Streamline Your Swimming for Greater Efficiency

Streamline may not be the only technique that helps us recreate a narrow position but it is certainly one of the most important.

If you have watched the Olympics or any competitive swimming race, you may have noticed that competitive swimmers push off of every wall in what is called a “streamline position.” This position creates the least amount of resistance in the water which is ideal for efficiency. For kids, swim coaches call it “rocketship” because it has similar characteristics: long and pointy in the front and slightly wider in the back.

However, streamline position is not just for elite level swimmers. It is fundamental to every stroke we swim, no matter at what level. This includes the fastest and most popular stroke swum by CrossFitters, triathletes, and the general public—freestyle.

Streamline may not be the only technique that helps us recreate a narrow position but it is certainly one of the most important. If you are unable to streamline then achieving a narrow freestyle becomes impossible. Essentially, when we swim freestyle we want to focus on lengthening our body and being as narrow as possible.

How to Streamline

Below are the main points I like my swimmers to focus on in order to achieve a tight streamline:

  • Keep your chin tucked and your head neutral with your eyes are looking straight down. In a pool let the lines on the bottom guide you. In open water it is normal to lift your chin to see, but it is best to practice minimizing this as much as possible.
  • Your shoulders should be extended back and high toward your ears. Your biceps should rest over you ears or better yet behind your ears if you can get them there.
  • Keep your elbows squeezed together against your head (no loose or bent elbows).
  • Your hands should be placed one over the other, fingers loose but together with the top thumb wrapped around your bottom hand.
  • The rest of your body should remain in one line. Keep tight in your core and glutes without any bend at your hips. Your toes should be pointed. I encourage most of my swimmers to keep a neutral spine. There is some debate around this at the elite level where some swimmers will arch their back to decrease drag however I don’t think this is useful for non-elite competitive swimmers.

Streamline to Your Best Ability

Besides lack of knowledge or laziness in the pool, many people fail to streamline while swimming because of a lack of mobility. If this is you, I suggest practicing the streamline position off of every wall until (and after) it becomes comfortable. Additionally, try to incorporate streamline kicking sets into your workouts either on your stomach (preferably with a snorkel so you don’t have to rotate to breathe) or on your back. The more you do it, the easier it will get.

Of course, if you’re really struggling or not able to get in the pool frequently enough to practice the position, I would recommend working on thoracic extension drills and you should consider improving your mobility through the shoulders.

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