Freestyle Power for Speed

First I want you to think about this question:  “Who do you want to be faster than?”  Think about that for a second.  Do you want to be faster than Olympic swimmers?  Other swimmers? Dolphins?  Keep thinking about your answer…we will come back to it.

How do I get faster?

Let’s talk about how you can get faster:

  1. Fix any technique issues you are having which are causing drag or are not propelling you through the water fast enough.
  2. Learn to use the correct large muscle groups in your body to harness the power to push you forward.
  3. Employ visualization.
  4. Use structured, varied workouts which target your goals and use drills specific to power.
  5. Be IN the pool (not just AT the pool) at least three times per week.
  6. Use your Head to Toe Assessment.

Some of these topics we have discussed before and some are new.  Either way, putting them all together will help you go faster in the water.

Technique Issues

In the “Eliminate Drag in your Freestyle Stroke” post, we discussed some common culprits of drag:

  • Body Position,
  • Forearm Position,
  • Arm Cross-Over, and
  • Kick Leg Position.

We corrected the drag by having a horizontal body position, our forearms and hands pointing down on the recovery arm and the pull arm, the lead arms becoming guiding arms and staying in line with the shoulders just under the surface of the water, and the kick leg staying in the body line while rotating with the body.  So, let’s move on to the muscles.

Using the Correct Muscle Groups

 Some swimmers make the mistake of trying to use their small muscles to control their entire body.  These muscles are your neck, shoulders, arms, calves, and feet.  As much as you try, you cannot get these muscles to work together enough to create significant propulsion forward.  To get better results for less effort, use the large muscle groups: lats, abs/core, hips, glutes, and thighs.

To take the biggest advantage of the large muscle groups, initiate the roll with the hips and core by having the hips roll first to start the rotation.  Then, the rest of the body should rotate in unison with the hips.


Create Propulsion

The hips rolling first sets us up to create propulsion.  To do this:

  • Have a tall and taut body,
  • Have a body that rolls together,
  • Think about the power emanating from the core,
  • Have the rotation start from the hips,
  • Power the arms into the glide and full leg kick,
  • Employ a high elbow in the water which powers the pull,
  • Have a full pull which allows for a relaxed recovery arm,
  • The relaxed recovery arm allows for a quick, easy breath, and
  • Repeat!

Employ Visualization

Start thinking about what you want your swim to look like.  How do you want it to feel?  What describing words would you use?  For power, I would go through the above create propulsion list and then add words like smooth, powerful, pushing forward, etc.  I will be writing more about visualization in a separate post.


Use Structured, Varied Workouts

The most important tool you can bring to the pool with you is a structured workout targeted to what you are trying to work on.  If your workout is general, your coach doesn’t know what you need to work on and they are just shooting in the dark that most of their athletes need to work on this so it will work for you too.  Get a specific workout for you and improve faster!  Some drills your workouts should include for building power are:  kick only drills with rotation, the ever popular sailboat drill, use fins effectively, and use the pull buoy.

Be IN the Pool

When you go to the pool, make sure your head is in the game.  Just going to the pool to bang out the yards will not do you any good to improve.

Here’s what you should do:

  • Leave your troubles at the door,
  • Concentrate on your workout,
  • What are you feeling in your swim?
  • What feels good?
  • What feels off?
  • What set do you need to repeat because you’re just not “getting it”?
  • Make notes for future workouts,
  • Make notes about things to talk to your coach about, etc.

Being present in your workouts will help you to learn the drills and connect the dots faster and then improve your swim faster.

Use your Head to Toe Assessment

To figure out what isn’t working with your stroke, start at the head and go through each piece of your technique to make sure your body is doing exactly what you want it to do. When you find a piece that isn’t working, concentrate on that for a while and then go back to your Head to Toe Assessment.  For more information on this topic, see my separate post “How to Perform a Head to Toe Assessment for Freestyle”.

All in all, you will start to feel speed when all the aspects of your technique start to work together, when you are aware of what your stroke is doing, when you start pushing all the power you are generating forward, and when you are putting in the work that is necessary to feel the speed.  So, back to our original question: Who do you want to be faster than?  How about being faster than yourself yesterday, yourself at your last race, or yourself at this time last year?  Keep your eye on your goal, best of luck, and let me know how I can help you at

Posted February 27, 2017