#156: How to Swim Faster

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Brad lays out a master plan for you to improve your swimming performance in multisport events. And no, sorry, it’s not about pushing harder and grinding out more yards. It entails a strategic approach where you emphasize the right things and work smarter instead of harder. Let’s consider that there are three components to swimming performance: technique, muscular endurance, and cardiovascular fitness. Technique is by far the most important factor for improvement. The report card of most triathletes might look like: D or F in technique, B or C in muscular endurance and an A+ in Technique is best refined at a slow pace, not when you are fighting to make an interval time. Slow down to go faster – sound familiar? This is when you can best rewire new and improved neuromuscular patterns and make them stick. “Nerves that fire together wire together,” says Dr. Kelly Starrett. Muscular endurance can be developed with dry land exercises that are vastly more time efficient than swimming. Check out the Vasa trainer or Stretch Cordz and hit it hard for 10 minutes; it’s similar in muscular benefit to an hour swim (and remember, you already have an A+ in cardio!) Get out into open water as often as possible, and if you are in the pool, simulate open water by sighting every few strokes or closing your eyes for a few strokes to check your balance. 

Finally, conduct workouts that simulate the race experience, such as time trialing for 1.5k (Olympic) or 2k (70.3) or even 4k (ironman) and immediately jumping on your bike for a time trial. Yes, dripping wet and fussing with wet feet into shoes or water dripping into your lenses. If you are dedicating your season and paying a zillion dollars to enter an Ironman, at least get into the open water for a 4k nonstop swim, then immediately jump on your bike for a long. We don’t want surprises on race day. 

Brad uses paddleboats as a comparison to explain human swimming technique. [00:00:49] 

What can you learn from comparing your stroke to a boat’s propeller’s action? [00:05:41] 

It is important to find the still water for your stroke. Learn the difference between “Lift Propulsion” and “Drag Propulsion.” [00:08:18] 

Technique, muscular endurance, and cardio-vascular fitness are the three main areas of the swim stroke. [00:13:45] 

What is a description of a streamlined position in the water? [00:19:54] 

How do you engrain good technique or revise flawed patterns? [00:23:15] 

You might want to focus on your stroke rate rather than stroke length. [00:30:25] 

How does one improve muscular endurance? [00:32:55] 

How important is it to simulate the competitive experience as I train? [00:40:42] 


Dr. Kelly Starrett

Stretch Cordz

Vasa Trainer


Jeff Float

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