Top 3 Freestyle Swim Tips

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In this video, I give you my top 3 freestyle swim tips that you can incorporate quickly right now to change your swimming for the better. I have given a similar presentation at several triathlons and expos and these are the three things that are, in my opinion, the fixes for the most common mistakes in freestyle swimming based on my experience with private lessons. I see the quickest and most dramatic results by working on these three things with clients.


27 Comments

  • Rod Butterfield

    December 22, 2012

    Hi Ryan
    Thankyou for posting these top 3 tips. They are very helpful. I am 53 yrs old and old and 3 months into my TI swimming journey & read with interest about your 3rd point(front quadrant). I find it fairly easy until I try to breathe. When I rotate to take a breath, I find it difficult to be patient & keep my lead arm in a streamline position prior to my breathing arm coming over for the next spear/weight shift. My problem is I can feel myself sinking whilst taking the breath & therefore pull my streamlining arm through prematurely & creating the windmill action you refer to. I don’t belive I am lifting my head. Interested to know if you have seen this problem with others. I am fairly muscular and my swim coach thinks my buoyancy is fairly poor which adds to the problem. Do you have any ideas – have you seen this problem in others ? I am 5 foot ten and a thick set 90kgs.
    Thanks
    Rod
    Sydney
    Australia

    • BASEtraining

      December 22, 2012

      Hey Rod,
      Thanks for the comment…I do appreciate it!
      I HAVE seen your problem in MANY swimmers. I will have to do a second part to this video to address front quadrant during breathing, wide tracks, and maybe the kick as the next three things on my list.
      In MOST cases, the issue is that the swimmer is going for the breath too late. What I mean by that is that the rotation of the body on the breath stroke ends up leading the head rotation instead of them being one and the same. So, imagine your left hand leading and your right arm recovering and about to slice in. Your right shoulder and hip are high and about drop (rotate) and you are about to breath on your left side. At this point, your chin is near your left shoulder which is the low shoulder leading out to the leading patient hand. Are you with me?
      Now, when you start the slice with the right hand and the pull with the left and the right shoulder rotates down while the left shoulder rotates up….you MUST make sure that your chin goes with that left shoulder to the air.
      What you are likely doing is allowing that rotation to start and then going for your breath essentially trying to “catch up” to that left shoulder and that causes 1) Over-rotation, 2) A longer breathing stroke than your regular strokes, 3) A sense of needing to pull the lead arm to leverage the head up, 4) Sinking feeling.
      So, basically, you just need to go for your breath earlier.
      That is my best guess without seeing a video. Feel free to send me a video though.
      Let me know if that makes sense.
      Here is a drill to try: Take 3 strokes and breath on the third one. Instead of taking a fourth stroke after the breath, just remain in skate position with lead arm out and turn your head back down. While doing this drill, focus on these things one at a time: 1) Going early enough for the breath (following the shoulder up to air), 2) Not rotating past skating position for breath (check where you are when you turn your head back down), 3) Keeping one goggle lens in the water during the breath (see if you can see something underwater while you take that breath).
      Happy Swimming.

  • Don Jarvis

    January 1, 2013

    Thank you Ryan. My neck is always sore,will try floating head and not looking down. Chin following shoulder is great idea. I was always late for breath and sinking. Can you speak about driving the hips during rotation, not pulling with arms for power. Excellent suggestions.
    Thanks
    Don

    • BASEtraining

      January 1, 2013

      Hey Don,
      Thanks for visiting. Let me know how the breathing work goes.
      As far as driving hips during rotation: That is an excellent focal point. “Swimming from the core” and essentially allowing your core to do the work rather than extremities is key to reducing energy expenditure. This other post might help explain my thought process on this: http://www.tribasetraining.com/climbing-the-wall
      Essentially, if you think of your “pulling” arm as actually anchoring your spot in the water and then focus more on driving PAST that spot with your high hip and arm, you will have more success than focusing on pulling water. Does that make sense? Give it a try.

