Slipping through the Water
Swimming is a funny sport because physical effort does not always translate into faster or better performances in the pool. Moving efficiently through the water is a learned skill, making our sport a tricky thing to master. However the good news is that improvement upon that skill is readily available. Even the best swimmers are constantly finding ways to swim more efficiently.
One of the easiest ways to improve your swimming AT ANY ABILITY LEVEL is by working on your streamline. When I go to the pool, I often notice that the more casual the swimmer, the less attention and focus on streamline. You often see swimmers with each arm in front of their head six to ten inches apart, “Superman” style. This position creates tremendous drag when you push off the wall.
Achieving a basic and consistent streamline position is actually quite simple. The first step is to work on stretching your streamline muscles before you even get in the water. Try lying on your back with bent legs, feet on the ground. Slowly raise your arms from your side until you can press your biceps tightly against the side of your head and ears. With one hand on top of the other, reach and stretch the shoulders. During this entire process, focus on keeping your back flat and in contact with the floor.
If you are struggling to easily maintain a streamline because of shoulder flexibility, I recommend beginning a stretching routine like the one detailed by George Edelmann in his article An Active Shoulder Warm-Up for the Competitive Swimmer.
Once you have a good understanding of where your arms and hands should be in relation to the rest of your body, try it in the water. Before you start your main workout or laps, think about keeping a tight streamline: arms tight against your head, one-hand on top of the other, keep your head down, back flat, and reach with the shoulders. Again try to build muscle memory so that you can continue using a tight streamline throughout your swim. The tighter the streamline, the less drag, and the more easily you will ‘slip’ right through the water.
Streamline is a simple concept that can be learned quickly but can only be perfected over time. Improving your streamline off each wall is a very practical and achievable way for you to see real results.