Welcome to How to Swim in 5 Easy Steps. My name is Brent Majcher and this article outlines a basic system of advice for how anyone can learn how to swim. It’s what I have used to teach over 500 students in my years of swimming instruction. It’s a very simple system that if you follow and apply correctly, will show you excellent and rapid results.
Before we begin though, please carefully read through my disclaimer which can be found on the page “Disclaimer” at the top of our website. Learning how to swim has certain risks involved with it and you must take every precaution to make sure that you keep yourself safe in and around your pool.
I started this blog and wrote this short article with the intent of helping people struggling to learn the basic skill of swimming. It was for people that struggle with anxiety in and around the water. Or even just for the people who plainly didn’t get around to learning how to swim. I wanted to provide and give them the guidance they need for success. If that is you, I encourage you to check out the other articles on www.swimmingfearless.com as I put out weekly blog posts on whatever you guys are looking for more information on.
Now, onto the article. I hope you all enjoy it!
HOW TO SWIM – IN 5 EASY STEPS:
Learning to swim is a relatively easy skill to pick up. If you compare swimming to say, learning a language, learning to play an instrument, or even learning social skills, learning to swim is cake-walk.
You want a time estimate huh?
Successful swimming can be learned within probably 10-20 sessions of about 1 hour of practice in the pool.
That blows learning an instrument out of the water in terms of time commitment. All that it will take from you is a consistent effort applied twice a week. That means you will know how to swim within 5-10 weeks.
So, how does one learn to swim. To me, there are two pre-requisites that must be present if you are to have even a moderate amount of success. These are:
- Control over your anxiety in and around the pool and;
- A decent aerobic fitness level.
If you don’t have these yet, don’t worry because you can easily obtain them. Check out the corresponding articles if those are things that you struggle with first!
Assuming that you meet our pre-requisites above, we can move on. Learning to swim, like most other skills, can be taught through a simple progression. This means that you start with simplified version of what stroke/ part of the stroke you want to learn, and then slowly and systematically add more and more to your simple version of the stroke until you are busting out Michael Phelps approved technique.
When you are learning swimming, you must follow a progression that follows the following fundamental steps:
Image 3: The Swimming Fearless Swim Progression Pyramid
Using these steps, you must start from the bottom and work up.
See there needs to be a SOLID FOUNDATION, to set yourself up for success…
…. So follow the progression in the following order and it will show you How to Swim:
- Attitude + State
- Body Position
- Legs/ Kicking
- Arms/ Breath
ATTITUDE AND STATE:
So, Attitude and State is first: This means that you must have a good attitude, one that is positive going into your learning sessions if you want to make some achievements. You definitely don’t want to be negative with all of your own self-talk. Negative self-talk I would wager has been bringing you down in your life more than you can possibly imagine! If you don’t think this is you, consider this…
What does your personality share, deep down with a six year old kid who gets frustrated because things aren’t going his way. Deep down are you scared, nervous, or anxious about swimming. Are you convinced this is something you CAN’T achieve? Do you feel like you aren’t good enough? Now brace yourself for a little bad cop motivation.
This type of person could be called many things.
They’re being pouty.
He/ She’s being a wimp.
They are being a loser.
I’m not trying to be an ass here. But you must understand that you are not going to get anything achieved in this world willy-nilly. All of the best stuff in this world is found within yourself. And this means that you must decide to BE the kind of person who can accomplish “X” thing.
That’s it. You overcoming any barriers holding you back from swimming is what will change your life and make you more happy than anything else. To know you can conquer anything, even if it scares you, will increase your confidence level ten-fold.
So, this “WOE IS ME” attitude is NOT how we are going to tackle swimming. We are going to implant the belief in ourselves that we are absolutely awesome and we are complete badasses for striving to achieve something that we know we want.
We are just the type of people who make the shit that we want happen in our lives. And because of that, we “ENJOY THE PROCESS” of learning to swim. Even on the days that it is hard for us. ESPECIALLY, on the days when it is hard for us. So let’s learn to love the journey!
Akin to Attitude and State, you must watch your body language. I’ve made a handful of posts on this exact topic, and you must understand. Your body language must remain RELAXED during the process of learning how to swim. You will have a very hard time swimming if you are all wound up during your practice sessions. So keep your body language open and relaxed.
Action Steps for Step 1:
- Having a good attitude and positive outlook on your future while practicing swimming!
- For gods-sake, relax your shoulders!!!!
Next on our list is Body Position. Nobody mentions this. Ever. This is the number one thing people should check when they are learning how to swim. They tend to blame their flexibility. Or their cardio capacity. A lot of times… it’s their body position.
If we want to be able to swim, being able to lie down comfortably in the water in a horizontal position with our faces in the water is a necessity. This means practicing and practicing and practicing the basic floating positions that are so fundamental. Even if they make us feel like a silly child.
When you can eventually float comfortably while lying face down, for at least 10 seconds, you can try adding some momentum to the mix by practicing glides. When you are lying on your front with your hands stretched out above your head, I refer to this as a front glide. Try pushing off the wall with your hands above your head and see how far you can go!
