When it comes to swimming, performance in the pool is everything. You may be a well-trained athlete or simply getting your daily laps in, but achieving a great result is what it’s all about. Swimming is a fantastic all-body workout because it targets so many different muscles in the body and can be performed as a method of cardio, or cool down, depending on your pace, stroke and speed. These are a few tips for increasing your swimming performance by adapting your style to suit you.
The stroke you choose will depend very much on your ability and also your preferred swimming style in the pool.
Front crawl, or free style as it is also known, is a fast and powerful stroke that can be tricky to master at first but once you get your breathing and movement in sync, you will be flying through the water.
Breast stroke is one of the more popular recreational strokes because the head is kept out of the water for a longer period of time and can be performed without even submerging the head if going for a more leisurely swim. Breast stroke takes some coordination as the arms and legs work in unison for propulsion through the water.
Back stroke is the only swimming stroke to be swum in a backward direction and has the benefit of easier breathing, but is made difficult by the fact that the swimmer does not know where he/ she is going – think of it as an upside-down front crawl.
Butterfly is a stroke for the more advanced swimmer as it requires the swimmer to have mastered the more simple strokes such as front crawl and back stroke. Butterfly requires strong muscles as the arms move simultaneously overhead while the legs perform a dolphin kick- style movement to move through the water at speed.
Nailing the right diving technique will hugely impact your swimming performance as this is what propels you into the water and gives you the start you need to get distance quickly. A good dive off the starting block is essential to improving your times, winning races and smashing your personal best. The idea is to get as far into the pool as possible in the shortest amount of time.
Make sure you keep your head down as you enter the water and your hands remain tightly together so they don’t create resistance when they hit the water – the closer together they are, the more streamline you will be in the water.
Dive out not down – so that you cover distance rather than depth in the pool.
Most importantly, never dive without proper knowledge and supervision.
Breathing is an essential part of performance swimming and can be tricky to get to grips with — moving in and out of the water at speed. The swimmer must exhale forcefully through the nose or mouth while the face is in the water, so that when they turn to breathe the lungs are almost empty and ready to accept a fresh breath of air. Breathing while swimming becomes rhythmical, and assists in the body’s movement through the water as the lungs fill with air and release to drive through the movement.
This rhythmic and active form of breathing is what makes swimming so effective at regulating the breath pattern, which can help with many other lifestyle elements – including stress relief, body awareness and other forms of sport that require an element of discipline. Breathing of course comes completely naturally to us, but it is important to understand how it regulates the body and how we can maximise our breathing capabilities to improve our wellbeing overall.
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