Performing a swim drill is a time to really work on your form. The goal of a drill set is not to swim at any given pace, but instead, focus on proper form.
KICK: Kicking only eliminates the propulsion of your arms and can be done in several ways. The first is on your back, facing the sky with your arms extended overhead. When you see the flags above you, flip over in anticipation of the wall in front of you. The second is on your belly with your arms extended in front of your body and your hands on a kickboard or without a kickboard and your face in the water (more advanced). The third is on your side with your bottom arm extended beneath your head and the top arm resting on your side.
PULL: This set eliminates the use of your legs. It requires a foam buoy that you hold between your legs to keep your hips up and body in the correct orientation while your legs just float behind you. By removing your legs from the drill you will be required to only use your arms. This will help you focus on efficient form and making the most of each stroke!
SUPER SLOW DRILL: This should be done 25m at a time. Slow down your stroke rate as much as possible. In fact, the point here is to see how slowly you can go without sinking to the bottom. Concentrate on swimming with perfect form by focusing on the position of your hands, body and feet. This drill will help you keep your balance in the water. If you can balance while going slowly, you can balance while swimming fast.
ONE ARM FREESTYLE: This is an old standby. Put your non-pulling arm out in front of your body and swim using only the opposite arm. Take some time to watch the arm that is pulling. Ask yourself, “Is my elbow over my hand?” or “Are my fingertips pointing toward the bottom of the pool?” You want to move your hand down your side as if you are splitting your body in half with your fingertips. Your emphasis should be on power and efficiency, not on speed. See how few strokes you can take to get down the pool. Once you get comfortable, you can take the non-pulling arm and bring it down to your side.
3-3-3: Just what it says on the box - take three strokes with your left, three with your right and three whole strokes (6 arm pulls). This drill will continue to work on the efficiency of the one-arm strokes, the transfer of power from right to left and the efficiency of your full stroke.
CATCH UP: Another old standby. Swim freestyle one arm at a time. Take a stroke with the right and fully extend the arm in front of the body beside the left arm, but keep it in line with your shoulder. Then take your pull with the left hand. Be sure that you are rotating and not rushing or just moving the arm. Aim to pull as much water as you can with each arm stroke. Remember, freestyle is not a stroke of constant propulsion from one arm. It is a pull with the left and then the right. It is important that we approach it this way.
3/4 CATCH UP: A variation to catch-up that takes us closer to the full stroke. Another way to describe this is almost catch-up. Take a stroke with the right hand, and when the right arm is almost all the way through recovery, then start the stroke with your left arm. This creates a very rhythmic feel, almost like skating through the water. Take your pull and ride the glide from it. When you lose speed, take your next pull. You want a good example of this? Watch footage of the Aussies in the pool, particularly Ian Thorpe. He races like this drill. Efficiency is your goal.
SIDE-GLIDE-KICK: Push off the wall on your side and kick for eight kicks. Keep your ear on your arm and your body straight. Make sure your knees are passing one another when you kick. Eight kicks and then take a good pull with your sky-facing arm. Use this pull to roll you to the other side and repeat the cycle.
ELBOW-HIP-ELBOW: A variation of ‘Side-Glide-Kick’ with the same desired outcome. With the left arm extended in front, take a stroke with the right arm. On recovery, touch your left elbow (which has remained extended in front of your body) with your right hand. While kicking and balancing, bring your right hand to your right hip, then back up to the left elbow. Then extend the right hand in front and hold it there while repeating the process with the left arm. Complete eight kicks between this motion just like the Slide-Glide-Kick.
FIST DRILL: Swim freestyle with your hands in fists. This will force you to get your forearms involved in the stroke. Consider your forearms for a second: they have more surface area than your hands - so use that to your advantage! Keep your elbow high under the water. Your forearm from elbow to fingertips, should be perpendicular to the bottom of the pool.
CORKSCREW: The corkscrew is done by alternating one stroke of freestyle and one stroke of backstroke. This repetition makes you roll over and around from front to back repeatedly, thus “corkscrewing.” The natural tendency is to cross your arm across your body when rolling from your back to your stomach and this drill helps combat that crossing. Try to take perfect midline strokes over and over.
ZIPPER DRILL: While swimming freestyle, drag the fingers of your recovery arm up the side of the body until they come up to the armpit. The point of this drill is to keep a nice high elbow on recovery and to force the body to roll.
EXTENDED DOG PADDLE HEAD ABOVE THE WATER: This drill is done by extending one arm out in front at a time as if you were pulling yourself along a rope in a straight line. Extend the left arm out in front of your shoulder, grab hold of the imaginary rope between your thumb and forefinger, then pretend you are swimming over a barrel extending the arm down your side, before returning your arm to the front by creeping it underwater up the side of your body. Arms should be in opposite positions. Keep your head above the water as this gives you the opportunity to see where your arms are. If you have the availability, use the blue or black line as a reference guide.
EXTENDED DOG PADDLE HEAD IN WATER: This drill is done by extending one arm out in front at a time as if you were pulling yourself along a rope in a straight line. Extend the left arm out in front of the shoulder, grab hold of the imaginary rope between your thumb and forefinger, then pretend you are swimming over a barrel extending the arm down your side, before returning your arm to the front by creeping it underwater up the side of your body. Arms should be in opposite positions. Your head should be in the water which will allow for a greater forward rotation of the shoulder when initiating the stroke! If you have the availability, use the blue or black line as a reference guide.
2 LEFT 2 RIGHT: Take 2 strokes with your left arm, then take 2 strokes with your right arm. Focus on initiating the strokes from the hips and following through to the shoulders, while pretending you are swimming over a barrel. Elbow should always be the highest point of the stroke during the catch and pull phase as well as the recovery phase.
3 COUNT 3 STROKE SWITCH: Push off the wall on your side and kick for three kicks. Keep your ear in contact with your arm and your body straight. Make sure your knees are passing one another when you kick. Take three strokes and then take a good pull with your sky-facing arm. Use this pull to roll you to the other side and repeat the cycle.
POLO SWIM: This drill is great practice for sighting in open water events and amplifies the feel on the front end of the catch. Begin with your head out of the water focusing on reaching out to the front while keeping your elbows high with a strong tight fast kick. Complete this drill by executing 6 freestyle strokes with your head out of the water followed by 6 freestyle strokes with your head in the water.
SHOULDER TO CHEEK: The goal of this drill is to establish a habit of initiating an early catch. Swim freestyle with an extended pause in the glide position until your shoulder comes into contact with your cheek. Ideally spend more time stroking and less time breathing. This is a great drill to execute with a snorkel so you can spend less time breathing enabling you to spend more time focusing on the stroke. Start your pull before your shoulder breaks contact with your cheek.
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