You will also need to learn how to be comfortable on your side for later during our progression as rolling to your side will be necessary for breathing, so you should also practice side glides when you get the front glide down. A side glide means that your arm (Whichever one feels comfortable for you) is above your head with your ear pressed to your arm while the other arm is pressed against your side pointing downwards. You can push off the wall and practice holding the position.
Note: Your face should be hovering above the edge of the water so that you can breath while performing the glide. Remember to self-check that you are still remaining relaxed!! Please see the images on the next page for illustrations on Front Glide and Side Glide positions.
Action Steps for Step 2:
- Front floating (Work up to at least 10 seconds, 20 is better)
- Front Gliding once you have the floating down comfortably
- Side Gliding to practice your body positioning for breathing later during our progression
Image 2: Front Glide Position
Image 3: Side Glide Position
Up next is our Legs and Kicking. Since we in theory have the body position down, we now need to add in some propulsion. This means that we need to develop a kick that has some amount of power to it. So let me give you a basic description of a good kick:
A good kick has the following characteristics:
- It originates at the thigh. You are kicking “from the hip”
- The legs cannot be “fused” together in an incredibly stiff fashion. The legs and ankles must remain loose
- The feet must be relaxed and pointed
- The feet should not be splashing huge amounts because they should be remaining in the water 80-90% of the time
Understanding what a good kick looks like is essential to learning how to swim. Picture this in your mind. Watch for other swimmers at the pool who look like they are doing a good job. How many of these traits can you spot?
To achieve this ourselves, again, means remaining relaxed (remember our body language progression) while we perform our kick. Otherwise, it will sap away your ability to maintain these characteristics. On the flip side, realize that your legs can be TOO relaxed. When this happens and it will, your kick will just be completely ineffective. So that is the point you may want to try and find. Then you will know when you need to pick up the tension in your legs.
Think not stiff as planks, but also not as loose as spaghetti. Think, like a flipper, like a fish or dolphin tail. It’s loose, but has a bit of a snap to it!
With the kick having been described adequately, here is a mini-progression you can take to getting a kick that works well with your body position:
Action Steps for Step 3:
- Sitting on the edge of the pool and kicking. Are your toes pointed? Are your legs stretched out long? (Remember, we want the legs to stay loose/ relaxed while we stretch our legs out)
- Try holding onto a swimming aid such as a flutter board and try kicking some distance, say 15 meters without stopping. Check your kick again. Are your legs stiff as boards? Can you notice yourself making a huge splash with your feet? Are you tense?
- After this, try looking at the bottom of the pool and swimming as far as you can without going for a breath off of a front glide
And the last piece of the puzzle before we put it all together is: The Arms and Breathing. I put these two together because they are very closely knit when we are talking about the front crawl stroke. The motion that we need to work into your muscle memory is a little tricky, but we can learn it with an easy series of drills.
I always start off my students by simply “wind milling” their arms to get them going in the right direction. During this exercise, you must ensure that your torso and hips remain straight and in line and that you aren’t moving them side to side. Remember your body language. You are stretched out nice and long, right? So your hips shouldn’t be swaying side to side. The core should be stabilizing and keeping you centred.
You will naturally begin to shortcut the motion as you practice, but be aware that you MUST reach your arms as high as possible above your head while you practice. You must also bring your arm all the way to your hip when you initiate your pull. Remember, the characteristics of a strong front crawl pull are:
- The hand makes a far reach above your head for when you “catch” the water
- Fully pulling past your hip when you are pulling down to pull yourself forward
Once this is done, we can move into the pool and practice our breathing. Stand beside a pool wall with the water height at about hip to chest level to begin. Hold onto the edge with both hands and lie your upper body down into the water while both of your feet remain planted on the bottom of the pool. Remember to keep your shoulders loose while you are facing the bottom. Then you will proceed to exhale continuously underwater or “blow your bubbles”. Practice exhaling your lungs completely while holding onto the edge. Not at a fast speed. Not at a slow speed. Just at a regular and relaxed speed. When you need another breath, turn your neck to the side, and then face back down while keeping your hands on the edge of the deck.
With the basic idea of breathing and arm movement handled, we are going to try practicing them in the water together. Hold onto the edge of the pool deck with both hands and keep your feet planted on the bottom of the deck. Face the bottom of the pool and begin to exhale underwater.
When you run out of breath, do a “pull” with one of your arms all the way through the water until your hand reaches your hip. At this point you will take another breath while your body is turned to the side in a side glide position. Once you have your air back, recover your arm above your head until it grabs back onto the pool deck. Practice alternating arms while you are trying this. Eventually, you can try doing 3-5 “pulls” through the water before you recover your arm above your head to grab back onto the deck.
See the below image to get a better idea of the drill I have suggested above.
Image 4: Front Glide/ Side Glide Breathing Pattern
Action Steps for Step 4:
- Wind milling your arms while keeping the torso straight on dry-land (out of the pool). Eventually you are going to realize that the full wind mill motion will be unnecessary for your stroke, so you will tighten it up into a proper pull underwater. As well, you may also begin to bend the elbow when recovering your arm back above the water. For now, just focus on the wind milling motion.
