Swimming Tips

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Will I put on weight doing swimming training?

Shoulders are Sexy

"I've seen a lot of swimmers who have pretty large shoulders and legs. Will swimming training make me gain weight?"

No, it will not.
Swimming helps you gain muscle, where and how you will gain that muscle depends on your body type. Your body will not allow you to get larger than is natural for your frame. The more muscle you have, the better and faster it burns fat, which is the goal of losing weight or getting in shape. Either way, you win.

How do I start a backstroke race?

Back Off

Backstroke starts. In some swim leagues, backstrokers are permitted to start fully out of the water, toes on the edge of the pool, heels in the water, hand gripping the sides of the block. In this type of start, the swimmer actually does a back dive into the water.

The attraction of these types of starts is because it takes less effort to drive backwards when your body is out of the water, rather than having to lift your body out of the water when starting by gripping the bar, body in the water, as is usually done for backstroke.

*The back dive from out of the water should only be done by very experienced swimmers, as there is a danger of diving to deep, but is not permitted at the USS, Masters, or Olympic level of competition.

Why should I learn how to do a flip turn?

Flip is Fast

Flip turns. What is this business about flip turns? Well, once you've done it, you'll never go back to touch-and-turn. It will save you seconds each lap and minutes to half hours each swimming session. A flip turn is a technique used in the freestyle and the backstroke to help the swimmer reach and leave the wall of the pool with as much speed and little extra work as possible. To do a flip turn:

• Swim freestyle toward the wall of the pool

• About three strokes from the wall, one hand reaching ahead—beginning the next stroke, keep the one by your side at your side

• Pull the leading hand through to your side as well

• Tuck your chin

• Bend at your waist

• When you are half way through the “flip” (which is an actual flip in the water), bend your knees and tuck your heels

• Finish the flip

• Reach your legs out to push off the wall (you should be able to reach the wall with your legs only having to extend them half way to a straight position)

• Bring your arms up your sides to a streamline position and push!

How long do I need to train before I can race?

The Win is in the Preparation

"If I've never swum competitively before, how long should I train before I race?"

If you are an adult, train for one month before swimming a long distance race (in a pool) and swim for a solid two months if you are going to race a sprint or a distance race in open water. You are more likely to strain a muscle or wear yourself out in a sprint race than in a distance race in a pool where you don't have to go full speed and can stop if it becomes necessary.

If you are a child, swim for one month before racing any distance. Children need less time to prepare for a race and their muscles have more elasticity and tire more slowly.

What is the first and most imporant thing to learn when learning to swim competitively or recreationally?


Streamline, streamline, streamline! This is the most important position you need to learn and practice every single time you swim, every single wall you push off. This is the most aerodynamic position for your body in the water, hence the name, streamline. You need to be in this position when you dive, when you do a backstroke start, and every time you push off of a wall, whether you have done a flip turn or not, whether you are on your stomach, side, or back.

The streamline position is hands over your head, reached as far above your head as possible. Your shoulders and biceps are squeezing your ears. Arms are straight, not bent and your hands are positioned hand over hand. This is the longest body position your can be in, and will thus allow you to create the greatest distance between you and wall when you push off and flutter, dolphin, or breaststroke kick. Streamline!

Why do some swimmers start off of two feet?

Jump with Your Legs

More starts. The most powerful dive start that should be learned and practiced by all swimmers is the two-footed start. It is much like the track start, but both feet are placed at the front of the block, toes at the very edge, knees slightly bent, hands resting at the front of the block, just outside the swimmers feet.

In this start, when the gun goes off, the swimmer does not have the option of transferring weight backwards and to the arms in an attempt to spring forward, the swimmer must push off of both feet and drive the arms forward to a streamline position.

This start is the best start to teach beginning swimmers because it does not allow them to practice bad habits as may happen with the track start, and allows them to use all of the power from both legs to explode off the blocks.

How can I use my ability as a swimmer to help others?

Swim for the Safety of Everyone

Do it for a cause. Once you can swim, a good way to use that talent, show it off, reward yourself, and start to get competitive, is to join a swim race that raises money for a charity or special research.

What are you passionate about? Do you want to help cure cancer? Find races that raise money for and are sponsored by societies who will donate a portion or all of the entrance fee money collected to a good cause. You'll feel good about yourself both physically and emotionally, and you'll be doing something good for others.

