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Most of us are taught that to become a better swimmer we must train harder and train for longer. This was true 20 years ago when not a great deal was understood about how we move in the water. The reality is swimmers of all abilities (especially beginners) need to focus on the correct technique more than anything else. Thrashing out lap after lap doesn’t make a person faster. The key is in reducing the amount of drag. This is where huge leaps of improvement are found.

Here is a list of five tips to help you swim like an Olympian:

  1. Don’t train to get fit, train to achieve perfect technique: Everyone must start out by first getting technique right, and then progressing on to improving fitness. If you’re focus isn’t on swimming with correct technique from the beginning, any training you do will not help you for the long-term.
  2. Find a coach or mentor: An unwritten law of swimming is ‘whatever it feels like you’re doing in the water, you’re probably doing the exact opposite’. The quickest way to get better at swimming is to have a qualified person give you feedback on your technique. Coaches can be found locally or found online. Many online coaches can give you feedback on your technique if you email a video of yourself to them.

  3. Educate yourself: Just like a doctor studies medicine to become a good doctor, to become good at swimming you must study it also. It is much cheaper than a college education though! To achieve correct technique you need to watch the DVD’s, read the books and buy the programs which teach it.

  4. Find a training partner: Training with a partner or a group of people makes swimming a lot more enjoyable. It also increase how hard you train and how far you swim because time will go by much quicker. It has been proven that running with another person increases your pace by 18% compared to when you run alone. I’m sure it is no different when in the pool. Find someone who is faster and fitter than you, as this will help you rise to their level rather than take the easy road.

  5. Never quit: Becoming a good swimmer doesn’t happen overnight. It can take a few weeks to really change your technique, and many months to see a noticeable improvement in your fitness. The key is to be consistent and train regularly. If you train for 3 days in a row and then take a week off, you can’t expect to see results. You must be consistent with it and always focus on practicing the right technique.

There is one swimming drill which will dramatically improve your technique, power and feel for the water if you practice it prior to a race or competition. This drill easy to do and only takes a couple of minutes each session. In this article, I’m going to explain to you how best to perform it and how often, and why it increases a swimmers power and feel for the water when practiced prior to a competition. The drill I’m talking about is sculling.

When I was a little kid, sculling was one of the the first things I was taught after I’d learnt the basics of floating, kicking and breathing. At the time, it felt like sculling wasn’t a beneficial exercise and I was never told why we did it. After 12 years, I finally discovered why it’s such an important drill to do, especially in the week leading up to a race.

Before an important race or competition, swimmers will taper for 5-10 days. Tapering means to reduce the volume of training so the body can rest and recover in order to perform at it’s peak. When swimmers taper they become prone to losing the ‘feel’ of the water because they have gotten so used to swimmer regularly. As they taper they swim less and their body can find it difficult to ‘remember’ the correct technique. Sculling is the solution to this.

‘Front scull’ is the most common sculling technique. It is performed on the front with the swimmer facing the bottom of the pool. The swimmer should put their arms in front of their head and scull in and out with their hand and forearm in a sweeping motion. The hands should be bent downwards slightly at the wrist in order for the swimmer to move forward. The upper arm should remain still while the forearm is moving side to side. During the out sweep the thumbs should be facing down and during the in sweep the thumbs should be facing up. Depending on a swimmers ability, they may want to do this drill with fins if they are a beginner. Amateurs should do the drill without fins and more advanced swimmers should use a pull buoy to isolate the arms.

Sculling is important because allows the swimmer to become familiar with the initial catch position of the stroke they are practising for. In ‘front scull’, the sculling is performed at the initial ‘catch’ position of the freestyle, butterfly and breaststroke strokes. By getting the initial catch correct in these strokes, it sets up the swimmer for a powerful pull through and helps overall with their stroke.

Practising sculling in training and leading up to a competition can help a swimmer maintain the all important ‘feel’ for the water. ‘Front scull’ helps a swimmer practice the correct position for the initial catch in freestyle, butterfly and breaststroke. This is vitally important so the swimmer can develop power in their stroke. Sculling is a simple drill to perform which if practiced for a few minutes each training session, can greatly improve a swimmers ‘feel’ for the water.