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4 Strategies To Build Speed By Reducing Drag

One of the fastest ways to help swimmers improve is to help them improvement their alignment.


As I discussed in a previous article, swimming with poor alignment is like swimming with the brakes on.


It’s more work for less effort.


Improving alignment isn’t particularly easy.

In many cases, it can be very difficult.


And that means many swimmers are going to be missing out on faster, easier swimming.


Since that’s not the outcome we’re looking to achieve as coaches, improving alignment needs to be a priority.


For swimmers to minimize the amount of resistance they create, they need to:


1.     Swim straight

2.     Minimize side-to-side movement (freestyle and backstroke)

3.     Control up-and-down movement (butterfly and breaststroke)


Simple in concept, hard in practice.


There are two big challenges that come with improving alignment.


Compared to improving propulsion, improving alignment is all about removing what doesn’t need to be there.


As most movement in life is about doing more not less, that can present a challenge for swimmers.


Just as important, these skills can be hard to feel, and if swimmers can’t feel them, they can’t fix them.


These two challenges were hard for me to overcome.


Over time, I was able to get a better understanding of what needs to be done.


And more importantly, I developed a framework for consistently improving this skill.


If the right skills aren’t developed in the right order, it can be nearly impossible to improve alignment.


But when they are, the process is a lot simpler and a lot more effective.


Let’s check it out.


1. Improve Flotation And Comfort In The Water


This is the most important step and the most ignored.


If swimmers are not confident in the water, they will spend all their time and energy trying not to drown.


They don’t care about how much resistance they create.


They care about feeling safe!


Once swimmers get relaxed and more comfortable in the water, many alignment problems start to fade away.


Simple flotation drills get the job done here.


When swimmers can find their lungs and use their lungs to control their position, everything changes.


It’s not about getting perfect at floating.


It’s about the process of learning how control position and posture to find comfort and stability.


When achieved, it makes ALL the difference.


2. Improve Breathing


A lot of swimmers can demonstrate pretty solid alignment skills…until they breathe.


When the head moves, the body reacts.


The head goes up, the body goes down.


When the head goes to the side, the body goes the other way.


Cleaning up the breath can make a huge difference in alignment.


Breathing drills that provide clear feedback and help swimmers feel the impact of their breath are very effective.


Awareness is key.


And something as simple as alternating between breathing and not breathing can help create more awareness.


Once the breath is in check, a lot of alignment issues will be greatly improved, and the remaining issues will be a lot easier to address.


3. Control The Torso


If the body is moving side-to-side at all, or up-and-down too much, it’s going to lead to more resistance and less speed.


Improving breathing makes a big difference here.


And failing to improve the breath will make it a lot more difficult to improve this skill


To eliminate side-to-side motion in freestyle and backstroke, improving the arm recoveries and the rotation timing is usually all it takes.


When they’re off, the body is going to start getting pulled side-to-side by the arms.


That’s going to create a lot of resistance.


With butterfly and breaststroke, it’s about finding an optimal amount of undulation.


Too little undulation and too much undulation both create more resistance.


Different strategies that expose them to more and less undulation can help them determine how much is appropriate for them.


4. Help Them FEEL When They’re Losing Their Alignment


Once swimmers can get comfortable in the water, their breathing is under control, and they’ve controlled the up and down and side to side movements, most of the job is done.


However, they are usually still small errors often when swimmers are shifting their position during rotation and undulation.


And these small errors are hard to feel.


So, we have to help them FEEL those skills.


Any task that exaggerates the flow of the water over the body, or magnifies the perception of the flow, will help swimmers feel areas where they are experiencing more resistance.


As resistance is magnified with increases in speed, any sort of overspeed experience can create more awareness. 


Similarly, increasing drag over certain areas of the body can create more awareness as well. 


Wearing a larger drag suit, wearing board shorts, or wearing a t-shirt can alter the perception of drag and the flow of water over the body. 


And they can REALLY feel it when they take the equipment off.


These tools are the final piece of the puzzle to help swimmers eliminate resistance.


When all the other skills are in check, helping them feel how they’re moving through the water is the final step, one that can be a difference maker.


Taking Action


Reducing resistance can be challenging, but it’s a challenge well worth tackling.


If you’re struggling to do so, consider which steps you may be overlooking.


Or whether the steps could be performed in a more effective order.


It makes a big difference.


If you’re looking to make this even easier, and you want to know the most effective strategies for helping swimmers improve their alignment in all the strokes, I lay it out in Stroke Fundamentals


Just as importantly, I provide you with the details about the alignment skills that swimmers need to master.


If you want to improve your swimmers’ skills, consider grabbing a copy here.




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