What Are the Best Strategies for Reducing Drag in Freestyle Swimmers?

March 22, 2024

Swimming is an activity that requires a unique combination of strength, skill, and strategy. In particular, freestyle swimmers are constantly seeking ways to improve their performance and achieve faster times. One key aspect of this involves reducing drag, the resistance encountered when moving through the water. This is a crucial component in achieving optimal speed and performance in the water. Understanding drag and how to diminish it can make a significant difference in a swimmer’s overall speed and efficiency. Here, we delve into the various strategies to reduce drag for freestyle swimmers.

Understanding Drag and Its Impact on Swimming Performance

Drag, in the context of swimming, refers to the forces that work against a swimmer’s forward motion in the water. It is a significant factor impacting a swimmer’s speed and efficiency.

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Water is approximately 800 times denser than air, making the resistance or drag it creates far greater. This means that even small improvements in reducing drag can result in significant increases in swimming speed. There are three types of drag that swimmers encounter: form drag, friction drag, and wave drag. Form drag is caused by the swimmer’s body shape and position in the water; friction drag is due to the water’s resistance on the swimmer’s body; and wave drag occurs when the swimmer’s speed generates waves.

Effective Body Positioning to Reduce Drag

One of the most effective ways to reduce drag is by optimizing body position. The more streamlined your body, the less resistance it will create in the water.

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Maintaining a horizontal position in the water is key to reducing drag. When your body is horizontal, it presents a smaller surface area for the water to resist, allowing you to move through the water more efficiently. This means keeping your head aligned with your body, not lifting it too high or letting it drop too low.

Your body rotation also plays a significant part in drag reduction. In freestyle swimming, your body should rotate along its long axis with each stroke. This rotation helps to keep your body streamlined and reduces the frontal surface area.

Legs should be kept close together to minimize water resistance, with the kick originating from the hip rather than the knee. The arm pull should be strong and efficient, minimizing wasted energy and maximizing forward propulsion.

The Importance of Stroke Technique in Reducing Drag

In addition to body positioning, your stroke technique can substantially impact the amount of drag you encounter. A well-executed freestyle stroke is smooth and efficient, minimizing the time and energy wasted fighting against the water’s resistance.

In the freestyle stroke, your arms should enter the water at an angle, with your fingertips first, followed by your hand and then your forearm. This allows you to "catch" the water and pull yourself forward with maximum efficiency.

Your kick can also affect your drag. A strong, consistent kick will not only propel you forward but will also help to keep your body aligned and streamlined.

Integrating Drag-Reducing Strategies into Training

Reducing drag isn’t only about making changes during competition; it’s also about incorporating these strategies into your training. Regularly practicing these techniques in training will allow them to become second nature, enabling you to execute them effectively during competition.

To train for a horizontal body position, practice swimming with your head in alignment with your body, focusing on keeping your hips and legs up near the surface of the water. Use drills that emphasize body rotation to ensure your body is rotating along its long axis with each stroke.

To improve your stroke technique, work with a coach or utilize video analysis to identify any issues with your stroke. Focusing on the catch phase of your stroke and ensuring your kick is originating from the hip can also help reduce drag.

The Role of Equipment in Reducing Drag

Equipment also plays a significant role in reducing drag. Swimsuits, caps, and goggles are all designed to minimize drag, allowing swimmers to move through the water more efficiently.

Swimsuits should be tight-fitting and smooth to reduce water resistance. Swim caps can also help reduce drag by minimizing the resistance caused by hair. Similarly, goggles should fit snugly and not protrude too much, as this can create additional drag.

In conclusion, reducing drag in freestyle swimming involves a combination of effective body positioning, efficient stroke technique, consistent training, and appropriate equipment. By integrating these strategies, freestyle swimmers can significantly improve their performance, speed, and efficiency in the water.

Enhancing Swimming Technique to Minimize Drag

Perfecting the swimming technique is essential for reducing drag and swimming faster. The freestyle stroke, also known as the front crawl, is particularly suited for minimizing resistance in the water. This section will delve into the various elements of the front crawl technique that can help reduce active drag.

The freestyle technique begins with the arm entry. A swimmer’s arm should enter the water at an angle, fingertips first, followed by the hand and forearm. This sequence, known as the ‘catch,’ allows the swimmer to effectively grab the surface water and use it to propel themselves forward. It also presents a smaller surface area to the water, thereby reducing form drag.

The next aspect is the stroke rate and range of motion. A higher stroke rate can often lead to a faster swimming speed, but it can also lead to increased fatigue. Therefore, finding a balance between speed and endurance is crucial. Optimal stroke rate is achieved when a swimmer can maintain a high stroke rate without compromising on the range of motion or technique.

In freestyle swimming, the upper body contributes significantly to forward propulsion. A focus on maintaining a strong and efficient pull through the water will help in reducing drag and will improve overall swimming speed. In addition, a strong and consistent kick, originating from the hips, keeps the body aligned and streamlined. This contributes to reducing drag and propelling the swimmer forward.

Role of Streamlining and Breath Control

Streamlining and breath control are two additional elements that can significantly influence drag in freestyle swimming. Streamlining involves reducing the frontal drag by forming one’s body into a sleek, hydrodynamic shape. This is achieved through maintaining a horizontal body position, keeping legs close together, and aligning the head with the body.

Breath control is an often overlooked factor in swimming technique, but it plays a vital role in reducing drag. A swimmer’s head position during breathing can significantly affect their body position, and consequently, the drag they experience. When breathing, a swimmer should turn their head just enough to allow for air intake, without lifting it out of the water or disrupting their body alignment. This minimizes the interruption to their streamlined body position and reduces the potential for increased drag.


In freestyle swimming, reducing drag is a multifaceted endeavor. It involves a combination of effective body positioning, efficient stroke technique, and the use of proper equipment. Incorporating drag-reducing strategies into regular training will help swimmers become more familiar with these techniques and enable them to implement them effectively during competition.

Moreover, enhancing the swimming technique by focusing on elements like the catch, stroke rate, upper body propulsion, and kick can significantly reduce drag. In addition, streamlining and breath control are essential for maintaining a sleek, hydrodynamic shape in the water, further reducing drag.

By continually striving to reduce drag, swimmers can significantly improve their swimming speed and overall performance. The key is to understand the different types of drag, and how various techniques and strategies can be used to combat them. Through consistent practice and attention to detail, any freestyle swimmer can achieve greater efficiency and speed in the water. Remember, every small improvement in reducing drag can lead to a significant increase in swimming speed. Thus, reducing drag is not just a strategy – it’s a pathway to becoming a faster, more efficient swimmer.