I’d always recommend starting by making sure that your body position in the water is as good as it can be first. That gives you the most solid foundation for the rest of your stroke but, possibly more importantly, it reduces the resistance that you’re creating, which means you’ll swim quicker for less effort.
You’ll find that a reduction in resistance will have more effect on speed than any extra power you can produce. As a general rule, focus on keeping your spine as long as possible, and use a pull buoy to help mimic the position you want to be in.
The other important part of your stroke for speed is your pull; in other words, your connection with the water. This can be split into three parts – your catch (front end of the stroke), the mid-point and exit. It’d be difficult to say which is the most important because if any one of those breaks down then your whole pull weakens. Without a decent catch, you’re not able to pull on the water properly. Without a stable mid-section, you have no power. With a poor exit, you can almost undo all the good work from the front end.
- How to improve your ‘catch and pull’ phase in front crawl
- Front crawl swim session: Improve your pulling power
Sculling is a great drill to focus on controlling the water – not something to do lengths and lengths of, but to do as part of building into your full stroke and to practise feeling resistance against your pull. The other thing that you can do, if you’re an experienced swimmer, is add in swimming with paddles to generate more resistance throughout the stroke.