In all sports, developing a good swim technique is vital to improvement, and
swimming is no exception. The key to a good swimming
technique is to understand and implement the Three Rs. These are Reach,
Rotation and Relaxation. You may have heard of the Three Rs before, with a
slightly different explanation for each letter. Some swimming teachers will use
the terms Range and Rhythm instead of Reach and Rotation, but in essence, they
are still referring to the same thing. If you want to swim better you need to learn the Three Rs.
Before we cover them, let us just point out that you will use different techniques dependent on the distances you are going to swim. To make this easier to understand, think about the techniques that a 100-meter sprinter needs to use as compared to a marathon runner. The 100-meter sprinter needs an explosion of power, while the long distance runner needs endurance. For long distance swimming, you need to get as much out of every single stroke as you can.
To get the most out of each stroke, you have to ensure you are at full stretch before you begin the pull. To achieve this, you need to make sure your hand goes into the water immediately in front of your shoulder. Your extended hand is what develops traction in the water. When you begin the pull, do not push your hand straight down. Instead, point your fingers towards the pool bottom with your elbow joint pointing upwards. You then bring your body forward over the hand. This swimming technique is often referred to as the Early Vertical Forearm (EVF).
This swim technique is a method of getting your shoulder and hip to turn over in unison. Human shoulder and hip rotation is similar to thinking of fish skin squeezing and pulsing for it to move forward. By doing this, the hand can be brought a little further forward before you begin the pull. Rotating your elbow and shoulder into the optimum EVF position works best when you get your face into the water before starting the pull. It can take time to learn this properly, so be patient. One way to visualize the technique is to imagine you are placing your hand in something like cement and pulling your body over, rather than moving your hand back.
To swim better when you are swimming long distances, you need to conserve energy, and one of the best ways to do this is to ensure you are not using muscles that you do not actually need to use. You might be surprised about how you could be doing this. For example, controlling your breathing is important. If you hold your breath, even briefly, this causes all the muscles in your core to flex, and that flexing increases the oxygen demand for those muscles. It is a better swim technique to develop a yoga-like breathing pattern. That means breathing in rhythmically and exhaling slowly, with no pauses between.
Keep your hands and feet relaxed as well. To see why, just hold one hand rigid, and then use your other to feel the muscles in the rigid hand's arm. Note that they are all flexed as well. The same thing applies to the feet.
Learning the Three Rs swim technique is going to take a bit of practice, but it is well worth the effort. When you master these swim techniques, you will swim better and faster.
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this article is based off of:
The Three R’s of Efficient Distance Freestyle
by Scott Bay, Head Coach Team Blu Frog Masters: