Most triathletes understand that moving through the water with great alignment is key to faster swimming. Fast swimming rarely comes moving through the water like a barge! 

The problem is that there are better and worse ways to improve your alignment in the water. Ideally, you’ll learn how to use your lungs to create stability and alignment through the torso to get the job done.

However, that’s not always what happens. Instead, many triathletes will make subtle adjustments with their arms and legs to balance themselves in the water.

By pressing up, down, left, or right with the hands and legs, they can create stability. If your hand moves a lot when you pull, the problem is usually not a ‘pulling’ problem. It’s typically an alignment problem with your hands compensating, resulting in excess movement.

While you can gain some stability with this strategy, unfortunately, these types of movements come at a cost. It takes more energy to move the hands than if you didn’t have to, and the hands can’t focus on what they do best, creating propulsion.

That’s why it’s critical to get to the root of the problem and improve alignment.

How to get a streamlined swim position 

If you’ve been trying to improve your swimming skills for some length of time, you’ve probably come across the idea of closing your fist to get a better arm pull. If you close your fist, you can’t use your hand to pull, so you have to start using the forearm, too.

What most triathletes don’t understand is that you can close your fist to improve your alignment as well! It works via the same basic principles.

If your hand is closed, your arm is not going to be nearly as effective as if your hand is open. In this case, your hand is going to be much less effective at creating compensating for losses in body position.

Closed-fist swimming

That means you can identify the weaknesses in your body position, and then work to do something about it. Suddenly, any alignment issues that were compensated for by your arms will be evident.

By fixing them, you’ll be more efficient, and your arms will be free to pull rather than position.

How to implement changes into training

Whenever you’re focused on drills or swimming designed to improve alignment, perform some of the repetitions with a closed fist. Pay careful attention to any situation where you notice that it seems like you have to work harder to maintain your position.

Likewise, take notice of where your hands seem to be moving all over the place to create stability.

These are both indicators that something is off with your body position, and you need to spend more time learning how to create stability through your lungs and your torso.

Try to focus on feeling and making those changes with the hands back open.  You should notice that the hands aren’t doing as much work, and you feel even more stable and aligned as you move through the water!

Top image credit: Getty Images

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