Are you finding it difficult to increase your speed in the water? Are you looking to combine some speed swimming training with your current endurance workouts? Do you find that you are not moving any faster in the pool or in your triathlon no matter how hard you try? Then let’s look at some tips on speed and sprint training that we can show you during our lessons.
How to train for sprint swimming?
Sprint swim training can be gruelling and exhausting, but having a good coach taking you through the best way to develop these steps will lead to you increasing your power and speed in the water (even over longer distances). Developing your stroke and technique are obviously vital in improving performance and overall speed in the water, but what are the main elements that you should be looking for when aiming at ‘speed work’ in the pool?
Breathing during sprint swimming
Breath-holding (otherwise known as hypoxic work) is part of swimming at top speed. This method includes limiting the number of breaths per length or over a given distance. Some swimmers hold their breath for the entire length of the pool, whilst others breathe once per length, or equally novice swimmers may start with taking a breath every five arm strokes. All these techniques will develop your breath holding ability.
During sprinting, it is imperative that a swimmer acclimatises to swimming at maximum effort and the breathing demands that such effort entails.
The ability to hold your breath during speed swim training can be developed more and more over time. When performing sprint freestyle or butterfly swimming, a single breath will interrupt the power, acceleration and flow of the stroke, hence why we see Olympic 50 metre sprinters not turning for a breath at all when racing.
Stroke rate and length
When performing sprint and speed sets, always try and increase your stroke rate (number of strokes per length) but maintain your stroke length at the same time. If you can increase your stroke rate without shortening your stroke length, you will inevitably swim faster.
Develop a strong kick
Swimming faster not only requires the arms to increase in speed but also the leg kick at the same to time (on any of the four strokes). The timing of the legs to the arms also needs to be maintained no matter if you are swimming at 60% effort or maximum effort. Using fins during sprint training can also benefit a fast and powerful leg kick.
Recruiting fast twitch fibres
Performing short, sharp sprints in the water over very short distances will develop fast twitch fibres in the muscle. Such fibres are needed for better sprinting and you can change your physiology and biochemistry with speed work in the pool. As a distance swimmer or triathlete, this recruitment of fast twitch fibres can be developed over time and you will see a difference in your sprinting ability in both training and in racing.
When to perform sprinting and speed work
Learning how it feels to swim fast is important, however, this does not mean that sprint swimming should be done during every workout. Depending on experience of this kind of training, we would not recommend sprint training every day but limit it to 3 times per week (please talk with your coach and we can advise you more).
On the whole, sprint training is performed at a higher intensity than distance training. Swimming at race pace can quickly lead to a spike in your heart rate and the build up of lactic acid in your muscles. The ability to delay the onset of lactic acid can be achieved with regular sprint (speed) work in the pool. With practice, you will see yourself your sprint training move to entirely different level.
One The longest swimming pool in the world can fit ten Olympic swimming pools from end to end. The Chrystal Lagoon in Chile measures 1013 metres.
Two If the average competitive swimmer takes 32 freestyle strokes to complete one 50 metre length of an Olympic pool, then it would take around 650 strokes to complete just one length of the Chrystal Lagoon pool.
Three Swim fins are said to be invented by US President Benjamin Franklin. A very keen swimmer, he actually attached his swim fins to his hands rather than his feet to propel himself better through the water.
Four Australia builds more swimming pools per capita than any other nation on the planet.
Five Amazingly, elephants swim underwater using their trunks as snorkels to breathe (they can actually swim 20 miles per day using this technique).
Six The first Olympic swimming competitions did not even take place in a pool. The first Olympic swimming events took place in the Mediterranean, the next in the River Seine and the next in a man made lake.
SevenThe original modern 1896 Olympics in Athens held a 100 metres race for sailors only.
Eight The second ever modern Olympics in Paris held an underwater race in the Seine, plus an obstacle course race.
