Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Try swimming one armed. I dare you!

I used to do a LOT of drills when I first started swimming seriously two seasons ago. They really helped me improve. I then took swimming workshops. Again, improvement followed.

Then I started swimming serious yardage and the speed followed, but the form never went further, other than learning how to swim faster and more efficiently.

Then the time crunch of "uh oh! I have 4 weeks till the next race and I can only fit 3 hours a week in the pool. Do I spend some of it doing drills? But that will eat into the heavy yardage that builds the strength and endurance!!! WHAT DO I DO?!?!?"

The drills stopped and I just did yardage. My speed increased and that mentality of "why do I need drills anymore? Putting in the yardage is doing the trick!"

And then I hit the wall. The speed stopped improving and bad habits started to show.


The crossover returned.
The poor arm recovery turned into a slap in the water.
My feet dropped (aka bad balance)
I was lifting my head when breathing!
My pull? Yeah, high elbows became myth.
The catch? What was I catching?

Then I remembered these drills:
- Kicking on your back for balance
- Kicking on your stomach with one arm out and rotating to breath for rotation and balance
- Swimming with one arm to work on the catch and pull
- swimming with fists for water "feel" (I still hate this drill)
- head taps! helps get those elbows UP!

There are about a million other drills out there and variations of the above, but these five are my core drills that work for me that I do when I feel my form going to sloppy joes. Today, between a set of 4 x 250's, I snuck in a (25 drill, 25 swim) X 2 between each 250. Its pretty amazing going from swimming like normal to a one arm drill and you expect to propel yourself, but then feel like you are moving through sludge do to missing an engine.

What are your favorite drills?


  1. My favorite drill is the finger tip drag for high elbows or the touch and go for extension. I hate the fist drill too. It is the WORST!

  2. I do all of those, except the head tap. Like Krista I do the fingertip drag. My coach and I have been talking about my swim and this morning it was back to basics and drills. She also has been getting some tips from a super swimmer she swims with in HI. I did it today to help keep my head down and it was great!! Basically he told her, to make sure her jawbone was touching her shoulder when she reached ensuring that she was looking down. Also to rotate the whole body to stretch out. She said he made her swim with a tennis ball under her chin. Obviously you can't swim that far doing that, but she said it really helped her and she is already fast.

    It was like a revelation this morning in the pool. I like the fist drill only because of the way it makes me feel when I finally get to open my palms...ahhhhh....

  3. Like Krista, i like the finger tip drill too!

    Also a big fan of catch-up drills anytime I feel my form getting lazy.

    I've been doing a lot of dolphin kicks on my back -- good core work (-:

    All-in-all the added yardage, just like you, has been what has helped me most. Heck, after this mornings swim I am already over 25,000 yds for July and still have 1/3rd of the month to go! I am really enjoying swimming right now!

  4. I hate the fist drill, but I love how I feel when I swim after doing it...

  5. I don't do nearly enough swim drills. I generally only do 200 yards during each workout and stick to finger tip, catchup, and fist drills.

    I know they will help me, but I am usually too hurried to spend enough time on them.

  6. suddenly I need more drills

  7. I used to do all of those drills, but have definitely slacked on them. Your post made me realize I need to start doing them again. Like you, I would always mix my drills in with some long yardage. I think I'll pick up the drills tomorrow morning during my swim! :)

  8. I stick to the pull buoy and flippers and just work on speed drills. Maybe I should do drills like you talk about though!

  9. Lately anything with fins. I finally got my stroke (knock on wood) OK just to find my legs flap around and slow me down. The fins force me to kick from the hips, hopefully the movement will become rote.

  10. My Favorite is Hide your head/ show your top arm – kick on side w/ one arm extended in front under the water and one arm at your side. Hold position while turning head from looking under the water to the side to breath. Do with each side.
    Purpose: to increase length of body and hold balanced position while breathing
    I too do not like Fist drills!!! :)

  11. Thanks for the drill reminder as I make my way to the pool this afternoon. I believe in drills but find myself chained to focusing on the total distance/wk a little too much sometimes. My fave drill is catch ups.

  12. I don't do drills like I should but that is part of Operation Iron. Thanks for pointing out your favorites! I will try to incorporate them into my efforts!

  13. Just read your note on my blog post from yesterday regarding nutrition...was thinking of you over the last month as I have been using just Gu and sometimes Honey Stingers and nothing fancier on my rides. Thanks for posting your experience, has really helped me a ton. Although I get lost on the power meter bike measurements...feel like thats something that could help me next year. Finally ...sorry to advise you I am OFF the choc Gu!! haha - since Grandmas Marathon....now using diff flavors ...for some reason Choc NG for me anymore.
    Have a great wknd in LP!!!

  14. I absolutely love Freestyle catch ups. I try to make it even harder by adding a pull bouy into the mix. If I feeling my body rotating too much then I have to hold my core tighter. I also try to breathe between every 3 - 5 strokes.

  15. Hi little bro,
    Hmmm, I would have to say that my favorite swim drill is the very difficult dog paddle:) There is such a skill involved in this...making it look easy is so hard:) The key is to not really look like you are scared to death and to breath as normal as possible! LOL!

    You know that I suck at the swimming thing! This is one of the reasons that I think that I could never do a Tri:)

    Way to go on the fancy one arm swimming...only you Jon!

  16. I also do the zipper drill, good for rotation and keeping elbow at right angle, as arm comes back out pretend that you are zipping a long zipper that goes all the way from thigh to underarm, then into water, roll over and do other side. Tiring. But like all the drills it feels so much better when you go back to regular freestyle. I find that doing drills with a partner is much more fun, like a game. Great job on the swimming!


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