Adam Walker demonstrating the 'Ocean Walker' swimming technique
Training > Swim

Triathlon swimming technique: 9 common mistakes

Triathlon swimming coach Annie Oberlin-Harris explains 9 common mistakes triathletes make in the swim and advice on how to correct them

1 Poor push offs leading to poor swimming posture

Many athletes don't realise the importance of getting a good push off the wall in the pool, for not only is one of the advantages is it can carry you through the water about 5m, or 20% off a standard 25m pool, but can also set you up with the right posture for the rest of the swim (see below).

 A great swimming technique is founded with getting a good stretch through the core, and particularly the layer of fascia passing over the muscles. When activated, this fibrous body of webbing keeps all your body tissues, organs and muscles much more connected. These myofascial lines of connection transmit strain and rebound, which facilitate movement, while providing stability. Essentially getting a good stretch gives you free energy in the water for a lot less effort, similarly to the way it does in running and cycling.

Another advantage of getting a good push off the wall is setting up the correct body position. In the picture below Matt’s head looks forward, his hips are low and legs even lower, leading to sinking leg syndrome. It’s very hard to recover from this if you don’t have a very effective leg kick (not typical for triathletes!). So getting your body streamlined reduces drag and makes it a lot less effort to get to the end of the pool.

You also reduce the likelihood of other stroke faults creeping in when swimming with a good posture, such as arm crossovers in front of the head, which can lead to snaking through the water. This lateral movement means you’re wasting energy going side to side rather than pushing water backwards efficiently to make you go forwards in the water.  

So how should you push off the wall?

Use this mantra to help you remember the order of movements:

Hands together - Head down – Bum up – Feet Up – Push

Put your hands one on top of the other, straighten your arms and squeeze your elbows together above your head. This will give you a nice upper back stretch too, which if you struggle with upper back flexibility as many modern day desk workers do, will help loosen you off, particularly with 60-120 odd repetitions in a standard swim set!

When practicing, see how long you can hold the glide for until you come to a stop. Notice your core muscles activating to hold you in a straight line. It’s these muscles we want to switch on in tandem with keeping good posture. When swimming, you’re looking to hold your body tort and stretched until the point that you decelerate when you should start your stroke. Then you’re guaranteed to maintain a good posture for the rest of the length.

Continue reading our guide to 9 common swim mistakes (2/6, faults 2 & 3)

You can find out more about Annie Oberlin-Harris and her training at


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