Get drilling

Posted by James Greenwood | 11:17 AM | View Comments

As promised in last weeks blog, today we will have a look at the all important matter of HOW to actually do a few drills that will help you with your stroke.

These are not necessarily the best drills for everyone, but I have found that doing them as a bundle, can assist your overall stroke enormously and as a bundle, are a lot easier to piece together into your swim stroke.

All these drills are for improving the Freestyle stroke. Use the image below for reference while ready the descriptions.

Here they are:
  1. Zip ups
  2. Stutters
  3. Finger glides
  4. Catch up
  5. 1+2+3+4 + Stroke counting
1. Zip ups requires you to really focus on the:
  • The end of the Pull through phase
  • The Hand exit phase
  • and the Middle recovery phase of the stroke.

During these 3 phases the goal is to pretend you are pulling a zipper up from your hip (at the the end of the Pull through phase) up the side of the trunk to the arm pit (the Middle recovery phase).

By focusing on this, you will automatically maintain a good, high elbow position going into the Hand entry and Forward reach phase of the stroke.

2. Stutters require you to focus on maintaining a good, high elbow position after the Hand exit phase.

Instead of going straight into the Hand entry, I want you to momentarily hold the arm stationary, halfway through the stroke, and then allow it to enter the water.

3. Finger glides require you try to drag the finger tips lightly along the surface of the water as your arm moves from the Mid recovery phase, to the Hand entry phase of the stroke.

This will again get your attention focused on your elbow and hand position, and challenge you to get a good "stretch forward" in the Forward reach phase.

The fourth drill is an old favorite - Catch up.

Although often used, this drill is not executed very well.

The bottom line is that there should be only 1 arm moving at any given time during the stroke, meaning the left arm should be laid out ahead of you, while the right arm is going through the stroke.

When the right arm has completed the stroke, it replaces the position the Left arm held, while the Left arm goes through the stroke.

Purpose - Keep the entire body nice and long and elongated, and allow you to really focus in on your entire stroke.

Finally, we bring all 4 of the drills together into 1 drill - Stroke counting.

5. Stroke counting
is a personal thing, and something you should not get to competitive with your fellow swimmers in your group or squad, but is an excellent way to slow the stroke down, allowing you to really get in touch with your stroke, and allow your mind to connect with your body, while striving for stroke perfection.

It also allows you to make small adjustments to hand position, arm position and body position.

Count how many strokes you do over a set distance, and work over a few weeks to reduce this number.

All the time, implementing Zippers, Stutters, Finger Glides and Catch ups into the exercise.

Finally, one of the best tools is to get yourself video taped while swimming using your regular swimming technique.

This will assist you identify areas of your stroke that look good, and areas that require a little more attention.

James Greenwood is a competitive tri and multisport athlete currently training for Ironman Canada 2009. A level 1 Triathlon Coach, he holds a post graduate degree in Exercise Science, and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA. James is also currently the resident health and fitness programs expert at, and has starred in a number of multisport specific fitness videos.
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