- Holding onto the edge with your body facing the bottom of the pool with your feet planted on the bottom of the pool. Exhale at a normal pace. Practice turning your head to the side to take a breath. Keep your ear and half your face in the water while you do this!
- Same as # 2, but exhale everything you’ve got and then do a pull through the water with your hand all the way to your hip, turn your body to the side to breath, and then recover your arm overhead back to the pool deck, and repeat the drill
Note: These drills in particular should be done slowly so that you can absorb the full effect of them.
And finally, putting it all together.
This should be the easiest step if you have a good attitude and body position, as well as decent kicking and arm technique. You will notice too that you may be able to diagnose areas you are lagging in as well. By breaking the stroke down, you have gained some knowledge of the individual pieces that make up front crawl.
This means you may be able to focus and analyze if you have a weak kick. You may be able to analyze if you have weak breathing. There won’t be any need for more advice to show yourself how to swim anymore. You will have the tools to improve or notice the areas that you have major weaknesses in.
So assuming that all the basic skills are there, here are a few exercises that will help you put them all together really easily.
Start with an exercise that I call a front glide/ side glide combination. This is very similar to the drill we used in the arms/ breathing section. This drill is one of my favourites for teaching people how to swim!
This exercise works by holding a flutter board above your head and pushing off the wall, using mainly your kick to drive yourself over a distance. You should begin by lying face down and looking at the bottom of the pool. Then, push off the wall and kick to propel yourself to the other side of the pool. You should be exhaling while you are doing this.
Once you run out of air, you take your hand off the flutter board and pull through the water while your body rolls into a side glide. Stay there for a second or two and then recover your hand over head back onto the flutter board. You should remain kicking throughout the entire arm sequence.
Working with the front glide/ side glide combo will show you how to swim. The drill will naturally show you how your body must roll from side to side while you do your arm circles. It will show you the way the arms and legs and breathing interplay with each other as well. After you feel comfortable with this and can also travel a fair distance with it (25m) then try taking the flutter board away.
Then try adding all of the pieces together.
You are ready to try the actual stroke.
Try out your Michael Phelps approved front crawl! Throw the arms, kicking, breathing, all of the coordination in together. Try 5 meters, then 10 meters, etc. Work up to swimming a complete length. And cheer yourself on the whole way! Give yourself props for being the man (or woman!). I guarantee that you’ll look like the swimmers from the Olympics… after a few more practice sessions 😉
If you follow this progression, things should begin to fall into place for you. However, there may be a few more things holding you back…
SECRET STEP: HOW TO SWIM: TROUBLESHOOTING:
Unless you have mad skills, there is a 99.9% chance that things will not fall into place right away. Check back on SwimmingFearless.com because there are new articles every week to help you improve whatever you are struggling with and help you learn how to swim!
LEARNING HOW TO SWIM WITH ANXIETY:
This one can be a bit of a doozy if you really struggle with remaining calm in the water. This I cannot give you a quick, magic-pill solution for. It requires RE-WIRING your brain and enforcing results through basic conditioning.
And since I want to keep this article short and sweet, I will give you one basic way that you can train yourself to improve in this department.
If you go to the pool and you practice your swimming, give yourself props! Why shouldn’t you celebrate the little wins?
I see too many people out there expect the moon before they have even got to the pool. Just because you signed up for swim lessons doesn’t mean you are going to get to level 2 immediately.
So why not enjoy the process? Be your number one fan! Cheer on the little things.
“I only swallowed a litre of water today??? HELL YEA!!!!!
MY TECHNIQUE FEELS WRONG:
If you are trying to take a breath and you are struggling with it, there are many things that could be going wrong.
And if I could propose a very EASY solution for you, it would be to try:
Watching YouTube Videos and IMITATE THEM
You may be the kind of person who NEEDS a visual demonstration of the techniques to be successful.
I myself am a very VISUAL person. So seeing the technique and then trying it out for yourself may prove very useful for your progress!
Start with a video showing a slow motion underwater camera view of a freestyle stroke. Then you will be able to pick out the minor details that people are using with their stroke.
And then to imitate it will be easy for you, because again, it’s your learning style! It is natural for you to learn this way because you’re a visual person.
Don’t make swimming a HUGE problem that you need 20 different techniques to become successful in. Just focus on a single system or set of drills and apply the consistent effort. You will get there I promise!
To dabble in many different schools of thought will make you paralyzed towards taking action. This is not what you want.
Instead, find your mentor, stick to their advice, see what is working and what is not. I guarantee, you’ll be swimming in no time!
I really appreciate the read through of my article and I hope that you have found it useful! I absolutely love hearing stories from anyone who finds my advice helpful. If you find success through the advice I offer, please get in contact with me through a comment below.
If you are looking for some next steps, check out my website www.SwimmingFearless.com for more swimming skills, tips, drills and more. We put out a weekly newsletter for all of our weekly readers.
That’s it! Cheers everyone,
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