When it comes to fast swimming you really can’t look past César Cielo. The Brazilian born swimmer’s time of 20.91 seconds in the 50m freestyle and 46.91 in the 100m freestyle were set ten years ago in São Paulo at the Brazilian Championships, and remain the fastest ever times recorded over those distances. For women, the record has been set more recently in 2017 by Swedish swimmer Sarah Sjöström. She tore up the World Championships in Budapest with a time of 23.67 seconds in the 50m freestyle distance and 51.71 in the 100m freestyle.
Many people like to think that genetics play a large part in an individual’s ability to swim quickly. There is some credence with the top athletes often coming in above average height. César Cielo is 6ft 5in and Sarah Sjöström an impressive 6ft. But height is not everything. There have been many successful speed swimmers who have achieved great times without the ‘genetic edge’. The Australian Libby Trickett is a much more median 5ft 6in and her 50m freestyle time of 23.97 seconds makes her a former world record holder for the distance. At the end of the day, the only way to reach the top in elite sport is through hard work. Dedicated training and strict nutrition will play a far greater role in your success in the pool that your genetic make-up.
With this in mind, we looked into the best tips you can implement to help improve your pool times and swim faster.
There are a number of swim techniques and best practices you can implement and work on to help boost your speed. One of the most crucial is to get a better body position. Creating too much resistance in the water will be affecting your speed so try to bring your hips closer to the surface and get your body to move as one part. You will also get a benefit from extending your neck and looking downward in the water to achieve an optimal head position. The other piece of the puzzle is to engage your core to keep your spine straight which will allow you to generate more power and improve your stroke efficiency.
Once your body and head are in the right position attention can turn to your extremities. Practicing an efficient kick will help keep you in rhythm. You can also gain an advantage with your hand entry point. Try putting your hands in the water at a 10 to 2 (Y) shape. You should feel more control over your arm and also help engage the back muscles which will add more oomph to propelling you through the water.
After learning the correct body position, kick and pull it will come down to perfecting these techniques through repetition and quality training sessions. Kicking and pulling are great ways to improve swimming speed as they help build up strength and stamina in the upper and lower part of the body. This is where certain swimming aids can come in useful. Pull buoys, fins, hand paddles and snorkels are all great ways to train technique. Paddles will allow you to hold more water and concentrate on generating force through your back muscles, fins can improve your leg kick and a pull buoy can raise your hips and artificially replicate a stronger swimming position.
Not all of us are lucky enough to have large chunks of spare time to dedicate to training so when it comes to it training quality is better than quantity. An efficient 20-minute swim a few times a week should be enough to help you see improvements.
Outside of the pool, things can also be done to improve your times. Fuelling up on the right foods especially before and after a race and training will help you have enough energy to get the most out of your swim. Pre-session meals containing slow-release carbohydrates like porridge, rice and pasta will release energy slowly and keep you going. As for post-swim nutrition, it is important to have a snack shortly after a training session or race to start replacing the energy you have just burnt and repair muscles. Bananas and high protein foods are an ideal choice.
Hopefully, these tips will give you an advantage for your next session and get your speed levels up.