Crawl. It’s the fastest, most majestic, and most difficult of all strokes.
So why on earth does it look so easy for experienced swimmers? Why can’t YOU glide through 25 meters effortlessly like the person in the lane next to you?
I wish I had quick-fix solution for you but I don’t. In fact, it is a step-by-step, stroke-by-stroke process that will teach you to move through the water with minimal effort.
Technique, technique, technique. That’s what any coach will drill into your head during training sessions. Having the right technique is key to NOT getting tired too quickly, NOT losing your breath and NOT struggling to swim faster, longer.
Check out this video by Speedo–it’s the best one I’ve seen so far.
Watch the videos and follow the instructions. Or better yet, sign up for a swimming course… or hire a swimming coach to cover the basics. Without the fundamentals, you might be swimming in-place for the rest of your life
f you practice on your own, remember to focus on every move. Don’t “workout” and strain, practice!
Try this training set to work on technique:
Do all sets mentioned in this post after a good warm up.
Training set "Technique" Swim 7 x 2 lengths (25 or 50m) front crawl. Alternate 1 length catch up stroke and 1 length full stroke. Rest for 30 seconds after every 2 lengths.
The most important skill all amature swimmers need to learn is how to breath evenly in the water. Just like any learning process, there are different approaches and techniques to this. But try not to get overwhelmed. Remember, your goal is to provide your muscles and organs with a steady intake of oxygen while swimming. It’s important to think about your rhythm and focus on not skipping steps.
Try breathing in oxygen after every second stroke, and alternate sides after every length. When this becomes comfortable, try breathing (in) every three strokes.
While your face is in the water, exhale until your lungs are completely empty. Do this slow and smooth. Practice it carefully at the beginning and at the end of every training session.
Just hop in the water and begin to breath in and out (methodically and slowly) then hop out. That’s it! It’s also a great form of meditation!
When you turn your head to the side, inhale quickly then lower your head back into the water. Remember not to raise your head, just turn it to the side. Your eyes should face the side of the pool when breathing in, not the ceiling.
Check out this video to improve your breathing
Your speed depends on two main factors: drag and strength of propelling the water.
Again, there are a few things to think about in order to decrease drag: streamlining your position, maintaining balance and optimizing every move. But as a beginner the best thing you can do to decrease drag is improve your leg kick. Leg kick contributes to about 10% of propulsion, even with world-class swimmers, but on the other hand can slow you down if not done correctly. So, it is very important to keep your leg kick compact, meaning that it shouldn’t break the water surface nor move too far below the body line.
As far as strengthening the propelling process, remember to always engage your core and roll from side to side with each arm stroke. And don’t forget that “land” training will no doubt help you become stronger ( see next paragraph for more tips)
As for speed training in the pool, try this simple yet effective training set.
Training set "Speed" Swim 3 lengths front crawl (sprinting the first half of each length only) then 2 lengths easy effort any stroke. Repeat set for backstroke then any stroke. 2 length easy effort will allow pulse rate to drop. If still struggling, take 30 seconds after each 2 length easy effort.
Watch this video for more tips to swim faster in the pool
But remember, that if you are training for the open water, some of them might not work. If your goal is endurance and long distance open water swimming, then read on!
The technique for swimming longer distances is a bit different. Your goal for endurance swimming is to preserve energy while still moving forward. This should be as effortless as walking.
The bible for open water swimmers is a book titled Total Immersion by Terry Laughlin, an American swimming coach that made the crawl easy and achievable for many people. Turning more on each stroke when breathing and decreasing the rate of strokes to glide further are just some of the ways to improve your open water crawl experience.
We’ll post another article about it, so stay tuned! Meanwhile, try this set in the pool to improve your endurance
Training set "Endurance" Crawl pyramid swim, starting from 1 length progressing to 2, 3 then 4 lengths continuous then back down to 1 again. Rest for 20 seconds before every step in the pyramid.
The best swimmers spend hours in the pool perfecting their stroke and working on drills. But to get faster results, it is important to diversify your training routine and not to skip strength training.
Land training will help you improve flexibility and propulsion power that cannot be achieved in the water. And don’t forget to keep it fun and enjoyable!
Crossfit, group training in the gym, pilates and martial arts are a few ways to land train. Or just train at home without equipment.
Start with these 5 exercises you can do anywhere.
If you are craving for more, here are a few other resources to help you improve your crawl.
- More tips from Speedo on technique
- Tim Ferris is also discussing the importance of developing the correct technique and gives some tips on his blog based on Total immersion, mentioned in the post.
- More swimming workouts when you get bored with the sets above: http://100swimmingworkouts.com/index.html#beginner