You’re daydreaming about your afternoon swim when you hear something about power and how to make swimmers faster. This immediately draws your attention, because, like every swimmer, we want to go faster but find it difficult to add more power to our swims. We have the perfect tips for you.
How does this all work and how can we generate more force or power? Let’s go back to the schoolroom and bring up the old chestnut of Newton’s Second Law of motion which states that Power = Speed x Mass.
Assuming that our mass stays constant in a swim training, then we can influence our power by increasing or decreasing our speed. More speed or acceleration means more power. Due to the density of water and the fact that speed is a component (to the power of two) in the formula for resistance, it is pretty simple to work on our power in the water in three ways : Speed – read sprints, increase the resistant force or increase the propulsive surface area or a combination of them.
Sprinting is the mainstay of all swim clubs around the world. You need power to sprint. As we have seen - increasing our speed also increases our power and that is exactly what sprints are: short bursts of power. Sprinting is so much fun. Yes, it’s hard work, but it powers up our stroke and keeps us accountable on the technical side as well. Why is that? Speed is a function of stroke length and stroke rate. Thus, keeping the length in our stroke becomes ever more difficult the faster we go. Sprinting really shows us if we can maintain good technique over a set of swimming. Aren’t you just rearing to go and sprint?
2. Increase drag
Increasing frontal drag or resistance while swimming is another way to power up your stroke. More drag requires more power to keep the same speed. Voilá! We preach ways to reduce frontal drag and that is always the aim, but hey, there is a positive flip side to this. And why not use what nature has given us to its full advantage? This is a cheap and dirty way to get more power. There are many ways to increase drag: elastic bands, power racks, swimming parachutes and t-shirts etc. etc. These tools are not very accessible for most swimmers, so what is our quick-fire solution? Slow down and swim with as little strokes as possible. The drag created by slowing down and the push required for each stroke teaches us to have power in every stroke. A good way to gain more power.
3. Increase the propulsive surface area
Essentially speed, if we look at it from a technical aspect, is how much water we can displace backwards. Increasing propulsive resistance, the beneficial resistance of swimming, is another way to build power. Newton’s First Law of Motion, ‘action is reaction’ is a handy confirmation here. If we can increase the surface area of our hands and feet, we are able to push more water backwards. Paddles and fins become important tools to increase our power. The beneficial resistance reminds us of the pressure needed to push water back and they give us valuable feedback of the direction in which we are pushing the water.
Isolate the kick and pull as well. Make sure that you include sets of just kick or just pull with fins and paddles to isolate the movements and feel the speed generated by both while building power and focus in your stroke.
Power comes with its downfalls. It increases stress on the shoulder and joints making us more susceptible to injuries. Warm up properly, including builds and preferably supported by dryland training.
So, let’s get to it. You will feel power flow through your strokes, you will be able to maintain your technique for longer and you will have loads of fun along the way.