3 Swimming Race Strategies to Improve Performance

Dr. GJohn Mullen Agustín Artiles, Blog, Psychology, Training 2 Comments


Some swimmers adopt this approach on their own when you stop paying attention: they prefer to go easy during the race, wait patiently for the right moment and shoot forward on the home straight.

These athletes are very sure of themselves, cautious thinkers, audacious and driven. They don’t push too early, compete based on memory and possess a surprising tactical skill that enables them to take control of a race at all times and emerge victorious.

Others are more impulsive, start strong and strive to win by putting themselves ahead of their rivals from the start. They get onto the starting block, concentrate and repeat to themselves: Keep up with me if you can!

They love feeling good while they swim, they are aware of the risk this plan involves but they ignore or accept it, confident in their natural ability and the belief that their rivals won’t be able to keep up no matter how hard they try.

They are usually the speed demons, with an extraordinary start, a natural talent to react and quickly take action. They have no qualms over using this skill to shoot off the block, surprise their rivals and leave them with no way to react.

Unfortunately, that initial audaciousness sometimes gets the better of them and they sadly discover that only a few meters from the finish line, they run out of stamina and are overtaken by a rival.

Both strategies are equally valid. The first is more calculated, reflexive and meticulously planned; the second is more spectacular and daring, although it might seem inadvisable due to the high risk.

Perhaps the following strategy-based suggestions can help you be more efficient, better manage your options and bring a strategic bonus to your performance.

    • Know and study your rivals, examine their results and learn their times, analyse their actions and watch how they compete
    • Most have a series of highly-defined patterns and it is essential to know their strengths and weaknesses if you intend to beat them
    • See if they start out fast at the beginning of the race or if they use conservative techniques. All this information is highly useful to you and will benefit your own performance
    • Use your stamina evenly. Be clear on which competition strategy you are using, how you should distribute your strength over time in order not to waste energy and know when is the best time to use it

“Starting too strong or changing pace indiscriminately wastes fuel that you might need at the end of the race and could adversely affect your final time”

Learn to control the pain and manage it more efficiently. Some swimmers give up with the first symptoms and lack the necessary pain threshold to win, they cave after its first effects and abandon the race.

Start very quickly or more slowly than expected. Push harder mid-race to increase your advantage. Use the wake of your rival to reduce the energy you spend, compete for the centre of the lane in order to avoid it happening to you. These are just some of the strategies used by swimmers to attack, unbalance and demoralise their rivals, but also to protect themselves and contain their attacks, which can and should be planned and practised whether you are winning or losing races.

Advising and training swimmers, programming and designing exercises and work sessions aimed at perfecting and enhancing these techniques will be of great use to improving performance.

“Use all the information available to you. Seize the moment and take advantage of the situation for your own benefit”

Agustín  Artiles Grijalba

Written by Agustín Artiles (“Champi”). Agustín has more than 35 years of experience as the Head Coach of some of the most important Spanishswimming teams He has been the Coach of the Spanish Swimming Team from 2008 to 2012, and has trained the 50 breaststroke Spanish national recordman, Hector Monteagudo Espinosa, from 2002 to 2013 Agustín has also trained several international swimmers from the Spanish National Team and from the European and world top ten, as well as paraolimpics athletes with medals and world records in all the different categories. He has also been accomplished with the award as the Best competition swimming coach in Spain 2006, as several recognition for professional merits.

Comments 2

  1. Hi Coach, I would like to take this chance thank you for your blog that the valuable advices your offer.
    I want to share with you,My son just tired today 13 years old he is a very dedicated Swimmer, he swims for a very outstanding company her in Dubai. The thing is that he is doing his best in his training and his coach is fine with him as he never complained from his performance in training but in races is in a very low rank for his peers In mostly all strokes and all times .He adds up time Even His body is still not muscular as his friends and didn’t increase in height.
    Tell me what can I do to help him from frustration that is overwhelming as he always feels that he is giving his heart up and not progressing at all.

  2. I guess it’s knowing your own strengths / weakness & fitness level.
    Building your strengths, knowing your split times.
    I’m number 2 scenario, I go out hard, if they catch me, it’s my fitness letting me down.
    There are 6 or 7 other competitors in the race, pressure is on them to keep up. Not on me worrying about what strategies they all have up there sleeve.
    At the end of the day, I’m racing my PB time, not limiting myself to the capabilities of others.

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