Improve Your
Swimming Technique



Remind yourself of what good swimming technique is, avoid injury and make faster improvements.

It may have been a while since you were taught to swim. Has been for me! If you haven't done any specific technique work since then, chances are that you've slipped into some bad habits.

Take a look at what the good habits are again, see if you're doing each stroke with the best swimming technique.

It does make a difference.

You should include technique work in your swimming workouts.

The best way for feedback is to get a friend to watch you with this list of good swimming technique, or someone who knows what good technique is (i.e. an instructor). Even better if they can record you swimming, so you can see for yourself.

In the stroke cycle description, each point is one movement. I will go through the technique for the 4 main recognised swimming strokes:

  • Butterfly
  • Backstroke
  • Breaststroke
  • Freestyle (front crawl)



    Butterfly Technique

    The stroke cycle is:

  • Body in streamline position, head looking at the pool floor, arms straight out in front with palms facing out, with feet together soft kick down.

  • Arms push down and slightly outwards, bring feet up bending at your knees.

  • Arms continue circular motion through water and come up out of the water by your hips, hard kick down by straightening knees.

  • Head comes up above the water surface, take breath in keeping body as low as possible, arms sweep forward mirroring each other, bring feet up bending at your knees.

    Swimming technique tips:

  • Keep your head straight, no need to look left or right at any point.

  • Imagine there is a bar going into your left hip and out your right hip, your body should roll around that bar.

  • Keep your feet together at all times, referred to as the dolphin kick.

  • Timing of your breathing is vital as your head shouldn't be out of the water for long. Actually the whole stroke requires good timing to move forward at any speed.

  • A good level of core strength is required to do this stroke well, so build your core muscles if you are struggling.



    Backstroke Technique

    The stroke cycle is:

  • Body in streamline position on your back, head looking straight up at the sky, leading with your left arm straight and entering the water little finger first, right arm straight and coming out of the water, kicking by bending at the hips with toes pointed, breathe in.

  • Imagine a bar going in your head straight down through your body, as your left arm enters the water, your body will roll around that bar. The more roll you achieve the deeper you will be able to stretch your left arm. Keeping your right arm straight, bring it up through the air, continue kicking.

  • As your left arm goes through the water, bend the elbow to a right-angle, and then forcefully straighten it by pushing water towards your feet in a smooth continuous action. Your right arm continues through the air past your head, continue kicking.

  • Your left arm is now straight and coming out of the water, and your right arm is straight and entering the water little finger first, breathe out. Repeat the same process with your right arm under water.

    Swimming technique tips:

  • Keep your head as still as possible.

  • Good roll of your body is essential. The more you can roll around that imaginary bar, then the lower your under water shoulder will go, and the higher your above water shoulder will go. This will increase speed but needs good timing.

  • Keep your hips as high as possible, as the power to roll your body will come from here.

  • Good timing is where your arms are always doing the complete opposite of each other (as one enters the other exits the water), and where your arm speed matches your kicking (so to sprint, your kick speed will increase and your arm speed will match that increase).



    Breaststroke Technique

    The stroke cycle is:

  • Body in streamline position just under the surface of the water, head looking down to the pool floor, both arms straight out in front with palms down, legs straight with toes pointed.

  • Hands push down and slightly to the sides through the water, legs lift up towards your hips.

  • Both elbows bend quickly and then your hands come together in front of your chest, as your body rises breathe in when your head comes out of the water. Your knees bend fully and hips push down to bring your feet near the surface.

  • Both arms straighten ahead of you, using your shoulders to follow and take your body forward and head just under the surface. Push your feet away from each other and then forcefully straighten your knees as your hips rise near the surface.

  • Your body is in the streamline position again where you hold the short glide from the force of your leg kick, soles of feet are together.

    Swimming technique tips:

  • The best and fastest technique is if your head only comes out of the water to inhale during the stroke cycle. You can keep your head above water during the whole cycle in relaxed swimming, although this may put pressure on your neck.

  • When your head does come out to inhale, then look at the point where you aim to re-enter the water. No need to look left or right.

  • Imagine there is a bar going into your left hip and out your right hip, your body should roll around that bar.

  • Your kick needs to be in time with your arms to keep momentum and achieve your fastest technique.

  • After your kick, you will glide in streamline position, but if you glide too long then you'll lose momentum. Knowing when to start the next stroke cycle to take full advantage of your kick only comes with practice.

  • A simplified stroke version can be done with just a normal straight leg kick in relaxed swimming.



    Freestyle (Front Crawl) Technique

    The stroke cycle is:

  • Body in streamline position, head looking down at the pool floor, leading left arm is straight and just under the surface, right arm is slightly bent at the elbow coming out of the water. Kicking from the hips with toes pointed.

  • Imagine a bar going in your head straight down through your body, as your left arm starts to push down, your body will roll around that bar. Your head will roll with your body so that you are looking towards the right, breathe in. Your right arm should come forward with the elbow fully bent. Continue kicking.

  • Push your left arm down and back through the water, your right arm continues through the air then enters just under the water surface by your head and starts to straighten at the elbow, rolling your body and head towards the centre, continue kicking.

  • Start to bend your left elbow coming out of the water, and now your right arm is leading, it is straight and just under the surface.

    Swimming technique tips:

  • Good roll of your body is needed. The more you can roll around that imaginary bar, the lower your under water shoulder will go, and the higher your above water shoulder will go. This will increase speed and make breathing easier, but needs good timing.

  • Keep your hips as high as possible, as the power to roll your body will come from here.

  • I would recommend breathing every third stroke for a faster swim, although less experienced swimmers may be more comfortable on every second stroke. During the strokes when you are not breathing, don't let your head roll with your body, keep it looking down.

  • Keep your elbow high when it comes through the air.

  • Kicking should be in time with your arms, and not too vigorous. Focus on getting the power from your arms.


    Final Word

    These are the very basic swimming technique tips.

    Get confident that you are doing each movement correctly.

    Then move on and focus on the more complicated refinements to your swimming technique.

    Return to Swimming Fitness from Swimming Technique.
    Return to Home from Swimming Technique.



    Find Out More:
    Enjoy Swimming allows you to learn how to swim the freestyle stroke in a simple way with a set of progressive swimming exercises.


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