How to Swim Faster: Could These 6 Simple Tricks Improve Your Speed?

Despite the fact that I am not a natural athlete, I actually swim remarkably fast. Not well, there’s quite a lot of spluttering, but I’m surprisingly quick – and today I decided to try and test out a trick that could make me swim even faster – splaying my fingers.

Woman in swimming front crawl in a swimming pool. She's wearing googles - one tip to help you swim faster

The Evidence for Splayed Fingers

It came via a study that found swimmers who splay their fingers out swim faster than those who swim with closed hands.

This goes against everything you are taught in swimming school where you are taught to swim with your fingers together, but the theory is splayed fingers create a web of water that pushes you through the pool with over 50 per cent more force.

So I tried it.

For 30 mins I went up and down the pool, fingers in, fingers wide, fingers in, fingers wide. Can’t say it made a blind bit of difference.

So then I went back and looked at the study again and found that the difference in speed was just 2.5 per cent – a matter of tenths of a second for the average pool star – no wonder I didn’t notice anything obvious, you need a stopwatch to spot this, but when you’re an elite swimmer every millisecond can make the difference between a gold and a silver medal so I guess that’s when it matters.

It definitely kept me occupied while I was going up and down the pool though.

The Natural Boost That Helps You Swim Faster

Oh, and I actually know why I swim fast. It’s all down to my ankles.

You see having flexible ankles and big feet make for faster swimmers as they act like a flipper on the end of your foot.

Australian Ian Thorpe’s swimming success was in part linked to his size 17 feet.

How do you know if you have flexible ankles? Sit on the floor legs outstretched and relax your ankles, the straighter the line between your shin and toes the more flexible your ankles are and the faster you’re likely to swim (this test also helps you determine your risk of shin splints!).

4 More Tips to Help You Swim Faster

If you’re not genetically blessed though, here’s four other things you can do to try and swim faster

1. Position your body in the water properly.

If your feet are too low it increases resistance which slows you down. To change things push your chest and face slightly lower which immediately causes feet to lift.

2. Lengthen your stroke

In front crawl, this means stretching your arm out as far as possible in front of you and pulling it back past your thigh. In breaststroke, stretch forward as far as you can before your hands part to begin the pull.

3. Breathe

Most people fit their breathing to their swimming speed but you should do it the other way round.

In front crawl, time your stroke so when you want to inhale your arm is by your leg, then exhale with your face in the water, when the arm on your breathing side is entering the water.

If you find you can only do 4-5 breaths in a row before then having to stop, you may be exhaling too much. Stay relaxed and breathe as normally as possible.

4. Wear Goggles

Putting your face in the water makes your body more streamlined and helps speed you up and it’s a lot easier if you wear goggles.

If you normally wear glasses prescription swimming googles will change your life here.

So swimmers – do you have any other tricks that have helped you swim faster that we should know about?


Who is The Wellness Nerd?

My name is Helen Foster and I’m a health journalist and wellness author. Publications I’ve written for include Women’s Health, Reader’s Digest, Body and Soul, Good Health at the Daily Mail and more. I have also written 16 books on health and nutrition.

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