Dave Scott’s five tips for improving your swim technique for triathlon

Struggling with your swim? Six-time Ironman champ and coach Dave Scott has these tips to make you faster and more efficient

Image: Simon Mackney

Here are Dave Scott’s five swim technique tips for triathletes looking to improve their stroke. “Only focus on two of these at a time though,” he says, “for example ‘head down, hands wider’.”


1. Bring your head down

Most people that have trouble in the swim are holding their head too high. In a shallow pool you can see about 2M ahead and that’s by keeping your head in a neutral position. But imagine talking to someone who’s a little bit shorter than you – that’s actually a better position and will bring your legs up.

2. Take a wider entry

Many triathletes, especially in their 30s and 40s, don’t have the shoulder mobility that the world’s best swimmers do, so will benefit by taking a little wider hand entry. Put your arms straight up from your shoulders, then take them a little wider. This will help avoid elbow drop too.

3. Visualise to keep elbows high

To keep your elbow high, imagine it has an eyeball on it, that has to be looking out towards the side wall. If you allow your elbow to collapse, it will drop and the eyeball will be looking down at the bottom of the pool. Also, the joint line of the wrist should always be lower than the joint line of the elbow when your hand enters the water.

4. Keep your wrist in neutral

Keep your wrist in neutral, so your hand and forearm are in the same alignment. You should feel like the lower arm is almost like a pendulum, again with the elbow kept high, trying to get the forearm vertical.

5. Stabilise your hips

You should only have about half as much rotation at the hips as at the shoulders. Contrary to a lot of teaching, you want to generate more torque out of your core by actually stabilising your hips a little bit. So imagine you’ve got a hot cup of coffee on your tailbone poured right to the brim that you can’t spill. Your navel should never be looking to the side wall.

Hear Dave Scott discuss the importance of core strength in improving both run and swim form – as well as how to improve your run technique:

See Dave Scott’s advice on goal-setting for Ironman and long-distance racing here and read his advice on how to put together a training plan here.


Dave Scott is the first 6x IRONMAN World Champion and a Master Coach of IRONMAN U.  As the founder of the Dave Scott Multisport Institute, he dedicates himself to making triathletes of all levels faster and more efficient.  Learn more at www.davescottinc.com