Thirsty (for knowledge) Thursday: 4 Swim Drills

>> Thursday, March 05, 2015

Sara McLarty, a pro triathlete and fantastic swimmer, wrote an article for about 4 swim drills that can help your weakness. Check out what she has to say:

Your problem: “I don’t move forward when I kick.”

Vertical kick: Focus on a small and quick kicking cadence that originates at your hips.
- Novice: Keep arms underwater and use a small sculling motion with your hands for added buoyancy.
– Intermediate: Lock arms at sides and do not use hands.
- Advanced: Hold hands above surface of the water.

Kick with fins: Use long, pliable rubber fins. Fins will allow you to feel the correct kicking motion and help you build muscle memory.

I've only used fins a few times, and I'm not sure I like the feeling. However, I *have* done the vertical kick drills (NEVER the advanced version - maybe I should drown try that).

Your problem: “I feel out of breath after one lap of the pool.”

Humdingers: Hum your favorite song as you swim a length of the pool. This will force you to exhale out your nose and reduce the buildup of carbon dioxide in your lungs.

Breathing pattern: Establish a pattern of breathing every second or third stroke. Don’t wait until you “need” to breathe.

When I had breathing problems as a "young" swimmer (back in 2006-2007), one of the first things a swim coach looked at was if I was exhaling underwater. It turns out I was and that my problems were elsewhere. Most of you are probably beyond this one, but it never hurts to bring it up.

Your problem: “When I try lengthening my glide and taking fewer strokes, I go slower.”

Quick turnover: Stop doing Catch-Up Drill. Instead, remove the pauses in your stroke by increasing your stroke rate, and focus on a stronger pull instead of a longer glide.

Swim Golf: Swim a 50 and add your number of strokes with the time in seconds. Try different stroke rates to achieve the lowest total number, which will determine your most efficient stroke.

OOOh, I've never heard about this idea of "swim golf." I like it. I'll have to try a few 50s with different amounts of gliding and different stroke speeds to see what works best for me.

Your problem: “My hands cross the center of my body during entry or pull.”

Stick Drill: Swim Catch-Up Drill using a 12-inch wooden dowel or PVC pipe. Keep one hand on the stick at all times in front of you, holding it at the edges to prevent crossover.

The “?”: Think of drawing a question mark as you catch and pull under your body. Slightly sweep away from your body at the beginning, sweep back in toward your body in the middle of the pull, but then push straight back to your thigh to finish the stroke.

The idea of making a "?" is good advice. I remember a long time back when people said to make an "S" underwater, but that could lead to shoulder problems because you're crossing the center line.

So try some of these drills if you know you have a major weakness in the pool. I need to work on my kick (#1) and my glide (#3). I'll report back when I've tried these.

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Aaron Potter 8:39 AM, March 05, 2015  

Great tips for experienced and newbies alike.

Shinianen 10:06 AM, March 05, 2015  

Any tips for someone who struggles with their legs dragging? I have an issue where I sag some between the hip and the toes, so my legs create tremendous drag and really slow me down. I try to remember to lift with my core, but maybe there's more I can do...?

Steve Stenzel 11:23 AM, March 05, 2015  

Shinianen, I'm NOT one to give swimming advice based on my form, but I've found that head position helps with this. Check out the 3 point in this "Thirsty Thursday" post from last month:

It won't fix everything, but it's a start. Good luck!

RobbyB,  2:24 PM, March 05, 2015  

I like to cheat at swimming golf (or "swolf" as it's also known): I kick underwater for about two-thirds of each length (doing a flip turn, of course). Strokes are more valuable than a second, since most people swim at a rate slower than 1 stroke per second. So that means the less strokes I take, the better my score, even if I'm a bit slower with my time.

My best score is 42: 35 seconds + 3 strokes down + 4 strokes back.

Good luck!

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