Swim Drills For Triathletes: Learning correct swim drills for triathletes is essential to race fast and reduce effort level required. High mileage without good technique is a recipe for disaster. It means either you just won’t improve very much (as you will just be getting stronger at the wrong thing) OR you will get swimmer’s shoulder and rotator cuff tendonitis due to loading the tendons poorly.
Swimming is a highly technical sport and if you are only going to get a few coaching sessions- this is the discipline to do it in.
6 Kicks-1Pull: Swim Drills For Triathletes
Works on: Kick efficiency, rotation and good body alignment.
How to do it: With one hand out in front, the other by your side and core rotated 90° to the surface of the water, do six kicks while looking at the bottom of the pool (A). Take one stroke and roll your hips through under the water to swap sides (B). Repeat the switch every six or so kicks (C).
The key when doing this is not to lift your head as you take your stroke, and to try to initiate the movement from the hips. You can breath at any point while you’re doing the side kick, just ensure that your eyes are looking to the bottom of the pool while you’re doing the pull through and swapping sides.
When you come to transfer this to full stroke, remember that you’re not trying to get your body to roll right the way to 90°, half of that is more than enough, but the drill will make it feel easy.
Extend it: You can change this drill up by doing more (or less) kicks – and also more or less strokes – to work on different elements. If you want to do a little more leg work then you could do 12 kicks to each arm stroke. If you’d rather focus on the body roll then you could do six kicks and then take three strokes.
2. Head-up front crawl: Swim Drills For Triathletes
Works on: Sighting, hand entry, engaging with the water.
How to do it: Keep your chin on the surface of the water and swim full stroke front crawl. For a really good sighting drill, practise keeping your head still by focussing on a point at the end of the pool. If your head stays still then you’re far more likely to stay in a straight line – especially when you then transfer your swimming to the open water.
The other benefit of this drill is that you can watch your hand entry – making sure that your finger tips
go in first rather than slapping the water or the heel of your palm. You can also make sure that the first action once you extend your arm is to bend your elbow out to the side and push your forearm down
to get hold of the water. It’s a challenging drill as by lifting your head out of the water you create a lot of extra resistance, so be prepared to work hard!
Extend it: Alternate three strokes with your head up and three strokes with your head down so that you can work on smoothly transferring your view from the bottom of the pool to straight forwards and back again.
3. Straight arm recovery: Swim Drills For Triathletes
Works on: Hand exit, relaxed recovery, straight alignment on entry
How to do it: Finish the last part of your stroke hard and accelerate your hand out of the water. Keep it moving up and lock your elbow to help reach your hand up as high as you can (A). As your hand comes over the water, relax and let your hand place out in front of you (B). You should find that if your hand has truly come up and over it should land straight in front of you, and ready to take the next pull. Although you’re keeping your arms straight throughout your recovery, make sure you bend your elbow under water to help get a good strong press back for your next stroke.
Extend it: Depending on how it feels you might take the straight arm recovery into your full stroke. It works really well for athletes with poor shoulder flexibility and poor awareness of where their arms/hands are in space. As long as your arms go up and over you don’t have anything to worry about – as soon as your hands start to swing wide, you might hit others or get hit. You’re also then more at risk of not swimming in a straight line as your hands might enter very wide or cross over in front of you.
4. Sculling: Swim Drills For Triathletes
Works on: Hand control of the water
How to do it: Sculling is a little confusing as it’s not a particularly fast drill to do, but it should teach you how to ‘feel the water’ or feel like you always have pressure against your hands and forearms. You can do the drill either with a pull buoy or kick very lightly, but if you choose the latter don’t rely on the kick to generate movement.
Entry-point sculling (A) With your arms stretched forward and slightly down from the surface push the water outwards from your centre line to just outside shoulder width. Turn your hands inwards and push the water back towards the middle. Repeat in a constant motion. Keep your wrists strong and fingers pushed slightly down at all times so that in both parts of the action your palms face back towards you – so that the water will move back towards you and hopefully you will move forwards! If you find you’re going backwards, it’s probably because at some point in the motion your hands are facing away from you, pushing the water that way.
Mid-point scull (B) Keeping your elbows where you can see them, your forearms should point towards the bottom of the pool. This means that your elbows should be in front of your shoulders. This scull comes from the forearm, the elbows should stay fixed. Your hands can press in towards the middle of your body, then turn outward and push away in a constant motion.
Exit-point scull (C) With your arms by your sides face the palms of your hand towards your feet – as this is the way you want to press the water. Move your forearms in a figure-of-eight motion, so that you can continuously press the water backwards while changing your palm position.
Extend it: If you can do the three different positions, you can work on a continuous scull. Start at the front with a couple of entry-point sculls, then bend your elbows slightly to push your hands below. Continue sculling and working your way back, pressing the forearms back past the body aiming to keep that feeling of pressure on your hands.