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How to Become a Faster, More Efficient Swimmer with Brenton Ford

Feb 16, 2023

How to Become a Faster, More Efficient Swimmer with Brenton Ford

While the swim is the shortest component of a triathlon, it can be the make or break of your race.


Whether you are a natural swimmer or feel like you’re swimming in a washing machine, we can all benefit from improving our technique.

Ex-national swimmer turned swim coach, Brenton Ford of Effortless Swimming, helps everyday athletes like you and me become faster, more efficient swimmers.

He recently joined me on the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast where he answered all the questions I know you’d want asked and gave his very practical tips around becoming a confident, faster, more efficient swimmer and improving your race time in the swim.


What are the biggest mistakes triathletes makes when it comes to swim technique (and how do we fix them)?

When assessing someone’s swimming technique I’ll follow a structured order: Body, head, kick, rotation, arms, extremities and timing.

Often one of the biggest mistakes triathletes makes when it comes to their swim technique is body positioning – often triathletes hold themselves in a position where they are swimming like a runner or cyclist – a lot of bend in the hips. So you need to get your body right first.

  • Head position – looking slightly forwards and keeping your head just out of the water
  • Feet – try and point your toes, turning your feet slightly inwards for more flexion and a better range of motion
  • Rotation – don’t over rotate, aim for 30-40 degrees, rolling side to side not rocking side to side
  • Maintain a decent stroke rate and perfect the catch


What are your top tips to improve your swimming in the least amount of time?

  • Focus on technique – technique will carry you to those faster times
  • Be mindful of drag, aim for propulsion
  • Watch videos on what to look out for in the stroke (including those on Brenton’s YouTube channel) and find a structured approach to fixing any flaws
  • Brenton’s website has a Five Core Principles of Fast Freestyle you can check out


When in a session is the best time to practice your drills?

It comes down to personal preference, but I suggest make drills part of your warm up and make those drills specific to what you need to improve.

Be aware though that you can’t ingrain muscle memory and that good technique with just drills – you need to do more swimming i.e. a little amount of drills, large amount of swimming.


How many swim training sessions you need to do in a week to become a better swimmer. Hint - more does not equal better!

  • Try swimming three times a week and, regardless of whether you combine that with improving your technique (which I’d recommend you do), you will likely improve.
  • Try and get a better understanding of how to swim faster (watch Brenton’s Feedback Friday videos on YouTube).
  • If you are only swimming once a week, it’s going to be hard to get better!


Which pool toys would you recommend to improve your swimming technique?

  • A good pair of training fins – I recommend DMC Elite II training fins – designed for triathletes – softer, so less stress and pressure on your ankle joint and great propulsion.
  • Pool buoy to help build swim strength – I recommend Eney Buoy 2
  • Paddles
  • Snorkel (if working on your catch and pull – to take the breathing out of it)
  • Don’t tend to use bands – there are better ways to build strength

Note: Simply buying these swim tools will not instantly make you a better swimmer. You’ll need to put in the laps at the pool too ;)

Is there a strategy to the types of swimming sessions you should be doing, depending on the distance you’re racing?

  • Once a week higher intensity session – good aerobic fitness – 60 – 80% of max heart rate
  • For sprint up to Olympic distance a little more above threshold work
  • For most people with where their swimming ability is at, they're better off focusing on the technique, rather than the type of training

And the most important question ... 

Do triathletes need to learn how to tumble turn?

  • Certainly not essential but you’re going to find swimming much more enjoyable when you spend the 20 minutes to half an hour to learn how to tumble turn (especially for those triathletes who, often, are late to the sport)!
  • People often avoid them because they struggle with running out of breath.
  • There’s an art to tumble turns – head first, arms by the side, flip over, streamline and push off the wall.


So there you have it - often knowing how to make those improvements comes down to what should you be doing with your technique and your stroke. Figuring out where does the speed come from? What's slowing me down? And just getting to know swimming technique a little bit better.


To dive deeper, listen to the Triathlon Nutrition Academy Podcast, EP 81 - How to Become a Faster, More Efficient Swimmer with Brenton Ford  

If you are interested in learning more about the Triathlon Nutrition Academy Program and what it can do for you, head HERE to join the waitlist for our next opening.



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