Nine In 1988 Thomas Gregory was the youngest person ever to swim across the English Channel at the mere age of 11 years and 336 days (a feat that cannot be bettered as there is a minimum age rule nowadays of 16 years and over).
Ten The oldest age category in competitive Masters Swimming is currently 100 to 104 years with the newest world record holder being George Corones of Australia taking 35 seconds off the previous 50 metre freestyle world record in February 2018.
One the oldest stroke is breaststroke – it is the slowest of the four swimming strokes and the stroke that receives the most disqualifications of swimmers in competition
Two the false start is the most common reason for disqualification in competitive swimming, and an early take over is the most common reason for relay teams
Three the newest stroke is butterfly which derived from the breaststroke when a group of American swimmers realised in the 1930’s that breaststroke was faster to swim by recovering the arms over the top of the water
Four the butterfly stroke was first competed with a breaststroke leg kick
Five the youngest swimmer to compete at the World Championships, was 10 year olds old. Alzain Tareq from Bahrain competed in the 50 metres butterfly in 2015.
Six currently there are no age restrictions on World Championship entrants, however, strangely swimmers must be at least 14 years to compete in the World Junior Swimming Championships
Seven the first cruise ship to have a swimming pool was the Titanic but it was only available to first class passengers
Eight worldwide men are twice as likely to drown than women as they are often exposed to water more than women and secondly, due to men’s riskier behaviour
Nine the youngest world swimming champion was Ian Thorpe at the age of just 15 in the 400 metres freestyle in Perth in 1998
Ten michael phelps’ wingspan is longer than he is tall. From fingertip to fingertip, michael’s wingspan measures 6 feet 8 inches, and he is 6 feet 4 inches tall
It is no coincidence that the best freestyle (front crawl) swimmers across the world have an amazingly strong, powerful leg kick.
As much as the freestyle stroke is predominately powered by the arms and upper body, and only relies on the leg kick for a small amount of overall forward propulsion (around 10 to 15% and even less for novice and weaker swimmers), without a strong leg kick, you are at a disadvantage. The perfect freestyle kick can generate better balance, drive body rotation and lift the whole body higher in the water. Triathletes generally aim to kick less in their freestyle swimming stroke but without any kick, the body position is affected and as the legs can drop. To swim faster, you need to put the leg work in during your swim training and also develop leg strength in the gym.
Benefits of a strong freestyle kick
Tips to improve your freestyle kick:
Swimming is taught to children as a valuable life skill for survival and as a form of exercise in the water. As an adult who may have never learned to swim, it is easy to think that all is lost and there is no point in trying to learn. Whether you are in your twenties, forties or in retirement, it is NEVER too late to learn to swim.
Swimming is a wonderful way to keep your body and mind strong and healthy and the benefits can help prolong a healthy mind. You are not alone as an adult non-swimmer and it’s never too late to learn. In fact, it can be more fun to take lessons as an adult. It is a misconception to think that only children can learn to swim efficiently. In reality, there are lots of adults who have not learned but now want to swim with their children and grandchildren, feel conformable in the pool and sea whilst on holiday or simply take up the sport to develop their fitness. As swimming is a low impact form of exercise which means that the supportive nature of the water puts less stress on the body and our joints as we get older. Any adult knows how running affects the knees as they get older, hence swimming is the five star sport for adults and lessons will help fastrack your skills.
If you feel that you are not confident around water at the pool, have very little fitness or unhappy with your current body shape, our coaches are experienced with clients of all types and standard, and our lessons will help you overcome your fears and inspire you to continue during and after your first lesson.
Our venues are luxury private health clubs and our swimming pools are incredibly quiet (which many of our adult clients express how this has helped them develop their swimming, their fitness and their confidence in the water during lessons).
Tips for Learning To Swim As An Adult:
Benefits of swimming lessons for adults
Paul started competing in swimming from the age of 8 and eventually went on to represent his country all over the world. During his time at University, Paul specialised in Aquatics and the Biomechanics of Swimming and produced numerous theses on swimming performance.