The masters swimming program that I belong to offers a swim clinic that also does underwater video recording along with an intensive analysis with three of the masters coaches. The clinic was a no brainer for me, this is something that I have been seeking out and the cost was probably one of the least expensive investments I have made in this sport to date.
I knew going into the clinic that stroke technique is critical to going faster, this was something I needed to get me to the next level by enhancing my speed and increasing my efficiency. The event flyer I received outlined a two hour clinic that would be limited to four people, we would have a chance to go over our freestyle and one specialty stroke with one of the coaches before getting videotaped.
Before getting started, the main coach had us get in the water doing a nice easy 500 yard warmup, then he wanted us to do some sprints while making notes on both sets that we did. All of us had completed the earlier workout with the masters team swimming 5000 yards within the hour and a half workout so we were all fairly warmed up already. Shortly after the first sprint the coach stopped us and started to go over numerous things that all of us were doing wrong. I will explain the most common mistakes we were making.
1st Swim Tip - Streamline
If you do not have both hands extended behind your head, chin touching your chest as you push off the wall, you are not in a good streamline position. The swim coach explained one of the things that allows you to swim faster is to swim longer, "swimming longer is faster", pushing off the wall in a streamline position forces you to stretch at every wall pushoff. This added flexibility will help improve your pull and body position as you swim, the more flexible the better. All of the top swimmers from high school all the way to the olympics do this, and they do it well.2nd Tip - The Catch
Catch the water in front of you and push it out, straight back. This may seem simple but none of us were doing it. We were crossing over our centerline and losing the water we were catching, pushing the water to the side or losing the water we caught. If you don't bring your pull straight back you are losing propulsion. You want to catch the water and accelerate the pull as it goes back but focus on bringing it straight back all the way to your hip. The one arm freestyle drill is good for this, even better is to do it with a center mounted swimming snorkel, which will allow you to see it.
3rd Tip - High Elbow
Keeping your elbow high during recovery will allow for a good clean entry. We were all trapping air and not catching water properly because our hands were not entering the water at a good angle. When you keep your elbow high it will help you drive your hand into the water at the right angle. Using the center mounted swim snorkel will allow you to watch this, less bubbles the better!
4th Tip - Your Kick
Using your kick to raise your hips and legs - we were all guilty of dragging our lower bodies to some extent. The problem that the coach saw was that we all had a lack of flexibility in our ankles, more importantly a lack of loose-ness in our ankles to allow a flipping motion. We were keeping our ankles stiff and not allowing for any propulsion causing our lower bodies to sink just enough in the water to slow us down. He suggested doing stretches for our ankles by sitting on them or using a stretching aid, and also doing some sets of kicking during our swim warmups, specifically sets of sprint kicks to loosen up our ankles, not just easy kicking.
Although I ended up with two pages of notes by the end of the clinic, these are the things that we all practiced before the video that our coach felt we could drastically improve. They helped me, I could feel a difference! Needless to say it was a very humbling experience for all four of us as competitive swimmers. I hope these tips can help you.