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Improving Your Swim Technique? You'll Never Be Perfect!

The Endurance Store Swim Club provides you with simple swim training plans throughout the winter months. The plan runs October to October and is completely free. We only ask that you pre-register so that your training plans can be emailed directly.

Registration is free and you may unsubscribe at any time from the Swim Club and stop receiving updates. Overview of the swim plan be seen below, but before you start you need to complete a test to set your swim paces, then register and download the sessions. GO HERE to register for swim club.

Swimmers are obsessed with swim technique. No, let me correct myself... triathletes are obsessed with swim technique. We can be so obsessed with swim technique that we chase unachievable perfection and forget to do the necessary basics.

A common coaching method is to compare yourself with the best in the world and then try to copy them. For example, go and video yourself swimming front crawl. Then compare yourself with a video of Phelps swimming front crawl. Make a note of how he does things and how your video is different, then go and change your stroke until you look like Phelps.

Here's the bad news. If you're a 'mature' athlete, who started swimming at a later age, you're never going to look like Phelps. Let's have a reality check, no matter how hard your work, you'll never get there.

Here's the good news. If you are 10 years of age and a member of a local swimming club, you may well look like Phelps one day. So work hard and we'll see you at the 2028 Olympic Games with a bit of luck!!

Some coaching methods work better with certain groups of people than others. Triathlon is a relatively new sport, filled with 20-80 year olds who never swam competitively as youngsters, so comparing them with a Phelps video is pointless as they'll never get there. Despite this, we continue to compare them with Phelps videos because that's how the 'swimmers' are coached and surely they know a thing or two about swimming?

I'm going to tell you what's wrong with your stroke, but you're going to need a big piece of paper to write it down!

So a friend of mine went for a swim assessment and came back telling me how incredible it was. The coach had an outstanding level of technical knowledge and went through their stroke, piece by piece, explaining the faults. By the end of the session, there were almost 40-50 different things (most of which he didn't write down and forgot), but it's fair to say the analysis was thorough.

I asked "what are you going to work on first" and he answered "I don't know, i was trying to think of them all at the same time but nearly drowned". I replied by saying, "just work on one thing at a time" and he replied by asking "which one?".

Critical V Non Critical

That's perhaps the key question for any triathlete who has their swim stroke assessed. When given a list of things which are wrong, which one do you work on first?

If you're given 20 things to work on, I'll bet that there's 3-5 things which will give you 80% of your improvement and 15-17 things which give the other 20%. There will be 3-5 CRITICAL things, which can give you a huge gain in performance, then there will be up to 50 NON CRITICAL things, which will all give you a marginal improvement. Having your stroke analysed is great, but you need to know what your CRITICAL faults are.

As an example, if your legs hang low in the water and cause a lot of drag, there's potentially minutes to be saved. If you work on your relaxed, high elbow recovery, you'll get a few seconds at best. it makes far more sense to focus on your legs / balance, than your arm recovery.

The second thing to consider is whether faults are linked. If poor breathing technique means you lift your head high and this causes your legs to drop, then sort your breathing and your legs will follow. Are any of your faults caused as a consequence of a different fault? If so, treat the cause, not the symptom.

Our swim coaching lists areas of technique as follows (in order or priority)

1. Balance (low legs) - Kick/Balance/Breathing/Length
2. Streamlining (S -Shape/Fishtail) - Kick/Head Position/Breathing
3. Propulsion - Catch/Pull/Push

Everything outside of the above is non critical and some things (including hip rotation / body roll) prove too complicated for age group swimmers.

The reality is, most people who take up swimming late, will always have a long list of NON CRITICAL faults, which they will never resolve. Focus on the big things, the CRITICAL faults and you'll be swimming competently before you know it.

The Endurance Store

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