USA Triathlon News Blogs Multisport Lab Swimming 101

Swimming 101

By Kate Schnatterbeck | April 21, 2009, 12 a.m. (ET)

Swimming is all about learning to relax while focusing on technique and form. Think of one or two things at a time. If you get too many techniques or pointers going at once, your stroke will fall apart. Find your favorite song and sing. Count how many strokes it takes to get across the pool. Enjoy the swim!

Body position
  • Balanced
    1. Swim downhill
    2. Streamlined, like a torpedo
  • Body rides high in the water with hips up
  • Swimmer rotates from side to side along axis (spine) - belly button toward side of pool.
Head position
  • Neutral head position
  • Head should be kept still with eyes looking forward & slightly up.
  • Body rotates around the head
  • Breath taken after body rotates to the side
  • Keep head as close to the water as possible/ small air pocket if rotating at proper time= no mouth or nose full of water
  • Should alternate side breathing, right to left side. Every 3-5 strokes
  • Flutter kick starts at the hip, not knees
  • Ankles are relaxed and feet pointed
  • Flutter is breaking the surface if the water
Entry/ catch
  • Hand enters the water in front if shoulder, pinky slightly rotated
  • Hand extends forward
  • High elbow
1. Hand anchors below water
2. Elbow must not drop
3. Like pulling over a barrel or keg

Pull pattern
  • Body moves over the anchored hand- which stays stationary
  • Maintain high elbows with palm facing body
  • Keeping midline: keeping right hand on right side of body and not passing your nose
  • Pull under the body 90-100 degree angle
  • Finish pull to thigh
Recovery – above the water
  • Hand leaves the water followed by the elbow
  • High elbow above the hand
  • Hand & elbow should be relaxed – spaghetti arms
  • Arms – aren’t in total opposition or windmills.

Kate Schnatterbeck, founder of Tri-umph, Inc. has specialized in athletic training, personal and multisport training and has been training and educating athletes since 1992.  Kate has a degree in Corporate Fitness with an emphasis in Cardiac Rehabilitation and a minor in Sports Medicine.  She is a Nationally Certified Athletic Trainer, USA Triathlon-certified coach, American Swimming Coaches Association certified, Schwinn instructor and previously coached NCAA swimming.  Contact Kate for more information at or visit