How you present your body to the water in swimming is an important part in maintaining momentum. If you look at your body as a cross section from the front, you’ll be amazed at just how much area you’re taking up. Here’s a quick thought for freestyle that should keep you moving forward smoothly instead of plowing through the water.
Why Do It:
Staying as narrow as possible when you swim makes your body more efficient, and allows you to slip through the water with less energy. This also will allow you to achieve higher speeds due to the reduced resistance you’re presenting.
How To Do It:
1. Swim freestyle as you normally would, but focus all your attention on the relation between your shoulder and your cheek.
2. As your hand moves into the extension, you should feel your shoulder sliding, or pressing against the side of your face.
3. Hold it there prior to starting your pull to maximize the streamlined position you’re creating.
4. Make sure you focus on this when you take a breath. Breathing is the spot where most people allow a space to form between the head and shoulder. They allow the arm to separate from the cheek in order to create a bracing effect, or leveraging action. The lower arm is productive in pushing the head to air, but isn’t very effective in allowing you to move FORWARD. It also creates a much WIDER cross section to push through the water.
How to Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):
To give yourself a chance to focus on how this is supposed to feel, try some swims with limited, or no breaths. This gives you a chance to feel how the shoulder connects with the face. Keep the head as stable as possible with your eyes locked on the line on the bottom. It’s great if you’re the only one in your lane, or if you’re swimming one at a time without the worry of running into someone. As you reach forward, feel your body slip through the water and how you fly with lower effort.
There are many ways to learn how to master this type of skill. Balance is of ultimate importance, so while trying to achieve this (especially when breathing) also try to get your hips up behind you. While this IS ultimately a balance issue, if you’re having problems achieving narrow shoulders during your breath, you may want to revisit some of the more basic balance drills. If you’re a fairly accomplished swimmer, this is a good focal point to keep in mind when you’re really cranking. Remember, the higher the speed, the greater the resistance. By focusing on staying narrow, you’ll reduce your surface area, and crank faster with less effort. Always the goal in fast swimming.