swimming techniques

Swimming Techniques: How to Swim Efficiently

Swimming is an ever-evolving sport. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to swimming as each swimmer has to find the perfect balance between speed and efficiency. In fact, learning how to swim more efficiently is still a challenge many newbies and professionals still face.

Given this, swimmers and triathletes of today continue to improve their swimming techniques and styles to become better athletes. If you’re hungry for success like them, learn a thing or two from world-renowned swimmers and coaches who made significant contributions to the global swimming community.

Here are modern and revolutionary swimming techniques that can teach you how to swim more efficiently while going beyond the usual principles and offerings of five common swimming strokes—backstroke, breaststroke, sidestroke, freestyle, and butterfly swimming.

Total Immersion

Total Immersion is a swimming technique made popular by Terry Laughlin, an American swimmer and coach who made a huge influence in the swimming industry because of his swimming videos, books, and other media contributions. Total Immersion became a groundbreaking technique for beginners and professionals, especially triathletes, because it not only offers a swimming technique but also various personal and mental benefits.

“Unlike all alternatives, TI has demonstrated the capacity to help everyone swim better and enjoy it more! Whatever your goal—to swim your first lap, first mile, a faster mile; to be comfortable in open water; master new strokes; or hone racing strategies and skills—in Total Immersion you can find common-sense principles and processes that will help you make confident and effective choices,” said Terry Laughlin in his book Swim Ultra-Efficient Freestyle: The ‘Fishlike’ Techniques From Total Immersion.

The technique emphasizes the importance of form over speed in swimming, pushing swimmers to improve their performance by mastering how to move more efficiently through the water instead of competing against the water—like a fish swimming in its natural environment. Total Immersion simplifies highly complex movements like freestyle swimming.

How To Do The Total Immersion Method

Total Immersion will help you adapt to your environment, like a fish in the water. But before you harvest the benefits of swimming using Total Immersion, you need to master its principles. Here’s a three-step process explaining how to do the Total Immersion method:

Step 1: Focus On Comfort and Stability

Introduce your body to the environment, so you can control your swimming positions and be aware of the drag. The most important thing to do is to achieve stability while the body is static and in motion.

Step 2: Develop Hydrodynamics

Since Total Immersion is dubbed as a ‘fishlike’ swimming technique, it taps into the field of hydrodynamics, which doesn’t come naturally to humans. As such, swimmers need to train and develop hydrodynamics. Your basic and advanced swimming lessons may come in handy.

Hydrodynamics will require you to reduce the “form drag” as you swim; it’s the resistance you create when you move through the water. In order to reduce it, your body must be in a straight position, avoiding contact with huge water surfaces. The key is to avoid fighting with the water—more like going with the flow.

Step 3: Utilize Your Pelvis

Yes, you have to keep your body as straight as possible, but that doesn’t mean you’ll stay immobile. The keyword is stability! Your legs and arms will carry most of your movements and propulsion while you swim, but you can also utilize your pelvis.

The pelvis is one of the strongest and most stable parts of the body, so it can offer support without disrupting your stability. According to the book Anatomy and Physiology, a widely-used dynamic textbook for Human Anatomy and Physiology published by OpenStax:‍

“The bones of the pelvis are strongly united to each other to form a largely immobile, weight-bearing structure. This is important for stability because it enables the weight of the body to be easily transferred laterally from the vertebral column, through the pelvic girdle and hip joints, and into either lower limb whenever the other limb is not bearing weight. Thus, the immobility of the pelvis provides a strong foundation for the upper body as it rests on top of the mobile lower limbs.” 

Through its strength, you can use your pelvis as the foundation for your power, propulsion, and rhythm. You need to let the pelvis initiate your body movements from your head to your toe, so you can swim more effectively.

Ocean Walker

The Ocean Walker swimming technique was developed by Adam Walker, the first British swimmer and the fifth swimmer globally to complete the Oceans 7, the toughest 7 channel swims in the World. In addition, he’s also the first swimmer in the world to complete the challenge on his first attempt.

I became very aware of my body position and how it was moving through the water. My initial goal was to find a way to carry on swimming by offloading pressure on the shoulders. A gentle elbow push in conjunction with 180-degree hip rotation not only took the pressure off, it created more power for less effort. In a matter of weeks I was faster, more efficient, and using less energy,” says Walker about the utilization of the Ocean Walker method in an interview with Outdoor Swimmer Magazine.

Ocean Walker is considered a groundbreaking front crawl freestyle swimming stroke. The technique emphasizes speed, form, comfort, and safety. According to the official brand of Adam Walker and the Ocean Walker, the method is the most relaxed front crawl swim stroke to date, emphasizing low cadence and high speed. It is also an efficient injury preventive swim stroke because it requires correct body position and balance.

How To Do The Ocean Walker Method

The UK brand Ocean Walker offers official swimming lessons and courses for the Ocean Walker technique. But if you wish to learn it on your own and learn how to swim faster without using too much energy, here are simple steps to do the Ocean Walker method according to Adam Walker.

