Have you always wanted to learn how to swim? Do you stand on the side of the pool and admire the swimmers who make it look so easy? Do you wish you were one of them? Well, wish no more! With one simple drill to help you master the elements of an efficient freestyle, you’ll go from cowering on the deck to zipping across the pool in no time.
This is the most important element of an efficient freestyle. By perfecting your balance, you’ll be able to control the amount of drag your body has while slicing through the water in the smallest space possible. The less drag you have, the faster you will go with less effort.
Here’s a pool drill that will work on your balance.
Lay down on your right side in the pool. Extend your right hand straight up over your head. Your left arm stays on relaxed and dry at your side. Turn your head to the right. Your chin should line up with your shoulder as much as possible.
Look at the bottom of the pool. You should be able to see the line on the bottom with no trouble. If the line is behind you, you’ll need to roll forward a tiny bit. If it’s in front of you, roll back. Repeat this drill until you’re completely comfortable and balanced on your side. Don’t forget to work the other side as well.
Depriving yourself of air by holding your breath for long periods of time will only decrease your efficiency. Your muscles need oxygen to work their best. You’ll notice that the top swimmers are always breathing. And you can too. You just have to master their technique.
Let’s add a breathing component to the drill above.
Relax on your side again while looking at the bottom of the pool. Now, turn your head back to the other shoulder and inhale. Turn your head back to the bottom and exhale. Repeat as many times as you need to. See how easy that was! As you swim, your next breath of air will never be farther away than your shoulder.
It’s worth spending some time learning how to breathe using this technique. Otherwise, you’ll develop the tendency to lift your head to take a breath. When you lift your head, you automatically drop your legs and create a whole lot of unnecessary drag which will only make you work that much harder.
Now that you’ve mastered balance and breathing, it’s time to focus on your stroke. Some people may disagree with me, but I’ve found that the stroke accounts for about 70% of your speed while the kick only contributes 30%. The stroke is also a little less natural than the kick, so you should focus your practice time on it. Your kick will strengthen with use.
Back to our drill.
Lay on your side with the bottom arm extended up and the other arm resting on your side. Take a couple breaths as you get balanced. Now, slide the dry arm up like you’re taking your hand out of your pocket, as Terry Laughlin puts it. With your fingers closed, reach above your head and slice it into the water thumb side first.
Concurrently, the hand already in the water catches and snakes back to your side. This is called an S stroke because your hand makes an S as you pull it through the water. You’ll note that as your arms move, your body had to roll across your stomach and come to a rest on the other side as you finished the stroke. You should be back in your starting position.
Take it slow and repeat the whole drill until the balance, breathing and stroking become second nature to you. It’ll be awkward at first and there is a lot to think about, but stick with it. With consistent practice, you’ll be a master in no time!