When you think about swimming more efficiently and therefore faster you always want to be considering what kind of "foot print" or more specifically what kind of "body print" you are making as you go through the water. There is a reason torpedoes are shaped the way they are; they present very little resistance to the water; they are "slippery" as they move through the water.
The fastest parts of any pool swim are the pushes from the hard surfaces, namely the starting blocks and the walls at the turns. Every single elite swimmer utilizes those hard surfaces to the max. Now it is your turn as well. Even if you have no real desire to swim at the top of your division why not make the commitment now to improving off the walls. It makes swimming easier, more fun and more relaxing which in turn makes it more satisfying.
Open water swimmers can benefit from this concept as well. Work on getting your head down a little (except when you need to sight of course) so that when you turn your head to the side to breathe you will be pushing less water. Work on your core strength so that you can support your body in as streamlined a position as possible while swimming normally. Work on your kick so your legs will "anchor" your hips and keep them from slipping out to the side, especially when you turn your head to breathe.
In the pool practice getting a little farther out from the wall before you begin your first stroke. Mark your spot on the bottom and see if over time you can extend the distance. Inches matter so even a small improvement makes a difference. Ultimately you will find that you will drop your stroke count by one or two counts by really extending the wall push.
On the streamline position put one hand on top of the other. Extend your arms straight so that your biceps are squeezing your ears. Keep your head down, leading with the crown not your forehead. Hold your belly in a bit and tighten your glutes a little, engage your hamstrings and point your toes, and keep your feet together. We tell our swimmers to get "skinny" in the water.
One drill you can do is to get in deeper water and push off from the bottom seeing how high you can get in the air before you run out of momentum and sink back down. Next add a handful of dolphin kicks and see how much higher you go. You will notice the difference.
When you swim laps make the commitment to begin your first stroke after your feet have passed the backstroke flags. Keep working to "shorten" the pool.
Have you ever tossed a stone high in the air over a pond? When it comes down it makes a sound of "thunk"; same goes for a coin. A good racing dive sounds the same; there is very little splash. This is so because the hands, head, hips and feet all go through the same hole in the water. If you have a SAFE PLACE to do so, practice running dives off the deck. See if you can get the feel of being an "arrow" shot from a bow. Your hands are the tip and your feet are the feathers. Your body is "skinny" and straight like the shaft of the arrow. You must push down some on your upper torso once it hits the water because your chest is full of air and wants to pop to the surface. Use your core strength and body awareness to pull this off. The telltale sound when this is not happening is a big slap of the shins and feet. This is accompanied by a significant splash. The best dives have very little splash.
All of these ideas will make you faster without any extra exercise. You just need to be more careful about how you practice your craft; be more thoughtful; less mindless swimming.
Any other ideas out there on this subject? We are certain there are and we welcome you to share with us and our readers. Have a great week in the water, wherever you swim!