10 Common Swimming Mistakes That Beginners Often Make

As a beginner in swimming, it’s not uncommon to encounter common swimming mistakes that can hinder your progress and make the experience less enjoyable. 

Whether taking your first strokes or trying to improve your technique, understanding and addressing these common swimming mistakes is crucial to becoming a confident and efficient swimmer. 

In this blog post, we’ll explore the top 10 common swimming mistakes beginners often make and provide practical tips on overcoming them. 

So, read and discover how to avoid these common swimming mistakes and improve your swimming skills.

1. Breathing Incorrectly

The most common breathing mistake in swimming is improper technique. Many beginners either hold their breath too long or lift their heads too high when taking a breath, disrupting their body alignment and causing increased drag. 

This mistake is prevalent in freestyle due to the stroke’s continuous and rhythmic nature. To correct this, it is advisable to practise bilateral breathing, which involves alternating the breathing side on each stroke cycle. 

This technique not only helps maintain balance and alignment but also ensures even muscle development on both sides of the body.

2. Incorrect Body Positioning

Incorrect body positioning is another common swimming mistake. Proper alignment in the water reduces drag and increases propulsion. 

The butterfly stroke is often seen as the hardest stroke for keeping the right body position. Its wave-like movement needs precise coordination and strength. 

If this coordination is off, it can cause more drag and tire the swimmer. The need for both arms to move together and strong dolphin kicks add to the difficulty, making it tough to keep an efficient and effective body position throughout the stroke.

Swimmers must keep their hips high and in sync with their chest while staying flat during the glide. Drills such as the body dolphin drill, single arm butterfly drill, and using a kickboard to practise the dolphin kick can help reinforce proper technique and improve overall body alignment.

3. Inefficient Kicking

A common area where many beginners struggle is with inefficient kicking, particularly noticeable in freestyle swimming. 

For effective propulsion, kicks should be fluid and originate from the hip, not the knees. Many beginners bend their knees excessively, which not only reduces kick power but also increases drag. 

Practice flutter kicks on your back initially, focusing on making small, rapid kicks with straight legs and relaxed feet to enhance your kicking technique. Regular kicking drills with a kickboard can also help develop a stronger, more efficient kick that conserves energy while propelling you forward.

Breaststroke also significantly contributes to inefficient kicking when swimmers execute a frog-like kick instead of the proper whip kick. This mistake reduces propulsion and disrupts the stroke’s efficiency. 

To perform an effective whip kick, bring the legs up towards the body, kick outwards and backward in a circular motion, and finish with the feet together. Practising the vertical kick drill can help develop the correct technique and improve overall efficiency.

4. Arm Stroke Errors

Arm stroke technique is fundamental in most swimming strokes, especially among beginners. 

Many swimmers tend to overreach in freestyle, causing a misalignment in their stroke. In contrast, others do not fully extend their arm, missing out on potential propulsion. Practice drills like ‘zipper’ or ‘finger drag’ to perfect your arm technique by ensuring full extension and proper recovery.

One of the common mistakes in backstroke swimming involves the entry of the hand. The correct arm stroke for backstroke involves a smooth, continuous motion where one arm enters the water with the thumb first, pulls in an arc past the hip, and recovers with the pinky leading while maintaining a slight shoulder and hip rotation. Practising drills like single-arm backstroke and catch-up drills can help improve technique.

A frequent mistake in the butterfly stroke is not keeping the arms in sync, leading to inefficient movement and wasted energy. Proper technique requires both arms to move simultaneously, sweeping outwards and inwards in a smooth, coordinated motion.

5. Poor Timing And Coordination

Poor timing and coordination rank highly among common swimming mistakes. Timing is crucial in swimming because it integrates all elements of the stroke into a seamless, efficient motion. 

In freestyle, mistiming the coordination between your arm strokes and breathing can disrupt your flow and reduce speed. To improve this, focus on drills that enhance the catch and pull phases simultaneously with your breathing cycle. A beneficial drill is the ‘catch-up’ freestyle, where one hand waits at the front until the other touches it, forcing you to concentrate on the timing of your strokes.

In the butterfly stroke, improper timing between the arm movements and the dolphin kick can lead to inefficient propulsion. Practising the ‘single arm butterfly’ drill, where you use one arm at a time, can help synchronise the arm strokes with the kick.

Coordination of the arm pull with the frog kick is crucial for the breaststroke. Many beginners either pull their arms back too early or too late, disrupting the stroke’s fluidity. To address this, the ‘pull-buoy breaststroke’ drill, which involves using a pull buoy to isolate the arm movements, can help master the timing.

Even in backstroke, maintaining proper timing between the arm rotation and flutter kick is vital. The ‘6-3-6’ drill, where you kick for six beats, take three strokes, and kick again, can improve coordination and timing.

6. Ignoring Swimming Etiquette

Many beginners are unaware of swimming etiquette, which can cause disruptions and accidents in shared swimming environments. 

