How to combine swim drills for big swim gains

By combining the right drills together, says swim coach Andrew Sheaff, you'll start to see vast improvements in your swim performance. Here are his top three perfect pairings…

Underwater action.

Technical exercises should be a key part of your plan for improving your skills in the water. However, by their nature, technical exercises emphasise one component of your swimming, sometimes even a single component of one critical skill. That means some other aspect of the stroke isn’t being addressed.

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In addition, there’s often one small aspect of an exercise that isn’t quite clicking, holding you back from optimal performance. In this case, the solution is simple. Start combining drills that work together to help you accomplish your goals. When paired well, you’ll find your improvement really starts to accelerate.

How to improve your body position 

The Elevator Swim exercise is very effective for helping triathletes understand how to leverage their head and chest to improve their body position in the water. By experiencing a range of positions, you can learn which position most effectively improves the position of your hips and legs.

However, this skill is optimised when you have a great understanding of how your lungs impact your ability to float, and many triathletes struggle with this skill.

By introducing the Ball Float prior to the Elevator Swim, triathletes can learn how to feel the flotation provided by their lungs, then learn to leverage that flotation when performing the Elevator Swim. When both exercises are combined, their impact is magnified.

How to improve your arm recovery timing 

Many triathletes struggle with the timing of their rotation and their arm actions. Recovering the arms underwater can really help them learn to optimise this timing because the shoulders will naturally rotate at the correct time when one arm is recovered forward, as the other arm pulls backward.

This is a tough skill to learn when swimming normally. While recovering the arms underwater is great for learning the right timing, for some triathletes, it’s too challenging to go right from underwater recovery to full freestyle swimming, evening if they have a really good sense of what to do. Enter Over-Under Freestyle.

It serves as a great bridge between the two. Because one arm is recovered underwater, the same timing is present, and you can begin to learn to incorporate an over the water recovery with the over arm. Once you have a solid feel for Over-Under, you can start practising more regular freestyle.

When used in combination, these two exercises are much more effective at helping you lock in your freestyle timing than when used in isolation.

How to improve your breathing

More than just about any other skill, triathletes are challenged with their breathing. It’s not a natural movement, breathing in a forced rhythm can be awkward, and breathing effectively relies on possessing other key skills.

However, when it comes down to it, breathing effectively is simple. All you have to do is breathe low, breathe straight, and breathe fast. If you can do so, you’re set.

Paddle Cap Freestyle is an excellent exercise for doing this because the only way it can be executed effectively is by breathing low, straight, and fast. It’s a superb teacher because it provides such clear feedback.

However, it can be tough to get started with if your breathing skills leave a lot to be desired. The Stroke and Roll can help set you up for success by showing you how to roll for the breath, staying low and staying straight.

If you’re struggling to get Paddle Cap Freestyle down, pairing it with Stroke and Roll can help you get more out of both exercises.

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