Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Freestyle Drills to Improve Swimming Technique

  • Catch-up: to isolate one arm, to practice a long stroke and a long body position.
    • Swum like regular freestyle, except one arm is stationary, always extended forward (front arm), pointing toward the destination, while the other arm performs the stroke (working arm).
    • When the working arm moves forward and "catches-up" with the stationary arm, they change places.
  • 3/4 Catch-up: Just like full catch-up, except the stationary (front) arm begins to work or move before the other arm fully "catches-up" - it begins to move after the working arm is about 3/4 of the way through a full arm motion.
  • Catch-up with a board: Just like regular catch-up, only your front hand is holding a kick board.
    • As the arms trade places, they hand off the board to each other.
    • You can substitute a pencil - or anything else that won't make you sink.
  • Fingertip Drag: to promote a high elbow recovery and to make you aware of your hand position during recovery.
    • Swum like regular freestyle, except your fingertips never leave the water as your arm moves forward during the stroke recovery.
    • You drag your fingers forward through the water, slightly off to the side of your body, focusing on good body roll and keeping your elbows pointed up.
    • Change how much of your hand stays in the water: fingertips, hand, wrist, even your whole forearm.

    • 10/10 (simple): to promote good body roll and head alignment (when you add breathing - see the next drill). This looks like regular freestyle in very slow-motion. If you flip over and keep your nose pointing up while you do this drill, it works for backstroke.
      • One arm is extended forward, pointing toward your destination (front hand).
      • The other is backwards, pointing toward where you just left (back hand), with the arm resting against the edge of your body.
      • You should be on your side, with the back hand side of your body up, the front hand side of your body down (toward the bottom of the pool).
      • Your ear should be against your front hand shoulder, chin in line with your chest, eyes sideways (or even up a bit), mouth out of the water (so you can breath).
      • Take 10 kicks, then stroke, so that your body rolls and your hands switch places.
      • The front hand takes a stroke underwater and finishes against your side, becoming the back hand.
      • The back hand recovers over the surface of the water, becoming the front hand.
      • Your head switches, rotating with your body (rolling down into the water and then up on the other side), and you continue, taking 10 more kicks, then everything switching again.
      • When you have this drill figured out, move onto the next step, adding breathing (see the next drill).
    • 10/10 (add breathing): just like regular 10/10 but you change your head alignment to mimic a relatively normal swimming position for freestyle. You look where you are going!
      • Place your head so your cheek is against your front hand shoulder, eyes sighting down your front arm toward your destination.
      • You need to roll your head to breath, then reestablish its position looking forward along the front arm.
      • The breath should be taken away from the recovering arm (the one that is changing from back to front) just as that hand goes in the water; as your body rolls, roll your head with it.
      • As you get better at this drill, play with decreasing the number of kicks taken while on each side of your body until you can move smoothly from the slow-motion drill (10/10) into regular speed freestyle (3/3 for a "six-beat" kicker)
    • Fist: to promote "feel" for the water. Swum like regular freestyle, except you hold either one or both of your hands in a fist.
      • Vary the pattern and the number of strokes that you are "fisted."
      • When you unclench your hand, you should notice a difference in pressure on your hand - use this feeling to keep your hand holding water as you move through your pull pattern.
      • When you are clenched, you should also try to press on the water with the inside (palm side) of your forearm - think of the lower arm, from elbow to wrist, as an extension of your hand. And don't forget body roll!
    • One-arm: to focus on one arm at a time.
      • Swum like regular freestyle, except only one arm is moving.
      • The other arm is stationary, either forward (front hand) or backwards, against your side (back hand).
      • The moving hand takes a series of strokes, each arm performing a set number of pulls before they switch roles.
      • Practice this drill with the stationary arm in both positions.
      • When your stationary arm is on your side, breath toward that side (away from the moving arm).
      • When your stationary arm is forward, breath away from it (toward the arm doing the work).
      • Again, time the breathing so that as your body rolls, your head rolls with it for a breath, then your head should return to its forward alignment.


With more and more swimmers around the world using the dolphin kick as a huge weapon in races, what are the key technique points to have the best dolphin kick? Many people point to hip movement as being the most critical, but the leg motion and position are equally – if not more – important.

These bullet points are a preview to the online clinic that I’ll be giving on Thursday April 12 at 11am MST on dolphin kicking that will include video examples and further details. To register, sign up here.

If you are unable to attend the clinic or if the clinic fills up, a recording of the clinic will be available at the above link at a later date.

