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You’re Using Swimming Drills WRONG

So far this week, I’ve discussed the best exercises for beginners to use, as well as how to determine where you should be placing your focus to maximize your progress and your improvement.

Unfortunately, that’s where most swimming information stops.

It’s assumed that you know how to best use these exercises, or that simply doing the exercises is enough to facilitate progress.

Unfortunately, that’s dead wrong.

Ever spend a lot of time working on an exercise only to find that you hadn’t improved…at all?!?

You do the drill perfectly and then NOTHING.

How did that feel?

Probably like a complete waste of time and effort, right!

It’s also pretty demoralizing because you’re left wondering what to do next, having just committed to something that didn’t work at all.

Now, it’s possible you weren’t using the right exercise for you.

We’ve already gone over how to fix that problem in my last two e-mails.

But I’m willing to bet money that you weren’t using the exercises in the right way.

And it’s not your fault because no one told you any different.

For whatever reason, no one talks about it.

I’m don’t think people are holding out, I just think they don’t know.

Fortunately for you, today I’m going to clue you in.

The Basic Set-Up

Here’s the deal.

Exercises are great at helping you FEEL new ways of moving.

It’s like opening a door to a new and previously unexplored room, an inside that room is better swimming.

However, the exercises only let you SEE inside the room.

You get a glimpse, you can feel it, but that better swimming isn’t yours.

The only way to start living in that new room is by swimming freestyle.

You have to swim freestyle, PAYING ATTENTION to those new, fun, and exciting sensations you felt with

Open the door with the exercises, walk through with the freestyle.


So, what does that mean?

You want to get exposed to the combination of the exercise and freestyle as many times as possible.

Traditionally, a bunch of exercises are performed in the beginning of a workout, all by themselves with ZERO freestyle.

THEN all of the freestyle is performed afterwards.

With this set up, you don’t get to keep practicing walking through the door.

You get ONE shot.

Worse still, practicing the same exercises over and over again without doing any freestyle doesn’t really open the door any wider.

I’m not saying it’s a waste of time, but…

Instead, as much as possible alternate between a given exercises and freestyle swimming.

It’s not the total number of repetitions that matters.

It’s the number of PAIRS that matters.

That’s the key concept.

Open the door and step through, as many times as possible.

If you want a little more details, I’ve discussed this before in an article written for TriZone, and in a similar article for 220Triathlon.

The Exercises

If you follow that set-up, you’re going to get more out of your practice sessions.

However, there are a few strategies that you can use to make the most of the exercises you do use.

Once you get the basic idea for a given exercise, it’s time to spice it up.

For the stationary exercises like the Ball Float or Wall Pull, it’s there’s not a whole lot you can do from a performance standpoint.

You can’t really go ‘faster’.

However, you can work on performing the Ball Float when you’re out of breath, which will definitely up the challenge.

You can try to move up and down faster with the Wall Pull, all which maintaining great pressure.

There are plenty of options.

And for the ones that you do move forward, add a twist.

Try to change your stroke count.

Try to change your speed.

Can you change both?

Do so with some intention and challenge your ability to execute the exercise WELL.

When you add some performance to the puzzle, you’ll get some objective feedback about how you’re doing.

Was that faster? Did your stroke count change?

This will ensure that you’re always focused on getting better, which will take your learning to the next level.

The Freestyle

What should you do while swimming freestyle?

When you’re first figuring out an exercise and how to integrate what you’re feeling into your freestyle, just swim freestyle paying attention to what you’re doing.

That will make a big difference to start with.

However, once you’re past that stage, you want to start focusing on performance.

Keep track of your stroke count, your time, or both.

For speed, sometimes you can build your speed within a repetition.

Or you can increase your speed between repetitions.

Or you can alternate your speed between repetitions, going faster and slower.

Same with stroke count, try to take fewer on some laps and more on others.

Try to predict your stroke count.

This helps you orient what you’re doing towards performance.

More importantly it gives you concrete feedback and forces you to look for solutions.

This is even more powerful when you’re getting constant sensory reminders with the drills.

That’s how you take your learning to the next level.

Importantly, these performance goals don’t have to be maximal.

It’s not about trying to do your best ever each time.

Just have a reasonable goal and find way to make it happen.

Put It Together

Here are some practical sets using these principles we’ve just discussed.

They use the 5 best exercises for beginners that I discussed previously.

The sets are simple versions that can be made as complicated as you’d like.

You’ll notice the key elements.

There’s a pairing of the exercises and freestyle swimming.

There’s a challenge to the exercises, when appropriate.

There’s a challenge to the freestyle swimming.

This is the type of strategy that helps you improve.

Give it a shot and let me know how it goes.

I’d love to know how you love to use different technique exercises.

Just send me an e-mail, let me know what works for you, so I can keep getting better and continue to help others improve their swimming.

Keep it simple...


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