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In her new book Swim Speed Secrets, four-time Olympian Sheila Taormina breaks down the tricks to make a dramatic change to your stroke. Taormina writes that although body position and stroke count are important to your freestyle, “the pull is what the best swimmers have in common.” She writes that there are two keys to a powerful pull: a high-elbow position and feel for the water.
One secret to improve your high-elbow pull: Take your streamline seriously. Taormina calls streamlines one of the most dynamic exercises for training muscle tone and developing the flexibility required for a strong pull. She notes that triathletes aren’t off the hook just because you’re used to doing open water events—Taormina says an athlete who passes up a streamline “is passing up a free yoga workout off every wall.” A good streamline position can help range of motion, explosiveness and the flexibility needed for a high-elbow pull.
How to: When streamlining, keep one hand on top of the other and squeeze the elbows and biceps into the head near the ears. Taormina says the core should stretch long and “the lats and triceps must be elongated to the point of feeling 3 inches taller.” This perfect streamline form might not feel natural at first, as it takes a lot of strength.
Try it: In addition to good push-offs during your regular swim sets, incorporate 10 explosive push-offs that you hold underwater for 4–5 seconds. Swim back easy and repeat after a 15–20-second recovery.