  • Kent

    January 4, 2013

    Hi Ryan,

    I am nearly 61 years of age and always maintained good fitness levels by running and the gym. My reluctance to swim has been due to the feeling that I am always close to sinking to the bottom, unless, I kicked hard or rotated my arms quickly. Having founf TI and identifying my lack of buoyancy, the most useful drill for me has been to swim laps with my arms extended down my sides,I focus on head down, rotate to breathe bilaterally and kick gently for forward propulsion.When I do the complete stroke now, I feel that there is so much more time to think about all the other aspects of the swimming action, simply because I have achived greater buoyancy.
    Thank you
    Kent
    Sydney

  • Noel Daniell

    January 16, 2013

    Hi Ryan,
    I just wanted to say THANK YOU very much for making this short swim clip. In over 30 years I have never been able to complete one set of 100 m freestyle in one go. I studied your video clip a number of times. On 15 January 2013 I was able to complete 8 sets of 100m freestyle. On 16 January I was able to complete 1Km of freestyle.
    Thank you very much.
    Noel

    • BASEtraining

      January 16, 2013

      Hey Noel! Thanks so much for the comment! I am glad it worked well for you! Send us a video of your swimming and I will help you refine it further. ryan@tribasetraining.com What other goals do you have that we can help you with? Nutrition and weight loss?

  • Noel Daniell

    January 29, 2013

    Hi Ryan,
    Apologies for the delayed response to you. I’m working on getting a video clip for you but it’ll be ugly.
    My initial goal was to just be able to swim 300 meters without stopping and this was for a social work event.. I have been increasing the distance and can now swim upto to 2km. I’m enjoying the water so much i’m thinking about trying a masters long distance open water swim by the end of this year. Thank you once again for posting your video clip. i have never had any swimming lessons and could not even imagine swiming the distance I am now doing.
    Thank you vey much. Any other words of advice would be appreciated.
    Regards
    Noel (Sydney, Australia)

    • BASEtraining

      January 29, 2013

      Awesome. I can’t wait to see it.
      Have you started using a tempo trainer much?

      • Noel Daniell

        January 30, 2013

        I was just contemplating this the other day. I will now.
        Thanks
        Noel

        • Noel Daniell

          January 30, 2013

          Can you tell me what tempo I should start with? I’m 51 years old so need to start a bil slower then I can work on a faster pace.
          regards
          Noel

          • BASEtraining

            January 30, 2013

            Noel, I would start out about 1.3 on the tempo trainer if I were you and adjust from there.

  • Noel Daniell

    February 11, 2013

    Hi Ryan,
    I’m in a sprint triathlon in 2 weeks with a 300 meter swim leg. I can now swim up to 2km with ease but my times are slow. As recommended by you, I have ordered a finis tempo trainer and this will arive in around 2 weeks. Is there a method I can use to increase my speed in the next 2 weeks. I was thinking of doing 10 x 100m sets at a faster rate rather than a 1.5 km sets for the next 2 weeks. Your assistance would be appreciated
    Regards
    Noel

    • BASEtraining

      February 11, 2013

      Hard to say the best way to get faster without seeing you swim. Basically you need to do one of two things or both at the same time: 1) Decrease the number of strokes you take to get across the pool (cover more distance with each stroke) 2) Increase stroke rate so basically your arms move faster (without changing how much distance you cover). You can do the first one by counting strokes as you go across the pool and try to get a little extra length with each stroke to see if you can cut down the number of strokes. The caution is that you don’t want to artificially cut down strokes by having pauses…that makes you slower not faster.

  • Noel Daniell

    February 19, 2013

    Hi Ryan,
    This week I’ve reduced my stroke rate and increased my catch whcih has resulted in me travelling much further with each stroke. I now have noticed that I have a lazy left arm (as i’m righ handed) so will work on correcting this during my sessions. Increasing my stroke rate will take a bit longer for me but I’m really happy with your advice provided.
    Much appreciated
    Noel

    • BASEtraining

      February 19, 2013

      Awesome. You might try doing a few “pyramid” workouts with your tempo trainer now. So, you start it at a stroke rate a bit faster than what you are normally using now. Then slow the tempo down in tiny increments (say .02) every 50 yd or m until you are just a bit slower than your current stroke rate. Then come back to where you started. The key is to count strokes the whole time and try to decrease strokes as your tempo gets slower and then NOT increase them as it goes back to faster (or at least not as much). Example:

