Swimming does not only challenge your body to go against the resistance of water, it also takes some of the impact off your body. Here’s four swimming strokes you can do to get a fulfilling workout in the pool
While hitting the gym to stay regularly active is great, it’s also a good idea to be kind to your body as your muscles recover after a brutal session. With swimming, you could have an incredibly tough workout one day and still be able to get some cardio in the pool the very next day.
As a result of having a low impact on the body, you can still get a good workout in the pool without feeling the wear and tear. Additionally, swimming builds endurance, muscle strength, cardiovascular fitness and provides a total body workout. Even minor muscles that aren’t usually worked on will be used.
With 27 years of experience as a certified swimming coach, Coach Soon Kean Fatt explains how one can get the optimum workout in the pool.
But first, stretch
The most important thing to do before jumping straight into any exercise is to first warm up and give your body a good stretch, and that includes swimming. Although there’s a lower chance of obtaining an injury in the pool, your body deserves that ‘wake-up call’.
According to Soon, apart from doing a total body stretch, swimmers should concentrate on giving their legs an extra stretch as it is common to get cramps, especially in their calves.
When it comes to getting the best workout out of swimming, Soon suggests doing the Front Crawl (freestyle), Backstroke, Breaststroke and Butterfly stroke.
“No matter what stroke you intend to do, it all comes down to the right techniques used and if you’re doing it correctly. Once you understand and know how to do the techniques, you must then make sure you’re challenging yourself with every move. Your heart rate has to be around 60% to 70% above your normal heart rate in order to burn calories,” says Soon.
Front Crawl (Freestyle)
The front crawl, also known as the freestyle stroke is said to be one of the fastest and most efficient out of all the (competitive) swimming strokes.
For the front crawl stroke, your body needs to be in a prone position – facing downwards with your head in line with your trunk. While both of your arms are extended forward with palms also turned downward.
The stroke begins with your hand spearing the water. Your shoulder blades should be rolled back and your elbow should always be above your hand. As your hand enters the water, your arm extends forward and your body rolls to one side.
While your hand is early in this phase, turn your head sideways for a quick breath. Avoid lifting your head upwards to take a breath as this will disrupt your body positioning.
Without pausing your hand at the front of the stroke, tilt it and bring your forearm and hand underneath and to your side. Repeat throughout an entire lap.
In order to move forward, continuously use a supple flutter kick while simultaneously doing the stroke movements. Your arms and legs should move simultaneously in cycles.
In this stroke, both arms move synchronously and execute short, half-circular movements underwater. The legs also move synchronously and execute a whip kick.
The stroke begins by first getting in a prone position. Then, with arms out straight and palms facing downwards, press down and out at the same time. With your elbows elevated above your hands, pull towards your chest.
Lift your head and neck above water at the end of the pulling movement for a breath. Then join both palms together in a prayer-like fashion in front of your chest and push out until your arms are straight again. While doing so, exhale bubbles in the water while your hands are pushed forward.
Starting with your legs straightened during the prone position, bend your knees to bring your heel towards your bottom and make a circular motion outwards with your feet until they return to the starting position. When your knees are being bent, your feet should be below the water surface and shoulder width apart.
The butterfly stroke is the most challenging of all strokes because it requires precise technique in addition to good rhythm. However it’s not something that can’t be learned or practiced on in order for you to master it.
First, get in a prone position. Then with your arms out straight, shoulder width apart and palms facing downwards, press down and out at the same time with both hands.
Then pull your hands towards your body in a semi-circular motion with palms facing outwards, keeping your elbows higher than your hands.
Once both hands reach the upper thighs at the end of the pull, sweep both arms out and over the water simultaneously and throw them forwards into the starting position. Do make sure that your palms are facing outwards so your thumbs enter the water first.
When your arms are just beginning to come out of the water, take a quick breath by raising your chin above the water while looking straight. Make sure not to turn to the side.
Work your legs by having them together, toes pointed out. Then kick downwards at the same time. The first kick that you do is to balance your body position after your arms enter the water. The following kicks performed during the recovery phase when your arms are over the water continues to propel your body forward as momentum is lost during recovery.
“The backstroke does wonders for the back. With hydrotherapy, backstrokes are often used by those who have back injuries. This is because the backstroke uses the two lower back muscles to kick, and this strengthens the muscles,” shares Soon.
With a backstroke, your head needs to be in line with your spine and in a neutral position while you float on your back. Then, look up straight. Your face will be positioned above the water surface.
Then execute flutter kicks. While doing so, one arm recovers above water from the hip to the overhead position in a semi-circular movement. The arms are then kept straight during the recovery.
Meanwhile, the other arm sweeps underwater from the overhead position backward to the hip, providing propulsion, thus pushing you forward. The hand follows an S-like pattern during this sweep.
Although these are the most basic swimming strokes you can do, if done correctly you will be able to gain a lot from being in the pool. If you are a beginner without the basics of swimming or someone who’s keen in building endurance, muscle and strength with swimming, it is highly recommended to get some training from a certified coach and gradually work your way into mastering these four excellent strokes.