How do you swim faster?

Swim faster activesg
File Photo Credit: Cheah Cheng Poh/SSC

By Malcolm Baey


One of the most asked questions in swimming is how to swim faster. It is not as simple as doing your strokes faster as speeding things up in one area often gives rise to bad techniques which slow you down instead. Most of the bad technique problems are related to propulsion and resistance in the water. 


The easiest way to be able to swim faster without using more effort is to reduce your resistance or drag in the water. An efficient way of doing this is improving your balance in the water. What this means is remaining as horizontal as possible to the surface when moving through water to reduce drag. 

Swim briefs are the choice of competitive swimmers. Broad shorts have too much resistance and drag. To find out more, read about choice of swim attire in our other article here.

Frictional drag

Frictional drag is caused by surface texture as it moves through a fluid. Here are 3 simple ways to cut down on this drag:

1. Make sure the swim wear you choose is the right size and fits nicely. For new swimmers, always buy swimwear tighter than you are comfortable with as wear and tear will eventually loosen it.

2. Use a swim cap to cover your hair.

3. Avoid wearing accessories such as necklaces and watches during swimming.

If you are more open to other ways of improving your speed, know that it is not uncommon for competitive swimmers to shave their arms and legs to improve their timings!

Form drag

Another way to reduce resistance is to minimise form drag. Here are 3 simple tips to do so.

1. Always keep your body straight in the water whenever possible. Also known as the streamlined position.

2. Make sure your head position is in line with your spine.

3. Have good body positioning in the water and make sure your hips do not dip too low.


To be able to swim faster, more power and effort in the propulsion helps. But most of the time focusing on technique rather than strength will prove more helpful.


wrong swimming
(Above) Not stretching out properly with bent elbow underwater.

Correct Swimming
(Above) Stretching out your arm properly for better reach.

4 simple tips for better technique

1. Take shorter, quicker breaths to minimise the amount of time your head is out of water because this disrupts your streamline position.

2. Mimic the S-shape when pulling instead of a straight line for the Front Crawl and Butterfly. This creates a longer distance for your arms to travel thus increasing your forward thrust. 

3. Always stretch out as far as you can when swimming to increase the distance pulled.

4. Kick hard and fast to propel yourself forward, instead of just using the kick to balance the positioning of your body

Apart from these techniques, you can also look at the following alternative exercises you can do at the pool to train up targeted areas.

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