Becky Adlington’s five top swimming tips

If you are after swim advice, you could do worse than ask an Olympic legend


Whether the swim is your strongest or weakest discipline, now’s the time to hit the pool and work on technique and fitness. And who better to offer advice than one of Great Britain’s greatest-ever female freestyle swimmers, Becky Adlington?



Shorter distances at race pace are a great way of yanking up fitness and speed. After a warm-up, set yourself a goal based around 50m or 100m, trying to hit race pace. Adlington’s average Monday morning consisted of 30 x 100m off 1.40m… so scale down accordingly!

Upper body strength

“Hand paddles are brilliant,” says Adlington, “because the resistance they create builds power and strength in your arms. This is particularly useful when you’re swimming in the sea, where you lose a lot of technique and it’s more about brute power.

Also, triathletes try to save their legs for the two other disciplines, so it’s good to build lots of arm strength. Saying that, triathletes are so fit it’s insane! They’re strong enough to use a two-beat kick, which would be a very good idea for a middle-distance tri swim.”

Descending sets

“It’s all about minimum rest,” says Adlington. “A triathlete needs a good speed and to be able to come back strongly if they have a rough start in the open water. They’ve got to be able to work the back end of their race.”

Adlington prescribes: 15-30 x 100m (depending on ability) where the first 5-10 lengths are 50bpm below target heart rate and the next 5-10 are 30bpm below, followed by another 5-10 lengths as fast as you can. If you don’t have a waterproof monitor, think of it as medium effort, hard, and really hard.

Underwater length

This improves breath control and general swimming fitness. Try pushing off hard underwater and using a butterfly kick with arms outstretched to keep going.

Hand technique: finger drag


Particularly good for open-water swimmers. Make sure your hands are flat and – for 6-8 lengths as a warm-up or cool down – drag the fingers across the water before they go in, in order to practise keeping the elbow up.