Step 1: Focus On Your Head Position

For the first step, you should be looking downward in a neutral position. Avoid looking up as you’ll utilize extra muscles, putting a strain on your neck. If you follow the neutral position, you can withstand long distances without feeling the strain. Further, you can breathe more easily through this position.

Step 2: Use The Two-Beat Kick

Use the two-beat kick from the opposite leg to the hip you plan to drop as you start swimming. In this way, your body will offer your hip a chance to rotate more efficiently, creating a corkscrew-like motion without fighting against water.

Step 3: Minimize the Bending of Your Legs

For the Ocean Walker freestyle swimming method, it’s crucial to minimize the bending of your legs to reduce drag and welcome the timing of your flick for all your kicks, pulls, and hip drops. Control the movements of your legs as you swim.

School of Fish

Also known as the Martin Method, The School of Fish swimming technique is developed by Martin Hamilton, a swimming instructor, coach, entrepreneur, and teacher who has been serving the global swimming community for over 25 years now. He currently teaches over 10k students and runs three international school swim programs across three continents.

Amateurs, newbies, teachers, and coaches who wish to see the ‘whole picture’ when it comes to swimming can learn a lot from the benefits of swimming the School of Fish method. The method emphasizes the importance of mastering the basics.

How to Do The School of Fish Method

Martin Hamilton teaches the School of Fish method and other courses on how to swim faster, effectively, and efficiently through the School of Fish global community. Membership is free, but swimming lessons and courses are paid. If you wish to apply some of the principles of the School of Fish method to your current swimming form and technique, here are some steps:

Step 1: Be Confident With The Basics

Martin Hamilton’s courses and programs for the School of Fish method emphasize the importance of mastering the main or basic swimming strokes—backstroke, breaststroke, front crawl, and butterfly swimming, as well as the turns and dives. Make sure you have advanced knowledge and understanding of these basics.

Step 2: Find The Best Swimming Stroke, Dive Type

The School of Fish method focuses on the full mastery of the currently available swimming strokes. So, its principle is to help swimmers find the best and most comfortable starting position and swimming stroke for everyone. To do this, you can try the different swimming strokes and diving methods you’re used to, list down the pros and cons of each, and utilize them.

Swim Smooth

Swim Smooth is a swimming technique developed by Paul Newsome, a British triathlon coach and professional swimmer. He won the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, a 48km elite and invitational swimming race. He also completed the English Channel swimming challenge in 2011. Today, Paul continues to offer significant contributions to the swimming community through coaching.

The Swim Smooth method is targeted at swimmers who struggle to do freestyle swimming and triathletes who wish to improve their swimming speed and efficiency. The method mainly emphasizes the form of your swimming strokes. Each swimmer, after all, has a different approach to swimming strokes.

“There isn’t such a thing as the swim smooth stroke because it looks different for different people,” said Paul Newsome in his interview with the Scientific Triathlon, an organization that offers triathlon resources.

How to Do The Swim Smooth Method

To promote the principles and the benefits of swimming, Paul Newsome and Adam Young established Swim Smooth, now the world’s leading swimming coaching company specializing in helping adult swimmers improve their abilities and confidence on the water. The company already offers swimming lessons, courses, assistance, and events, but if you wish to know the basics of Swim Smooth and apply it to your current techniques, here are some helpful steps:

Step 1: Train And Be Better In Longer Distances

Swim Smooth mostly focuses on distance freestyle swimming. The aim is to swim efficiently over long distances with short recovery times. It puts a much larger emphasis on sustained speed over longer distances, so it’s the perfect method for triathletes. Aim to master freestyle swimming in open-water venues for your training.

Step 2: Focus On Your Stroke Rhythm

Swim Smooth encourages swimmers to develop strokes that perform well when swimming closely with other swimmers. As such, you need to focus on your stroke rhythm rather than your kicks for propulsion. This works in a high-level pool but much better in open water.

Step 3: Kick From The Hip

Swim Smooth proves that kicking from your hip is more efficient than kicking from the knee. This might sound difficult in words, but you can try it in the water repeatedly to see the effect and familiarize your body with the movement.

How to Find the Right Swimming Technique

Every swimmer’s body is built differently. So, although the aforementioned modern swimming techniques for swimmers made by swimmers are groundbreaking and globally accepted, the process of finding the right swimming technique is still a trial-and-error process. It all depends on your age, skill, athletic level, and goals.

Beginners can freely learn, master, and start with all the swimming techniques mentioned here, as well as the basic swimming strokes today. Professionals, meanwhile, can seek help from fellow professionals to strengthen their weaknesses even if they’re already good swimmers.

With that, the best way to find the right swimming method or technique is to combine the basics and incorporate new techniques in multiple trial-and-error processes. Start with mastering your freestyle swimming technique, which is the foundation of all the swimming techniques mentioned here. From there, adapt principles and methods from various resources. Film, time, and observe yourself when training to see your progress.

Final Words

Whatever your physical and mental objectives are, your success in swimming depends on your attitude and swimming technique. You need to find the balance between speed and efficiency, especially if you’re swimming in open water and at longer distances. As you start your journey of finding the perfect swimming technique, consider your goals that will coincide with the principles of your chosen technique.