Of the three disciplines in triathlon, swimming is usually the most difficult to master. Because there are no solid contact points like running and cycling, there are many degrees of freedom and lots of opportunities to create problems.

You should challenge yourself every time you hit the pool.  This will help you get faster and more efficient.

Here are a few swimming drills to spice up a workout to improve technique, as well as to provide a bit of recovery between sets.

  1. Fingertip Drag: Most swimmers know this drill. It teaches you good arm position on the recovery stroke and also helps teach you good body rotation. Lead with your elbow coming out of the water and “drag” fingertips along the water with a high elbow. Reach out in front of your shoulder for correct water entry. Keep your arm and hand relaxed and loose. Engage the upper back muscles instead. This will help make sure you are not swimming with your rotator cuff and shoulder muscles.
  2. Kicking Drills: Kicking during the actual swim portion of a triathlon should be kept to a minimum to conserve your leg strength for the bike and run but that doesn’t mean that you should never kick during swim practice. Kicking drills will help with body position too. Some of the drills are difficult but will do your swim good.  Make sure you start your kicks from your gluts – not just from below the knee. Keep your feet and ankles relaxed and only kick 4 to 5 inches below the water.
  3. One-Arm Swimming: This might be the most valuable drill in your swimming practice, as it will reveal your weakness. If you spend a few laps of every workout alternating arms by doing the one arm swimming drill you will quickly even out the power of each arm and smooth out your stroke. With one arm out in front, stroke with the other arm. Once you master this, hold the arm you are not stroking at your side.
  4. Fist Drill: This drill teaches you to maximize use of your forearm and arm. Have your fist closed tight like a punching grip. Swim one lap with closed fists then the next lap with open hand maintaining the same body position and arm movement with each stoke.
  5. Sculling: Most swimmers focus on speed and endurance, so it might seems silly to slow down during this sculling drill and take the time to “feel the water” by focusing on the pitch of your hands in the water. However, this is one of the best swim drills. Focus on creating figure-eight motions with each hand (with your elbows at your side) during a few laps every time you’re in the water. The stronger your figure-eight, the faster you’ll swim.
  6. Head-up: The goal of this drill is to keep your head above water. The drill forces you to keep your elbows high so that you’re clearing the water with every single stroke. It also allows you to practice sighting for open water swims. Identify an object at the other side of the pool which you will fixate on while you swim. Practice this during every workout for a few laps. When you go back to regular swimming, think about how your elbows felt being higher.

If you’re looking to make some serious improvements this year, be sure to incorporate these swim drills into your regular workouts. If you need help with triathlon training, or with swimming training contact me today.  I can help create the perfect training schedule for you.

Train Right, Tri Right!

Coach MJ


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