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Swimming Teaching: Practice Makes Permanent

We’ve all heard the saying ‘practice makes perfect’, and with most things this holds true. However, in terms of swimming teaching and stroke development, the term ‘practise makes permanent’ is generally more fitting.

Picture of a child swimming freestyle. When it comes to swimming teaching, practice makes permanent.
Practice Makes Permanent

While many people believe the best way to develop a stroke is to do as many laps as possible, this can be detrimental to the stroke.

For those of you who have children coming through a learn to swim program, you may wonder why the teacher doesn’t encourage your child to swim distances of over 50 or 100 metres at a time, maybe even changing your child’s class to a teacher who prefers 200m+ sets.

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Let me tell you from experience, that teachers who regularly give children who are still in the learn to swim phase more than 100m at a time are generally inexperienced, or lazy. I’m not saying that there isn’t any merit in long-distance swimming; it is great for survival techniques, and increasing endurance and stamina. However, in terms of stroke development, all it does is get a swimmer to repeat their stroke faults over and over again, causing poor muscle memory. Muscle memory is quite simply the memory that your muscles store after long term repetition. So if you continually perform the wrong action, your body will develop a memory of that action, and this can be incredibly hard to correct.

The best way to change your muscle memory is to do short sharp sets of drills, (50-100m) that are focusing specifically on your stroke faults, and then attempting the stroke again. It may take a long time for your body to adjust to the differences, so keep persevering.

So remember, when it comes to swimming, practice makes permanent.



Toni is an experienced swim teacher. She has commented on the site before and I have encouraged her to write some articles for me. I'm hoping that this is the start of a long list of articles and contributions.


For your interest, this link will tak you to a well researched statistical guide on how fast do olympic swimmers swim men vs women vs average swimmers

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post! I'm regularly following swim clinics and the teacher seldom lets us do more than two consecutive lengths with the same stroke/technique/drill.

    I was always finding this puzzling as I was thinking that it would be better to do more lengths to better ingrain whatever we were doing.

    Now I know better...