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How to improve your swim technique

Swimming is a great exercise that works the whole body. It’s low impact so increases the heart rate without adding stress to the body, but also helps build strength and endurance.

Front Crawl is the fastest of the four strokes and is one that most people are confident and comfortable with. Although it can be one of the most exhausting if your technique isn't correct.

Our swim and poolside expert, Carl Cawood shares some exercises that help build on your technique and work on improving strength and endurance in the water. Give these a try when you’re next in the pool.

Finger Trails

This helps in isolating the arm motion when in the water and focuses on getting that high elbow.

When swimming Front Crawl, bend your elbow and trail your fingers on the top of the water. Keeping your fingers close to the water, when your hand re-enters it is smoother and efficient whilst also working on the high elbow recovery. When your arm is out of the water, this is the recovery part of front crawl, but staying streamlined is key to keeping up speed and maximising recovery.


Alternating Pull and Kick

This aims to isolate just your arm or leg movements individually.

For one length, keep your legs still without kicking, and swim front crawl using only your arms. Not using your legs ads an additional level of resistance, which means your upper body works harder to pull you through the water.

On the second length, holding your arms out still in front of you, kick your legs to propel you through the water. To breath, make sure you’re turning your head to the side rather than trying to lift it out of the water.


Shoulder Taps

This drill focuses on the shoulder roll movement within Front Crawl.

Like the Finger Trail drill, this is a very subtle drill that may look like you’re doing normal Front Crawl, however when your hand passes your shoulder, you're going to slow down the arm stroke

movement and tap your shoulder before gliding it back into the water. This elevates the shoulder roll movement and extends the reach of the pull, whilst also working on the timing of your strokes to maximise recovery.


Once you’ve practiced some of the drills in the water, once you go back to regular Front Crawl you should start to notice an improvement in your technique and will work on your coordination and balance too.

If you’re looking for ways to incorporate these into your next swim session, here’s a sample workout. Don’t forget, the length of the pool is 25meters, so 75m is equal to 3 lengths of the pool.



200m Front Crawl (8 lengths)


Main Session:

6 x 75m Finger Trail Drill (6 sets of 3 lengths)


4 x 50m Alternating Pull and Kick (4 sets of 2 lengths)


6 x 25m Fast Sprints, as fast as you can (6 sets of 1 length)


Cool Down:

300m Slow and controlled Front Crawl (12 lengths)

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