Common swimming mistakes include not being aware of lane speeds, overtaking inappropriately, or starting at the wrong end of the pool. It is essential to be mindful of other swimmers’ space and follow the pool’s specific rules. 

For instance, always swim in the direction indicated for your lane and allow faster swimmers to pass you safely. Understanding and adhering to these unspoken rules ensures a smoother swim for everyone involved and enhances safety and enjoyment.

7. Lack Of Consistent Practice

Consistency is key in mastering any skill, and swimming is no exception. One fundamental swimming mistake is not maintaining a regular practice schedule. Swimming skills improve with frequency and repetition, which helps to toughen muscle memory and build endurance. 

Beginners should aim to swim at least three times a week and vary their workouts to include different strokes and drills. This regular exposure to the water will help to quickly identify areas of improvement and allow for a steady progression in swimming skills.

8. Skipping Warm-ups And Cool-downs

Skipping warm-ups and cool-downs is a common mistake among beginner swimmers, leading to poor performance and an increased risk of injury. A good warm-up steadily raises your heart rate and circulates more blood to your muscles, preparing your body for the physical demands of swimming.

Simple activities like arm circles, leg swings, and gentle stretching can increase your range of motion. After swimming, a cool-down helps gradually reduce heart rate and flush out lactic acid from the muscles, preventing stiffness and soreness. 

Incorporating a routine of 5-10 minutes of lighter swimming or stretching post-session is highly beneficial.

9. Neglecting To Use A Swim Cap

Neglecting to use a swim cap is a common oversight among swimming beginners. A swim cap doesn’t just keep your hair out of your face; it also improves hydrodynamics by reducing drag. 

This is particularly beneficial in competitive swimming, where even minor reductions in resistance can lead to improved times. 

For those with long hair, a swim cap prevents tangles and damage from chlorine. It’s advisable to choose a cap made of silicone or latex that fits comfortably on your head without being too tight. Practising with a swim cap will make it a natural part of your swimming routine.

10. Not Using Goggles

Goggles are essential for comfort and maintaining clear vision underwater, which is crucial for proper technique and navigation in the pool. 

The absence of goggles can lead to squinting and frequent interruptions to clear water from your eyes, which disrupts your swimming rhythm and can increase the risk of eye irritation due to chlorine and other chemicals.

For beginners, selecting the right pair of goggles is key. Look for goggles with a comfortable fit, good suction, and adjustable straps to ensure they stay in place without being too tight. It’s also advisable to choose goggles with anti-fog and UV protection features for a better swimming experience, whether you’re practising indoors or outdoors.

Conclusion About Common Swimming Mistakes

Mastering the art of swimming involves more than just splashing through the water; it needs attention and an awareness of common mistakes. Whether it’s freestyle swimming mistakes or common mistakes in backstroke swimming, every error corrected is a step towards becoming a more proficient swimmer. 

Remember, overcoming these mistakes enhances your technique and ensures a safer, more enjoyable swimming experience.

If you want to improve your skills and swim confidently, consider joining SwimHub’s safe swimming classes. Don’t let common errors hold you back. 

Sign up today and start your journey towards a safer and more effective swimming practice!

Frequently Asked Questions About Swimming Mistakes Beginners Often Make

What Is The Most Common Mistake In Freestyle Body Position?

Failing to maintain a horizontal alignment is the most common freestyle mistake regarding body position. Many beginners allow their hips and legs to drop, which increases drag and slows them down. Keeping your body flat and streamlined helps reduce resistance and improve speed.

Why Do My Arms Get Out Of Sync In Butterfly Stroke?

In the butterfly stroke, beginners often struggle to keep their arms in sync, leading to inefficient movement and wasted energy. Ensuring both arms move simultaneously in a sweeping motion and practising the ‘single arm butterfly’ drill can help synchronise arm movements with the dolphin kick.

Can Bent Knees Affect My Swim Workout?

Yes, bent knees are a common issue that can significantly hinder your swim workout. Kicking with bent knees creates drag and reduces the power of your kick. Instead, aim to kick from the hips with a slight knee bend, keeping your legs relatively straight and your kicks small and fast.

What Are Some Common Mistakes In Backstroke Swimming?

A frequent error in backstroke swimming is the improper arm entry, where swimmers enter the water with their thumb first instead of their little finger, leading to potential shoulder strain. Additionally, many beginners fail to maintain a constant kick or let their hips sink, disrupting their stroke’s smoothness. Ensuring a proper hand entry and consistent kicking can significantly enhance your efficiency.

How Can I Improve My Breaststroke Timing?

A common mistake in breaststroke is the mistiming between the arm pull and leg kick. Many beginners either pull their arms back too early or kick too late, disrupting the stroke’s fluidity. To improve, focus on the ‘pull-buoy breaststroke’ drill, which isolates arm movements, helping to synchronise the pull and kick.