Swim Drills: Swim Slow to Go Fast!

triathletes getting ready for the ironman swim
May 25, 2008

Mike Ricci


tagged in:

To go fast, sometimes you have to go slow. Nowhere is this saying more applicable than in swimming. No matter how fit you are, what your LT or VO2 Max is, without proper form you will never reach your full aquatic potential. Spending 1 hour a week devoted to improving your swim stroke will pay off when you hit land in a new personal best, and feel like you have expended less energy.

The catch up drill is done by leaving your lead hand extended until your stroke hand hits the water next to it. This will help you with balancing on your side and getting more glide out of each stroke. The closed fist drill is done by simply swimming with your hands in a tight fist. This will force you to feel the water on your upper arm and lats as you 'grab' the water. Sculling is often over looked but is a great way to improve your feel for the water. Kick on your stomach with your arms out in front of you. Move your hands back and forth in a tight figure eight motion, like you are doing the Queen's wave.

The finger-tip drag drill is where you drag your finger tips across the top of the water during the recovery phase. This drill teaches you to keep your elbow high during the recovery phase as well as encouraging better balance in the water. One of the tougher drills is the single arm drill. It's a self-explanatory drill, but there is the beginner and advanced version. For beginners, keep your non-stroking hand extended out. This helps with balance and keeps you from over-rotating. Advanced swimmers should put that arm on their opposite hip. During this drill it is key to rotate your hips to generate power. Don?t just power through it with your one arm. This is one of my favorite drills as it requires you to feel every element of your stroke to be efficient. Finally there is the three/six drill. In this drill you take three strokes freestyle, then glide on your side and kick for a six count, take three strokes freestyle and glide on your other side while you kick for a six count. This drill also helps you put it all together and feel proper rotation, catch and finish of the stroke.

During your drill session, you can also do 50?s where you drill for 25 then swim for 25. Speed is not a concern during this session and you need to give yourself plenty of rest time. As you progress, you can do a continuous drill/swim where you drill 50, then swim 50 for a 300 to 500. This teaches you proper technique and helps you keep your form together as you tire. I also like to include some steady 100's where I focus solely on putting all of the individual elements of my stroke together.

The key to your drill session is staying focused, working on the weaker elements of your stroke and putting it all together in the end. There are many drills to choose from, so make sure that you choose those drills that will benefit you the most. Take one day a week to focus on your form and you will see your speed and efficiency increase.

Coach Mike Ricci is the Founder and Head Coach for D3 Multisport.  His coaching style is ‘process-focused’ vs. ‘results-focused.’ When working with an athlete, their understanding of how and why they are improving is always going to take precedence over any race result. Yes, there is an end goal, but in over 2 decades of coaching, experience has shown him that if you do the right work, and for the right reasons, the results will follow.

Coach Mike is a USAT Level III Elite Certified Coach, Ironman University Certified Coach, and Training Peaks Level II Certified Coach. He was honored as the USAT Coach of the Year.

schedule a call