      Let’s say your are comfortable at 1.2 on the tempo trainer now and it takes you 17 strokes to get across the pool. Here is your pyramid:

      50yd at 1.10 (count strokes…should be higher than 17..let’s say it turns out to be 19)
      50yd at 1.12
      now 1.14
      1.16
      1.18
      1.20
      1.22
      1.24 (should be less than 17 now)
      1.22
      1.20
      1.18
      1.16
      1.14
      1.12
      1.10 (now, the goal is to have less than 19 when you get back here)

      Viola…you just swam faster by covering more distance at the same tempo. Make sense?

  • Noel Daniell

    February 20, 2013

    Thanks Ryan. Will implement and get back to you.

  • rahal

    February 20, 2013

    Hi my name is rahal first of all thanks for the tips and the video.
    But if u can help me when I swim it is pretty much easy to do everything u mentioned but I have a small problem when I swim across the pool I do it with 43 strokes when I shouls be doing it in 25 I have a real problem doing it or to be more accurate if I try swim faster to get to 25 strokes I end up using too much energy and tiring myself out and it’s been an issues trying to change my routine.
    Thanks !
    Rahal 17 yrs
    Syria

    • BASEtraining

      February 20, 2013

      Hi Rahal,

      thanks for the comment. Is that 43 strokes for one length or 43 for one full lap? How big is the pool?

      Also, have you done all of the Total Immersion drills or done anything with that stuff or just my three tips? Let me know.

      Also, can you take a video of your swim?

      Ryan

  • rahal

    February 20, 2013

    Well see actually I dont rlly know much about the drills or anything swimming have always been a hobby for me but the thing is that am good at it so I would like to take even even to a further level…
    And am rlly new to this cuz today while I was swimming some guy approached and told me that my swimming is rlly good and i have the ability to take it further but my problem was the strokes and he told me to check out this website 😀
    I train by myself and by tomorrow ill get u the info u need and take a video.
    Thanks for your reply.

    • BASEtraining

      February 21, 2013

      OK, cool. I will look forward to seeing the video!

  • Kevin K

    March 8, 2013

    i dont see the video – was it taken down?

    • BASEtraining

      March 8, 2013

      No, I am not sure what happened. It is fixed now.

  • David stanton

    March 24, 2015

    Hi,
    I was very interested in your top three tips. One thing I don’t understand is how much effort I put into pulling back. Since I changed to TI I pull back with my arms as little as possible. I was taught to use my lead arm as an anker to pull my body past my arm etc. it would great to get a short answer if you have the time. Thanks

    • BASEtraining

      March 24, 2015

      Thanks, David. Your description of using the lead arm as an anchor and moving past it is correct. It can be a difficult concept to put into practice. I tell people to imagine sliding their arm over a submerged beach ball and then pushing back against the beach ball as you spear on the other side. It think the most helpful thing to engage the lat muscle in your back as you anchor and then push slow but strong against the water with the entire forearm and palm. If you get the whole forearm and palm vertical and ready to push before you apply too much pressure, when you DO apply the pressure, you won’t be able to push very fast. If you pull your arm back fast, that means you slipped and didn’t hold. HOpefully that helps!

  • steve

    May 12, 2015

    Hi

    I breath on my right side and feel that my right side stroke is good but my left pretty much always feels like its flat, short and lacks – I also drift to the right side of the lane – the LS also feel more hurried when I’m trying to focus on front quadrant style swimming – any ideas – much appreciate any help – love the TI way

    • BASEtraining

      May 14, 2015

      Hi Steve,

      thanks for your comment. In my experience, the most likely culprit is what your lead arm is doing during the breath. It should be spearing to the 4 oclock position at shoulder width and should still be out there during your breath. You are likely pulling that lead arm early, breathing late (two different things), and possibly moving the hand into the center or out to the side (off track). I would focus on getting your little bite of air while the lead arm is fully speared out to 4 oclock and on track in front of the shoulder. Does that make sense?

      Ryan