While it might seem so simple to people without training and who only go swimming for recreation, swimming is actually pretty complex. There’s a lot of technique involved with a lot of body parts when you do it right. And by “right,” we just mean the most efficient way that maximizes speed while minimizing fatigue.
Once you’ve learned the basic strokes, the best way to improve—along with practicing the strokes and kicks—is to focus on common swimming mistakes that beginners often make. Cleaning them up is a good way to quickly start swimming even better.
So, take a look at these common swimming mistakes and pay attention to which ones you’re making the next time you dive in. They’re fairly easy to eliminate once you’re aware of them. And when you’re done here, also take a look at our post on tips for beginner swimmers.
Beginner Swimming Mistakes
- Holding your head to high – This is usually caused by looking ahead, which is a natural thing to want to do so you can see where you’re going. But it forces your legs to dip down into the water, increasing drag and fatigue. Practice keeping your head facing downward as you move through the water.
- Having a poor breathing rhythm – Your breathing needs to align properly with your stroke so that you inhale at the right times and avoid sucking in a mouthful of water. Spend some time just concentrating on your breathing, since it can be hard to do when you’re also focusing on stroke technique. In general, try to inhale when your hand is about to hit the water for a pull stroke, and get in the habit of exhaling through your nose.
- Bending your knees while kicking – Bent knees increase your surface area and resistance, making you work harder for worse results. This often stems from kicking too hard. But kicking is actually not the main source of propulsion, so don’t kick as hard as you can. Instead, focus on steady kicking from the hips, holding your legs as straight as you can to minimize resistance.
- Pointing your toes straight out behind you – This is one of the most common swimming mistakes made by beginners. It locks up your ankles and makes swimming more difficult. Swim with your ankles loose and flexible to get more speed out of your kicks.
- Staying flat while you swim – Yes, we’ve already mentioned resistance a few times, and streamlining your body is a key part of swimming. But novices often keep their navel facing straight down the whole time, when in fact their upper body should rotate with each stroke. Roll to the side to allow your arm to stretch all the way out, so that your bellybutton faces the side of the pool by the end of every stroke.
- Executing short strokes – It’s important to fully extend your arms at the beginning and end of each stroke. Short strokes increase the number of strokes you need to make—and therefore your effort—and decrease the propulsion you get from each one.