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Stroke Improvement tips from Swim360

8 January 2020

Fire Tribe

Carl O'Donnell, 2012 Olympic Swimmer and owner of Swim360 Adult Swim Programs, has been at the top of his game in Freestyle and Butterfly since a young age. As a Freestyle specialist, he competed internationally between 2001 and 2012, including at the 2012 London Olympic games. Having spent 15 years perfecting his technique and skills in the pool, Carl now coaches multi-sport athletes, open water swimmers, competitive swimmers and beginners through his Auckland based adult swim program, Swim360. His programs are offered worldwide through his website www.swim360.coach.

Carl sat down with us to offer stroke improvement tips for swimmers who want to take their swimming to the next level.

Importance of a strong catch


In freestyle, your catch and pull is your most important form of propulsion. Having a strong catch will help you grip the water earlier in the underwater pull and propel your body further through the water with each stroke. When practicing freestyle, try to bend your elbow and have your hand catch the water as you start the pull, rather than pushing your arm straight down.

Kick/body position

Tumble Turn

Your body moves through the water faster in a straight and streamline position. In freestyle, the body rotates from side to side with each arm stroke. This makes it important to maintain a streamline body position during this rotation phase. Engage your core to avoid bending through the middle and use your kick to help balance your body, avoiding over rotation. Having a strong core and kick will ensure you can maintain a rigid body position when swimming.


Frickin Laser

Make your freestyle more efficient by reaching forward towards the end of the pool. Reaching your arm forward lengthens your stroke and creates a glide motion as your other arm completes the underwater pull. The further you can reach each stroke, the more water you will have to catch and pull back, going further with every stroke. Constantly reaching forward also helps to stretch your shoulders and lats which will increase your mobility.

Streamline off the wall

Hexy Back

Pushing off the wall is the most powerful motion in swimming and is when you reach your maximum speed through the water. Form a habit of pushing off with a tight and straight streamline to maximise your underwater speed.

Speed into the wall

Frickin Laser

Keep up the momentum into your turn by maintaining or increasing speed as you approach the wall. A fast turn will look and feel like bouncing off the wall, rather than a turn, pause and push off. You can make up time on the walls while your competition is slowing down for a rest.

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