Swimming Tips For Beginners

This article describes a few basic tips and drills you can use to become familiar with proper breathing technique while swimming. This is useful because when you take up swimming, learning proper breathing technique is often one of the major challenges one faces besides learning how to float.

Basic Breathing Tips

  1. Wear swimming goggles. Without goggles, water gets in your eyes and irritates them. Furthermore, water in the eyes makes you nearly blind, which can lead to anxiety. On the other hand, you have one thing less to worry about when you use swimming goggles. As a consequence you are more relaxed and learning proper breathing technique is easier.
  2. In those swim strokes where you submerge your head, don’t hold your breath but exhale continuously when your face is in the water. If you do this well, your lungs should be nearly empty when you rotate or lift your head to breathe again.
  3. Inhale quickly when your mouth clears the water. This should occur naturally if you have exhaled properly in the water before, as explained above.

Basic Breathing Drills

The following basic drills can be used to get familiar with breathing technique in the water. Wear swimming goggles to practice those drills.

Drill 1: In shallow water, hold your breath, then crouch down so your head gets under water. Stay in that position for a few seconds, then rise up.

Drill 2: Same as drill 1, but exhale under water through the nose so you blow bubbles.

Drill 3: Same as drill 2, except that you now blow bubbles both out of your nose and your mouth.

Drill 4: In shallow water, crouch down until the water surface rests between your nose and your mouth. Now practice inhaling above water through your nose and exhaling under water through your mouth.

Drill 5: In shallow water, submerge your face and blow bubbles through your mouth, nose, or both. Then hold onto the pool edge and try to get into a horizontal position with your face turned downward. Continue to blow bubbles through your mouth and nose. To get into the horizontal position you can use a relaxed flutter kick.

Drill 6: Bob up and down with your body in shallow water. Inhale while your head is above water and exhale while your head is under water. This drill gets you familiar with rhythmic breathing, a skill that will be useful later on when learning the different swimming strokes.

Swimming Tips

  1. Keep your head in line with your trunk and look straight down toward the bottom of the pool. Don’t look forward because otherwise you will have the tendency to lift your head, which will in turn cause your hips and legs to drop and you will have to kick harder to keep them up.
  2. Learn how to press your buoy, which has the benefit of keeping your hips and legs up without much effort. This freestyle swimming technique requires you to apply downward pressure on your head and chest. As your lungs are filled with air and very buoyant, pressing down your upper body causes the lower body to rise up through a lever effect. You then don’t need to kick that hard anymore.
  3. Don’t lift your head just before breathing. This common error also causes your hips and legs to drop. Rather roll on your side and let your head roll a little bit further until your mouth clears the water. It should feel like your head was resting sideways on a pillow made of water.
  4. Try to swim more on your sides rather than flat on your stomach and chest. Roll from side to side with each arm stroke. This allows you to engage the larger back muscles in addition to the shoulder muscles and improves your propulsion.
  5. To obtain an effective freestyle swimming technique you need to exhale continuously in the water while your face is submerged. There simply isn’t enough time to both inhale and exhale on the side during a breathing arm recovery. This also lets you relax more in the water.
  6. Learn how to swim with a so-called high elbow. This freestyle swimming technique consists in flexing your arm and keeping your elbow high in the water during the under water arm pull so that your forearm is facing backward rather than downward for as long as possible, which improves propulsion.
  7. While recovering your arm forward don’t extend it completely above water before letting it drop in the water because it increases drag and can also lead to swimmer’s shoulder over time. It is better to enter the water with your hand shortly after it has passed your head and then to extend the arm forward under water.
  8. Save energy by using a relaxed two-beat kick for middle and long distance swimming. This means that you kick at the same pace as you stroke with your arms.
  9. Make sure your palm is parallel to the water surface while it extends forward under water during the arm recovery. A common mistake freestyle swimmers make is to angle their palm upward at the end of the recovery. In that case they are in fact pushing water forward and slowing themselves down.
  10. In the beginning, a nose clip can be useful because it keeps water out of your nose and so this is one less thing to worry about and you can relax more. Once your technique and coordination has improved later on you will be able to get rid of the nose clip without too much effort. Personally I used a nose clip for a year while learning the freestyle stroke before getting rid of it.