What’s the Best Way to Get Good at Swimming Quickly?
I guess the first question to answer is “What do I mean by ‘swimming’?” I’m talking about the fastest stroke, i.e., freestyle which is sometimes called “The Crawl Stroke.” So what is the best approach to learning how to swim freestyle, and become good at it as quickly as possible? I’d say it is to get in the pool at least five times a week and do drills that will help you perfect your ability to balance when floating in the water, and do other drills that will help you build muscle and endurance that is necessary to eventually do freestyle.
What you don’t want to do is too much training in the pool trying to do the full freestyle stroke at the outset. If you’ve got two months (8 weeks) to figure out how to do your best freestyle stroke, then I’d suggest doing the drills for 5 weeks. Don’t even bother trying to do the full freestyle stroke during that time. Then over the final three weeks gradually transition from doing 100% of drills during your workouts to 100% of freestyle stroke. You’ll need to get in the pool at least 5 days a week!! I recommend getting wet Monday through Thursday a definite. It’s up to you if you want to do the 5th day on Friday or Saturday. I recommend not getting in the water on Sunday so you start the week on Monday after having had a rest day.
Learning to swim freestyle is very similar to learning to do a good distance golf swing. Learning both requires the activity to be broken down into segments or steps. Then you practice the segments or steps so you can make sure you do them correctly. Repetition of the segments done correctly will provide you with good muscle memory. And it is the muscle memory you will later use to tie the segments together in a good formed freestyle stroke.
Freestyle kicking is one of the segments you need to learn. Without a strong kick done properly you are not going to be able to get good at swimming quickly with freestyle. By practicing your freestyle kick at the outset you will be working on strength, endurance, and flexibility. If you haven’t kicked before, then you will find kicking two laps (pool lengths) to be quite a challenge. Don’t kill yourself adding up the laps of kick, but ideally you want to be able to fairly comfortably kick 40 laps during a 1.5 mile daily workout in the pool. 72 laps equals a mile by the way. Don’t do the kicking all at once. Do 10 laps early in the workout, do 20 laps in the middle, and do the last 10 toward (or at) the end of the workout. When kicking you want to isolate the effort to your muscles from the stomach down to your toes. Your shoulders should be relaxed.
Whether you use a kickboard or not is your choice. Explaining the difference styles of practicing your kick is beyond the scope of this blog post.
The kicking described above assumes you will be kicking while flat in the water. Your stomach will be facing the bottom of the pool at all times. So I am suggesting that you work up to doing 40 laps of kick on your stomach. Your workout will require you to do even more kicking drills, but these are done while on your side. Probably work your way up to doing 20 laps of these drills. Maybe do 24 laps, i.e., 3 sets of 8 laps? You don’t have to do them all in a row either. Spread them out over the course of the 1.5 miles you are doing.
The remaining number of laps you do to get to 1.5 miles should be done using pull bouys that you will clamp between your thighs at times, between your knees at times, and between your angles at times. These drills will let you focus on getting your balance in the water, and get your arm motion correct without having to worry about keeping your legs high in the water while you kick. You’ll want to put your arms out in front of you and do a pull with your right arm while staying level and balanced in the water. Bring the right arm back to the front BEFORE you do the same but this time with the left arm. You will find it difficult to rotate and get a breath while doing this exercise. That’s normal. But you will get the hang of it within the 5 weeks of doing drills.
Another drill you should do, but it does not involve laps is a bobbing drill. Bob up and down in the deep end of the pool by pulling yourself to the surface using a high-elbow catch motion. Spend 5 to 10 minutes doing this besides doing your 1.5 miles.
Supplemental exercises outside the pool that will help you at the end of the 5 weeks transition to doing a full stroke are pull-ups, assisted pull-ups, and situps. You want to beef up your lats and core, and these land drills will help with that.
The drills I have described above should provide you with just about everything you will need to be able to attempt to do a strong good form freestyle stroke at the end of 3 weeks attempting to do such. Good luck!