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by Scott Bay

January 22, 2018

With technique and skills evolving in swimming, should you try something new?

Innovation is part of every sport. In swimming, it comes not necessarily from a new suit design or goggles but often an advancement in stroke technique. Many seasoned Masters swimmers learned stroke techniques that are different from what you see today. It’s exciting to constantly evolve with the sport, but you should ask yourself if adopting the newest technique is best for you.

Dip Your Toe In

All strokes have gone through changes over the years, as have starts and turns. The only sure way to know if change is for you is to try it.

  • Know the Rules—Just because someone is doing something new at your pool or you see it in a competition doesn’t mean it is legal. Make sure any change you make adheres to the current rules. Consult the U.S. Masters Swimming Rules of Competition at and the Rules Committee Blog, where you’ll find experts with answers to your rules questions.
  • Start Slow—When adjusting to a new technique, make sure you’re doing it right before you try doing it fast. Believe it or not, there was a time when no one dolphin kicked off the wall in free, back, or breast. These innovations have led to faster times overall, but the development of that skill takes time.
  • Be Patient—Making a gain by changing sometimes requires you to take one step back to take two (or more) steps forward. Keep the goal in mind but always remember that seeking improvement is a process. The change may be good, but the transition is hard.
  • Examine the Results—Sometimes this is as easy as comparing times but other times you may just be looking for ways to be more comfortable, enjoy swimming more, or swim longer. It isn’t always about the clock.

Do What’s Best for You

You may notice very competitive swimmers doing grab starts or flutter kicks instead of dolphin kicks off walls. Does this mean that if they change they will be faster? Maybe. Or maybe not. If you try something and it isn’t working, there’s nothing wrong with sticking with what you know and what has worked, especially if it’s better for you.

I spoke with one of our best swimmers about her breaststroke, which had been her least competitive stroke and which she said felt awful. But then she said that she really doesn’t swim it that often and would rather spend her time and energy working on something else rather than trying to fix it.

It was a great revelation to me. She didn’t want to spend a whole bunch of time on something that isn’t important to her. Sometimes you must let go of the idea that you need to be amazing at everything. In Masters Swimming old dogs can learn new tricks, but only if they really want to.


  • Technique and Training


  • Stroke Technique