Dolphin kick technique highlights:
• While I believe that hip movement is important, the propulsion is definitely coming from the extension of the legs.
• The knees must bend and drive forward in order to set up the kick. From that, the legs then whip forward to a complete extension. This movement is powered by the quadriceps. Just like kicking a soccer ball or football.
• It should be a forward kick, meaning that the toes should be in front of the body at the finish of the kick. See images below.
• For the duration of the leg whip, the core should be tense and locked in. With this core tension, the hips move backwards in a controlled manner…like it’s resisting the leg movement.
• The hip movement / core tension does two things: (1) provides stability for the leg motion and (2) makes sure the kick moves the swimmer forward (as opposed to up or down).
• Many swimmers move the hips back too much because that’s their focus. Too much hip movement prevents the legs from catching and whipping as much water as possible.
• Upper body movement varies among the best kickers. Sometimes it can help a swimmer get the legs and hips right. A swimmer can definitely bend the upper body forward too much, which is often caused by lifting the hips up too much to set up the kick.
The images below show the position of the legs at the finish of the dolphin kick. The toes are in front of the body line.

Dolphin Kick Bodyline, A
Dolphin Kick Bodyline, B

Monday, May 21, 2012



How important is the finish of the race? How many times does a race come down to a fraction of a second? At the 2009 World Championships in Rome, Team USA had seven fourth-place finishes, six ninth-place finishes, and one 17th place finish. Some of these finishes were not within striking distance, but a mis-judged finish this summer could mean the difference between a spot on the Olympic Team or just missing out on an Olympic medal.

As we are quickly approaching the pinnacle of the quad, here are some examples of good finishes for each stroke:

Breaststroke Drills

Breaststroke Drills

Two-Count Glide Drill
Hold the streamlined (stretched) position of the stroke for a full count of two (one aligator-two aligator). Keep your head down and neck straight. In the breaststroke, be sure not to stop your hands under your body, but only in the extended position. Then, start the pull slowly, pitching the hands outward until they are shoulder width apart, and then accelerate your hands through the power phase (the in sweep), continuing all the way through to the recovery.
It's a good idea to combine this drill with double underwater pull-outs to increase the feel of gliding in the streamline position.

Two-Kick / One-Pull Drill
Hold the streamline for a second kick in each stroke. While doing the second kick, allow your hands to separate slowly to press your head and chest lower in the water. Keep your chin down, and look down at the bottom of the pool. This will prepare you for a more powerful in-sweep and recovery.

Two-Pull / One-Kick Drill
Take a powerful pull swinging the hips forward and under your torso and then throw your hands into the recovery / streamline while making an exaggerated dolphin kick. Repeat the powerful pull but kick a breastroke kick. Alternate between the two kicks. Notice that the hip motion should be identical between the dolphin kick and breastroke kick.

One-Pull / Dolphin-Kick / One-Kick Drill
As with the drill above, take one powerful pull and throw the hands into the recovery while executing a strong dolphin kick. Then, hold the streamline position with the upper body and arms as you execute a powerful breastroke kick. This drill also emphasizes the undulation of the hips, streamline position of the arm recovery, and power of the kick.

Opposite Hand / Foot Drill
Pull with your left hand only, keeping your right arm extended out front, and kick with your right leg only, keeping your left leg extended out back. Repeat this drill using the right hand and left leg. This drill takes practice, but you will gain a better feel for the "short-axis" nature of the breastroke.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Backstroke Drills

Here are this weeks set of Drills - Backstroke - each drill is designed to work on an aspect of backstoke - Kick & Streamline, Recovery, Shoulder Roll & Head Position, and Underwater Pull.

Kick & Streamline

(1.)  DOLPHIN KICK DRILL – Have the swimmers do dolphin kick underwater for sections of repeat 100s or 200s.  They should hold a tight streamline position during the kick.  


(2.) KICK WITH HALF RECOVERY – The swimmers lift their thumb out of the water and recover to the midpoint.  Then they stop and rotate their hand as if it were the whole stroke.  The swimmers should then slowly lower their arm back to their side.  This is then repeated with the other arm.  

Shoulder Roll & Head Position

(3.)  KICK AND ROLL – Swimmers kick with their arms at their sides.  They roll their body from one side to the other every 6 kicks.  Be sure that they keep their heads still and that the kick turns with the shoulders.

Underwater Pull

(4.)  BENT ELBOW DRILL – The swimmers should kick with their arms at their sides.  They bend their elbows to bring their hands to just under the surface of the water.  They then push the water toward their feet snapping their wrist and hand at the finish.