What Are the Most Effective Strategies for Reducing Drag in Competitive Swimming?

In the world of competitive swimming, speed is everything. So when it comes to improving your overall swimming speed, one crucial aspect you must consider is the reduction of drag. It’s a well-established fact that the resistance your body faces while moving through water, better known as drag, can significantly impact your swimming speed.

To be faster, you must harness the power of various techniques and strategies that will help reduce this resistance, getting you across the pool or open water in record time. In this article, we’ll be diving deep into some of the most effective strategies to reduce drag in competitive swimming. You’ll learn how to improve your body position, enhance your stroke technique, and optimize your training.

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Understanding the Concept of Drag

Before you embark on the journey to reduce drag, it’s essential to first comprehend what it is and how it impacts your swimming speed. In simple terms, drag is the resistance that your body encounters when it moves through water. It is a key element that every competitive swimmer will need to overcome.

There are three types of drag you’ll face while swimming: form drag, wave drag, and frictional drag. Form drag is the resistance created by your body’s shape in the water. Wave drag, as the name suggests, is caused by waves you create while swimming. And finally, frictional drag is the resistance created by the interaction of your skin and the water.

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Improving Your Body Position

One of the most significant factors that affect drag is your body position in the water. An optimal position can drastically reduce the resistance you face while swimming, thereby improving your speed. This involves maintaining a streamlined shape to reduce form and wave drag.

As a swimmer, your goal should be to keep your body as horizontal as possible while swimming. This will reduce the amount of surface area that comes into contact with the water, thereby reducing drag. Keep your head down and look straight at the bottom of the pool. Not only will this help keep your body in a more streamlined position, but it will also assist in reducing neck strain during long swims.

During freestyle swimming, ensure that your arm recovery over the water is smooth and doesn’t create splash or waves that may increase wave drag. Additionally, when executing the arm pull under the water, ensure it is a powerful, well-defined motion. This helps you move through the water more effectively, reducing drag further.

Enhancing Your Stroke Technique

While body position is crucial, your stroke technique also plays a pivotal role in reducing drag. A refined stroke technique helps in propelling you forward with less effort, making your swimming more efficient.

When we talk about stroke technique, it involves two essential components: the pull and the kick. The pull is the underwater portion of the stroke, where your hands and arms work to propel you forward. On the other hand, the kick provides balance and additional propulsion.

In freestyle, for instance, an effective pull begins with your hand entering the water fingers first, extended out in front of you. Your palm should lie flat, facing the pool floor, ready to ‘catch’ the water. This position, coupled with a powerful backward pull, propels you forward and reduces form drag.

The kick, though less powerful than the pull, must not be forgotten. A strong, consistent flutter kick keeps your body level in the water, reducing drag. It’s essential to kick from the hips, not the knees, to maintain a more streamlined position.

Implementing Drag-Reducing Training Exercises

The reduction of drag should become a crucial part of your training regimen. Specific exercises can help you work on your body position and stroke technique, ultimately reducing drag and improving your swimming speed.

One such exercise is the streamline push-off. In this drill, you push off from the wall of the pool in a streamlined position and glide underwater. This helps you focus on maintaining a streamlined position for as long as possible, therefore reducing form drag.

Kick sets with a kickboard are also beneficial. It allows you to practice a strong, steady kick, focusing on originating the movement from the hips. This will keep your body level in the water, reducing drag.

Finally, one-arm freestyle drills can help you refine your pull technique. By focusing on one arm at a time, you can pay closer attention to your hand placement and pull, improving your stroke efficiency and reducing drag.

Remember, reducing drag in swimming requires consistent effort and attention to detail. By understanding drag, optimizing your body position and stroke technique, and incorporating specific training exercises into your regimen, you can become a faster, more efficient swimmer. Don’t forget, every second counts in the pool, and every little improvement can lead to significant time savings. Keep striving, keep training, and see the results for yourself.

Fine-Tuning Your Gear for Minimal Drag

Swimming gear, such as swimsuits, goggles, and caps, can also have a significant effect on how much drag you experience in the water. Investing time and effort in choosing the right equipment can make all the difference to your swimming speed.

Swimsuits designed for competitive swimming are made of high-tech fabrics that reduce water absorption and minimize drag. They are made to hug your body tightly, thus providing a streamlined shape that cuts through the water more efficiently. It is advisable to avoid loose or baggy swimsuits, which can increase your body’s surface area and create additional drag.

Goggles, while primarily meant to protect your eyes and enhance your underwater vision, can also contribute to reducing drag if chosen correctly. Look for goggles that sit snugly in your eye sockets and have a streamlined shape. Some competitive swimmers even opt for smaller, low-profile goggles that provide less resistance.

Swim caps, designed to reduce drag by smoothing out the surface of your head, can also benefit your swimming speed. Silicone caps are preferred by many competitive swimmers, given their durability and slick nature reducing frictional drag. While putting on your swim cap, ensure all hair is tucked in to maintain a smooth surface.

Swimming gear should be viewed as an extension of the swimmer’s body, working in harmony to maintain an optimal, streamlined shape. Keep in mind, the goal is to minimize the surface area that comes into contact with the water and reduce frictional and wave drag.

The Impact of Regular Practice

Practicing your swimming technique consistently is the key to reducing drag and swimming faster. Regular practice will help you improve your body position, fine-tune your stroke technique, and get comfortable with your gear.

Competitive swimmers should set aside time each day to focus on swimming drills that reduce drag. This includes exercises such as streamline push-offs, kick sets, and one-arm freestyle drills. It’s also important to regularly review and adjust your technique, as even minor changes can lead to significant improvements in your swimming speed.

Regular practice also allows you to build your endurance, which will help you maintain a streamlined body position and an efficient stroke technique for longer durations. This is particularly important in competitive swimming, where races can be won or lost by fractions of a second.

Consistent and deliberate practice is the key to mastering any skill, and swimming is no exception. By dedicating time each day to focus solely on reducing drag, you’ll notice improvements in your swimming speed over time.


Reducing drag in swimming is a multifaceted process that involves improving your body position, refining your stroke technique, optimizing your gear, and committing to regular practice. Every one of these elements contributes significantly to your overall swimming speed.

Competitive swimmers must take the time to understand the concept of drag and how it impacts their performance in the water. By incorporating drag-reducing strategies into your training regimen, you can become a faster, more efficient swimmer.

Remember, in competitive swimming, every second counts. Even the slightest improvement in reducing drag can lead to significant time savings in the pool or open water. It’s a continuous journey of learning, training, and improving. With consistent effort and attention to detail, you can see noticeable improvements in your swimming speed and overall performance.

By leveraging these strategies, you’re not just reducing drag; you’re propelling yourself closer to your swimming goals.