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Have you ever watched a swimmer and been struck by the sheer force, grace, speed and efficiency with which they rip through the water?

There’s nothing more exhilarating than hitting your stride in the water, becoming one with it, pushing yourself beyond your limits… it almost feels like flying!

 
But like all things which look easy, the swimming strokes aren’t at all easy to master. Here are some tips to perfect your technique and boost your power in the water!

Butterfly

butterfly

It seems impossible right? Well (with tremendous amounts of practice) it isn’t! Here are some tips to help you nail the most difficult and impressive stroke of all.

Method:

On your chest, initiate a dolphin kick with your core by pressing your chest down and lifting your hips up. As you dolphin kick down with your legs, incorporate the arms by pulling your hands into your chest and then out to your sides, accelerating towards a strong push-up. Just as you are about to bring your arms up out of the water and over your head, give the second dolphin kick and push your body up. Lift your head above the water, keeping your chin tilted down close to the surface, and take a quick breath. Your head should be back in the water as the arms end the recovery phase and begin the pull, so it’s a very quick inhalation!

Tips:

• Keep to the 2 kick, 1 arm-cycle rhythm. Kick once as the hands enter the water, then again just as they exit the water. The timing of the pull and kick is crucial, as it determines the fluency of your whole stroke.
• Imagine you are a dolphin. Get your body flowing in a fluid up-and-down wave motion, engaging the core with every kick. Remember that it’s your hips and core that power this movement, not the arms. The arms follow.
• Aim to keep your body high and the undulating motion shallow.
• Resist the urge to tilt your head up when ready for a breath, and keep your head set solidly in a downward-facing position.

Backstroke

backstroke

Swimming backstroke has the advantage of easy breathing, but the disadvantage of not being able to see where you’re going! It’s a relaxed stroke which is easy to learn but tricky to master.

Method:

Start by floating on your back with the water level covering your ears. Look up and back at the ceiling. Keeping your legs close together and lined up below your hips, do flutter kicks (from the hips rather than the knees, send a smooth, whip-like ripple down through your toes). As you kick, lift one arm out of the water over your head, leading with your shoulder. Keeping your arm straight, circle your arm back down into the water (your thumb should leave the water first and enter it last). When your arm hits the water, bring it down, rotating your palm outwards and downwards, and back to your side, ready to be lifted out of the water again. As you do this, raise the other arm and perform the same fluid motion repeatedly.

Tips:

• Don’t let your hips drop too low: keep your body close to the surface of the water.
• Keep your neck relaxed and head still.
• Don’t hold your breath. Deep steady will help the rhythm of your stroke: ideally, you want to breathe in as one arm leaves the water, then breathe out as the other leaves the water.
• Generate momentum by rotating your shoulders and your hips
• Keep your ankles relaxed
• Use the ceiling as a guide to make sure you don’t veer off course!

Breaststroke

breaststroke
If you’re just graduating from a doggy paddle, start with breaststroke: it is the easiest and slowest swimming stroke for beginners. If you’re still uncomfortable putting your head underwater, start practising breaststroke kicks with your head above the water.

Method:

Start by floating on your belly with your arms stretched out in front. Pull your arms back in a shallow, outward sweeping motion, then give a powerful symmetrical kick out to the side with both legs (called a ‘whip kick’, imagine you are a frog!). Continue to sweep your arms and legs around in a circular motion, bringing them together again (your legs under your hips, and your arms ahead of you). As you bring them together, lift your head up and breathe in. Let your body relax and glide forward for a few seconds before you feel yourself starting to lose momentum, then pull and kick again.

Tips:

• Keep your body as close to the surface and as streamlined as possible.
• Keep your legs and feet underwater… no splashing!
• Work on coordinating your arms and legs to work together: it’s common to have one side of your body stronger than the other, try and balance this out with practice.
• Remember, breaststroke is meant to be slow – don’t rush it!

Front Crawl

Front Crawl

Method:

Start on your front, doing steady flutter kicks with straight legs close together. Reach one hand forward over your head, with the elbow slightly bent, to enter the water. ‘Catch’ the water by applying a downward pressure on it, with the palm facing down and out so the thumb first enters the water first. Then, pull your arm back (with a slight bend in the elbow) and sweep it out of the water. Bring it back overhead and repeat with the opposite arm.

To breathe in, turn your head smoothly to one side as your body rotates with the stroke. As you inhale, keep your opposite arm extended in front of you. After taking a breath, turn your face quickly and smoothly back into the water in time with the rotation of your shoulders. Exhale underwater before inhaling again after 3-5 strokes.

Tips:

• Swimming with paddles on your hands will help you get a feel for the water, slow the stroke down so that you can focus on the technique, and increase the strength in your pull phase!
• To perfect your pull phase, imagine the line at the bottom of the pool is a ladder and you have to pull yourself up this ladder, with each hand applying a downward pressure on, and tracking, this line.
• As you pull your arm back beneath you in the pull phase, imagine that your hand is sweeping your hip out of the way to your rotate your body to the side during the stroke.
• Keep your body and stomach flat: try not to lift your head too much out of the water – the more your head raises, the more your feet and legs will sink in the water.

What stroke is your favourite?

Let us know in the comments or connect to our Website and Facebook Page.

Are you new at this sport? Would you like to learn about the four swimming strokes? Book a trial Swimming Session to one of our private pool based in London and master the four swimming strokes today! For more info click here. 

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