Swimming may not be the first exercise that comes to mind when you’re trying to get in shape, but it has a number of surprising benefits. It burns up to 400 calories per hour, sculpts the entire body without any impact on joints and other vulnerable areas, and helps strengthen and tone muscles from head to toe. But before you dive in, it’s important to understand the basics of swimming and how to achieve proper form.
The most fundamental pool skill is learning how to front float. To do this, stand a few feet away from the pool wall and lie on your stomach. Keeping your face in the water, use rotary breathing to sustain your position. You can also add a pool noodle underneath your pelvic area and ankles to make it easier. This basic swimming stroke helps you build strength, balance, and coordination and improves your overall posture.
Once you’ve mastered this, try floating backwards by bending your elbows to bring them closer to your body. This allows you to push back into the water and move forward. Eventually, you’ll be able to hold your breath underwater and swim a few laps without taking breaks in the shallow end of the pool.
The sidestroke is a freestyle swimming stroke that utilizes a scissor kick. It’s typically the first swimming stroke that many beginner swimmers learn because it doesn’t require you to submerge your head in the water, but as you get better at the sidestroke, you’ll want to be cognizant of your breathing pattern and aim to breathe every two to three strokes.
The butterfly is a fast, fluid swimming stroke that requires a lot of timing. It’s a good choice for those who’ve mastered the breaststroke, but it can be difficult for new swimmers because it requires you to keep your legs close together while pushing against the water and coordinating your breathing.
Despite its reputation as a slow, boring swimming stroke, the backstroke can be an effective workout for beginners and advanced swimmers alike. It’s especially useful for people who struggle with core strength and upper body endurance, because the backstroke requires you to use your abdominal muscles to push your chest out of the water.
To develop your freestyle technique, try this drill: Imagine that you have a fishing net in the water and on each recovery phase or arm sweep, throw the imaginary net forward with maximum power and speed. This will help you to generate more power from your catch and to create a larger surface area to push against the water with. This will also help you to increase the speed of your stroke without compromising your form. Be sure to orient yourself with the structure of the pool – the sidewalls or ledges, the entry ladders or steps, the diving boards, the backstroke flags and the starting blocks. Studying a pool like this will make it much easier for you to navigate it in the future.