welcome to try them on and we can ensure you get the perfect size and fit. We're based just off junction 27M6, in Wrightington, Lancashire. Call us on 01257 251217.

The Endurance Store