The Power of Water

When you swim on a regular basis, you improve your cardiovascular endurance, whilst also building muscular strength, swimming uses a wide range of muscle groups and most muscles in the body are worked in different ways.

You improve your coordination and strengthen your breathing muscles and because your body weight is supported by the water, your joints are less stressed than they would be running or cycling.

Strength is an important part of  swimming, but for the novice and intermediate swimmer, if you are already strong and powerful at the point of learning this power is often misplaced.

I’ve met many swimmers who take lessons having  been completely perplexed by the swimmer who effortlessly glides past them, knowing that on land they would be noticeable stronger than the more efficient swimmer.

Elite swimmers spend a good proportion of their training on strength and conditioning and when you look at the worlds best swimmers, especially the sprinters and middle distance swimmers they are getting bigger and stronger.

At the extreme limits of strength and power Eddie Hall at 6ft 3in and 30 stone was the Worlds strongest man in 2017 and he has often talked  about his swimming past, as a teenager in 2001 he won gold at the ASA National Age Group Championships, although he quit competitive swimming he continued to swim to keep him fit and mobile.  As a 30 stone man, he could still swim 50m freestyle in under 30 seconds.  The video is with British Athlete Ross Edgley, who in 2018 became the first person in history to swim the 1,780 miles around Great Britain in 157 days.  Ross is also an EXTREMELY strong man, in 2016, he began a 26.2 mile marathon around the Silverstone Circuit  pulling a 1,400kg car, he successfully completed the event dubbed “The World’s Strongest Marathon’ raising money for the Teenage Cancer Trust.

These two strong men both learnt to swim and acquire the skill and technique of swimming as children, they grew into their strength.

So how does learning to swim feel when you are already a strong adult?

I first met Tomasz when he attended one of my Efficient Freestyle workshops, Tomasz is an advocate for mid-life fitness, strength and wellness and was keen to improve his swimming to take part in a triathlon.  I’m sure Tomasz will smile at my comparison with these two strongmen, but he can certainly lift some heavy weights.

The first time I saw Tomasz swim, he created a lot of white water and turbulence around his body when he swam, using his raw power and was ‘ripping’ up the water, his body was out of balance and in survival mode creating increased water resistance, he was out of breath by the time he swam the length.

On that first workshop, Tomasz learnt how to use his breath to help his buoyancy and sense of calm, relax the unnecessary tension in  his muscles, tension that when released improves buoyancy; how to focus on the position of his body and the timing of his stroke so his body stays balanced and connects as a whole unit, focussing on his mass as a weight to shift to help him move. Not a mass and weight he has to drag through the water.  After the first workshop, Tomasz kindly left some feedback and went on to successfully complete his first triathlon in August 2023.

The workshop was excellent.  I liked that all the aspects of swimming were discussed and explained, that included breathing, mindset and focus.

Tomasz attended a second workshop in December 2023 keen to further improve his swim for his next triathlon, he made it through his first one, but wanted to do more than  ‘survive’’ the swim,  but  to enjoy the next one

His first swim at that second workshop was markedly different, no longer wrestling with the water, the white water and signs of turbulence around his body had disappeared, he was much calmer, but there were still improvements to be made around his body position and balance.

We recapped what Tomasz had learnt in the first workshop and he started to gain a deeper understanding of the movements that allow for forwards momentum without throwing his body off balance; a big improvement was understanding how his arms can push his body down or over rotate him.  Incorporating breathing into the stroke while remaining in a balanced position was improving but still a challenge. He was also understanding about the pressure that is placed on the water to provide forward propulsion,  without that turning into unnecessary force that is wasted effort, ineffective and more tiring .

In a short time my technique has soared thanks to Susan’s incredible dedication and attention to detail.  Watching myself on videos pinpointed areas for improvement and revealed mistakes.

We are now having some 1:1 lessons and addressing next steps, staying calm and focussed, addressing the breath and how it helps endurance, staying calm, balanced and moving forwards.   Taking it steady and trusting the process. Really looking forward to the progress we will continue to make.

Before we become adults, we go through our teenage years and puberty when our  bodies  start to change,   Mark a pupil at Bancroft’s School who I’ve  coached for 5 years  was a Gold medalist at the  London Youth Games 2022 in Olympic Weightlifting, he’s known for his strength.

My  swimming skills were good due to years of training, but I hit a plateau. No matter how hard I pushed I was unable to progress any further. Then, Mrs. Cheshire suggested a new approach. I focused on refining my swimming technique. It wasn’t easy, but the effort paid off. I transitioned from a strong swimmer to an efficient one, completely transforming my swimming abilities!


Strength takes on many meanings, physical, emotional and mental.  However physically strong you are, the water will always be stronger.  Resistance and drag cannot be out-powered, the water will only push back on you harder, learn to work with the water. Finesse your skill and problem solve, work on your technique.

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