Is the length of time a practice or how fast I practice important?

Time Yourself

Time yourself. Time your total practice time. Time your intervals. How long does it take you to do a set of ten one-hundreds. How long was your rest?

Timing yourself gives you a reference to measure your progress. You can see your improvement in your race times, but practice times are also one of the best gauges of how well you are doing and how far you have come.

Should I learn how to do a backdive to start a backstroke race?

Back Up

More Backstroke starts. Everyone should learn how to start the backstroke race from in the water: hands gripping the bar that is about one foot above water level, feet placed on the wall at hip level, knees bent. When the starter says, “take your mark,” bend your arms so your head is near your hands. When the gun goes off, push off with your legs and drive your arms up and back to a streamline position.

When using a backstroke start, the head should be going up slightly first, then back with the arms. This will force the swimmer to get his or her hips out of the water and extend backwards, using the strength of the legs to get the greatest power and extension with the least amount of water resistance. Again, kick, kick, kick, once under the water again, and stay in the streamline position until reaching the surface of the water.

How much and how often should I train?

Train More, Train Less

The question: How much should I train?

The answer: As much as you want.

You can swim everyday, no matter what age, and it is good for you. Swim more than two days a week to get into shape, and don't swim to the point of exhaustion each day. Anywhere in the middle of that range is safe and worthwhile.

Are personal rewards a positive or negative motivational factor?

What is Your Reward?

Reward yourself. Swimming is difficult. It takes hard work and a big time commitment.

Take a chance to give yourself a reward when you reach a goal you have set for yourself. Motivation is a powerful factor in success. Motivate yourself and motivate others. It helps.

How and when should I breathe when I am swimming so that I do not run out of breath?

You Can't Keep Your Face Under Water All Day

Many swimmers find that running out of breath, or not knowing when to breathe while swimming sometimes becomes a problem. Here are some very simple, easy, and important things to remember about when to breathe, that if you remember them and practice them, you should not have a problem:

• In the butterfly and breaststroke, breathe every time your head is above the water. That is one time every full stroke.

• When your arms are under you in the breaststroke and when your arms are behind you and coming forward in the butterfly, it is natural for your head to come above the water. Do not attempt to keep it in the water. It does not save you time, and will cause your body to be in a position that is not natural, and overtime, may cause injury.

• In the backstroke your head is always above the water. Think about taking one breath every three strokes. Breathe out more slowly than you breathe in.

• For freestyle, learning to breathe on both sides of your body is a must. When one hand is fully extended in front of you and the other hand is pushing past your hip, just lifting out of the water, turn your head (do not lift it), to the side of your body away from the leading arm. In the beginning, breathe every three strokes. The stronger you get, you may want to move to five strokes.

• When you race, in a sprint, breathe as little as possible, and in a long distance race, try to breathe every seven strokes. The more you do it, the less you'll have to think about it and it will become habit.

Are massages worth getting?

Tense Much?

Massage. If you find yourself, as some swimmers do, getting unusually tight in the upper shoulders and back, get a short massage to loosen up. Also, ask your coach for some stretches that will keep you loose and help you avoid getting that tight again.

The looser your muscles are in generally, the easier they are to stretch. You should stretch even when you don't feel tight, that way you will not become tight and your body will perform better.

Which swimming start is the fastest?

Get Off of There!

Starts. Most people think of starts as simply dives. They are not simply dives and can be done in many ways. The fastest start, yet most difficult to execute correctly, is the track start. This start should only be practiced by competitive, experienced swimmers who are preparing for races:

• Your front foot is at the very front of the block
• Your back toe, heel does not touch the block, is almost to the back of the block.
• Your hands are curled around the front of the block, yet not gripping or pulling on the block.
• Almost all of your weight should be on your front leg, a little bit on your back.
• When the gun goes off, all of your weight should move forward.
• Push forward with both legs, drive your arms forward into a streamline position before touching the water.
• Once you hit the water, kick, kick, kick!
• Stay in the streamline position until you are ready to pop out of the water.

*When using this start, do not rock backwards transferring weight to your back foot and giving yourself some tension on your arms from with which to spring or launch yourself forward. Do not ever get into this position, before or during your start. It is not faster or more powerful, it is slower.

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Guru Spotlight
Mary White