How to swim faster? Effective propulsive movements in swimming are performed SLOW to FAST. Unlike other sports such as running or rowing, your arms won’t be moving at a constant speed throughout the stroke.
In every stroke you reach long, feel the water, catch and then accelerate through the pull to the recovery. The hand and the arm move slower during the ‘reach and catch’ phase of the stroke, and is faster during the pull through.
A powerful stroke starts with an effective feel on the entry and then a strong catch. The catch is the phase of the stroke just before beginning the pull through. It is named the ‘catch’ phase because the aim is to ‘catch’ the most water with your hand and forearm as possible to achieve maximum hold of the water. Once you have got that strong catch, it’s the acceleration through the stroke which makes all the difference.
A mistake which beginner swimmers can often make is pulling through the water before reaching forward and ‘catching’ the water. Missing this step causes bubbles on the hand as the swimmer pulls through. This makes the stroke ineffective as the swimmer is pulling through air and not able to accelerate by holding the water with their hand and forearm. An important thing to note is the swimmer should not tense up during the pull through, but should instead keep the muscles relaxed and loose to gain maximum hold of the water.
The objective of the ‘catch’ phase of the stroke (between the hand entering and the pull through) is to reach forward which reduces drag, and to allow any air bubbles to leave the hand and forearm. For maximum effectiveness the the swimmer should begin the pull through once the bubbles have left the arm and forearm. Pulling through the water without bubbles on the hand can save a swimmer many seconds compared to a person who begins the pull through with bubbles on their hand. A swimmer will be more efficient in the water by pulling through after the bubbles have left their hand. This not only saves energy but it allows the swimmer to move a greater distance through the water with less strokes.
If you can master the slow to fast movement with the arms and combine this with a ‘no bubbles’ approach to pulling through, you can drastically improve your swimming. It’s important to practice these two disciplines until you get them right. It sure beats training harder and may allow you to improve your times with much less less effort.