Man swimming laps in the pool

Do you want to swim like an Olympic athlete? While the tips below won’t help you get the body composition of Michael Phelps, they will help you become a better swimmer. From breathing tips to the best dryland exercises, here’s how to swim faster and more efficiently.  


Practice breathing

Breathing well may be second nature on land, but swimmers (especially beginners) can have trouble getting the mechanics down in the water. 

When swimming front crawl, make it a habit to breathe to one side and then the other. Always breathing to one side can cause a muscle imbalance. 

Another essential bit of advice for front crawlers and breaststrokers is not to lift your head too much. In front crawl, you just want to quickly turn sideways in the water. In breaststroke, keep your head and shoulders as low as possible and pull yourself up and forward as you breathe in. Keep in mind that if your head lifts, your legs will sink. You’ll either create drag that will slow you down or kick your legs harder to stay horizontal, wasting energy.


Master the glide

Fight the urge to constantly and quickly move your limbs in the water. While it might seem like you’re swimming faster, you’re unnecessarily burning energy. Instead, take a beat or two to glide along the water after pulling yourself forward. 

Experiment with different glide lengths to determine how long it takes before your speed starts decreasing. You want to find that sweet spot that gives you a respite but doesn’t impact your overall speed. 


Swim with someone 

Swimming with a teammate will help keep both of you accountable. Having someone motivate you and keep you on track will give you the extra push you need through hard training sessions and workouts.


Film your swimming form 

While most people have decent proprioception (spatial and bodily awareness), it’s hard to map out exactly how you move through the water without some external assistance. So, have someone film you as you swim different strokes and at different speeds to help you close the gap between how you move and how you THINK you move.



A good sleep schedule has a ton of benefits: 

  • It increases the production of growth hormone, which is essential to helping your muscles recover after exercise and become stronger
  • It improves your mood, helping you stay motivated 
  • It can benefit kick stroke effectiveness and the speed of your turns
  • It reduces overall fatigue, helping you train harder and longer.

Experts recommend aiming for 9-10 hours of sleep per night and going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time every day. If possible, try to have your sleep schedule match your circadian rhythm to maximise the benefits of your natural sleepiness and alertness cycles. 


Wear compression for swimming

Bauerfeind Sports Compression Arm Sleeve

Sports Compression Arm Sleeves


Many pro athletes swear by compression. Some wear it during training, some after, and some both - and for good reason. 

  • Compression boosts blood flow. Better circulation means your muscles will be warmed up and ready for exertion. It also means improved venous return (the rate at which your veins move blood to the heart). Lastly, your muscles will be slower to fatigue and recover faster, as they get the oxygen and nutrients they need (and remove the waste they don’t) quicker.
  • Improve proprioception. Compression stimulates the muscles, improving your awareness of them. Hence, it can help you improve your swimming technique. 
  • Reduce risk of injury.  Swimmer’s knee, tennis elbow, swimmer’s shoulder, and lower back pain are common complaints among swimmers. By wearing a compression brace on the problem area, you’ll protect the tendons and ligaments in the joint. 


Work on your weaknesses 

Do you have trouble taking breaths in the front crawl? Feel like your frog kicks aren’t powerful enough? Do you curve to the side when swimming backstroke? Whatever the issue is, take the time to fix it. Advice from your coach and teammates can be invaluable. You should also take 10 minutes out of every practice to work on it. Remember, improving your form can save you pain, energy, and precious seconds during the competition. 


Strengthen outside of the pool

Alongside swim training, work out important muscle groups at the gym. Building muscle strength will result in stronger kicks, faster turns, more explosive jumps into the pool, and stronger pulls along the water. 

Some excellent workouts for swimmers include: 

  • Jump squats for powerful jumps and kicks 
  • Planks for improved muscle control, overall power and coordination, and breathing
  • Pull-ups and bench pulls for improved speed and efficiency in the water


Work on your flexibility 

Stretching reduces the risk of injury and helps you swim more efficiently and with better form. You won’t need an entire 1-hour yoga session for improvements, though. Taking 10-15 minutes to stretch per day is likely all you’ll need. A swimmer’s stretch routine should consist of: 

  • Shoulder rotation exercises, including overhead arm swings, trunk swings, and cross-body swings. These will improve shoulder mobility and help you avoid swimmer’s shoulder.
  • Leg swings, including front-to-back and side-to-side to stretch your glutes, quads, and hamstrings.
  • Ankle rotations for maximum kick efficiency. 
  • Supine twists for improved hip mobility and reduced low back stiffness.
  • Thoracic extension and doorway stretch for releasing tension in the upper body.


Don’t skip rest days 

You do need them. Muscle tissue generally needs 24-48 hours to recover after strenuous physical activity. Working the muscle too soon will lead to tissue breakdown instead of building, negatively affecting your training in the long run. 

  • Take at least one rest day per week.
  • Do some of your sessions at a lower intensity to focus on improving your swimming technique.
  • Listen to your body. Take an extra rest day if you feel tired, fatigued, or slow in the water.


Make sure you’re eating right and eating enough 

Swimming eats through a lot of calories. Depending on the stroke, competitive swimming can be classified as a 7-10 MET activity (with front crawl and backstroke at the lower end and butterfly at the top). Meaning if you weigh 100kg, swimming can burn 12-17 calories per minute!

Add to that the daily recommended 2000 calories for the average adult, and you can find it a bit challenging to get enough food in. So, make sure to eat proper meals full of carbs and proteins and snack throughout the day on crackers, nuts, fruits, and veggies. 

To avoid relying on easily available fast food options, meal prep as much as you can. And to avoid skipping breakfast entirely, try something liquid like a yoghurt shake or an Up&Go. 


Keep track of your progress

Time how long it takes you to swim a 50-metre lap. Keep track of how many reps and sets you do at the gym as part of your conditioning. Time how long of a rest you need after swimming a lap and how fast you are on your second, third, and beyond. 

Measuring is essential if you want to improve. It will help you set benchmarks and expectations and identify problem areas. And remember: you likely won’t see drastic changes or even improvements at every next measure-in. But overall, you should see a trend toward improved speed and endurance. 


To sum up

If you want to swim like a pro, you’ll need to put in the work. Make time to work out outside of the pool, practice good swimming techniques, eat right, get enough rest, and wear compressions. These steps will help you maximise your performance and get you on your way to becoming faster and more efficient in the water.


More information

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Bauerfeind was founded in 1929, and since then, we've worked tirelessly to develop and improve our extensive range of braces, insoles, and compression products. Our mission is to provide you with top-of-the-line supports so you can reach your fitness goals or live life without pain holding you back.

Every product is produced entirely in our facilities in Germany with the guidance of doctors, clinics, and orthopaedic technicians.

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