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Two more ways to challenge your swim drills

To keep improving you need to create new challenges, says swim coach Andrew Sheaff. And one way is to change how you use drills, as he explains here…

A good drill can make a big difference in helping you improve your skills. But to continue to keep learning, you have to continue to perform novel activities. 

You’re not going to keeping learning by repeating a drill you’re already familiar with, so you need to create a new challenge. 

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to change the drills you’re using. Instead, you can change how you use them, and you can do so quickly and easily.

Stroke count

Start counting your strokes when you perform drills. Try to use fewer strokes and try to use more strokes. By changing your stroke count, you’re changing how you perform the drill. 

If you give yourself objective numbers to hit, say 10 strokes, you’re going to challenge yourself to perform the drill differently, and hit an objective goal. 

Now, performing the same drill is going to create a much better learning opportunity. 

Reducing the number of strokes you take is going to improve your efficiency and increasing the number of strokes you take is going to allow you to work the drill at higher speeds.
For instance, you could focus on taking as few strokes as possible with the drill ‘Power Pulls’, and that is going to encourage you to create a lot of propulsion with each stroke. 

The stroke count encourages you to find better solutions to achieve lower numbers.

Stroke rate

Using a tempo trainer can be a great way to positively impact your swimming. It can also be a great way to positively impact your drilling. 

As with stroke count, it can be useful to challenge your drills by using low stroke rate and high stroke rates. Using low stroke rates is going to force you to slow down. 

Just like it can be more difficult to ride a bike very slowly, performing certain drills with very slow stroke rates can be more difficult as well. 

At the other extreme, it can also be very challenging to perform your drills at faster stroke rates, where you have to ensure that you’re performing with precision and speed.

As a specific example, you can perform ‘Underwater Recovery’ using a fast stroke rate. That’s going to challenge you to execute great rotational timing at higher rates of movement. 

It’s one thing to do so slow, but’s another level of difficulty to do so fast!

Create change

While using stroke counts and stroke rates with drills is powerful for the specific reasons we just discussed, it’s also powerful because it requires change. You have to perform drills different when trying to achieve specific stroke counts or stroke rates. 

That’s going to help you learn, rather than simply repeating the same drills over and over again in exactly the same way.

Top image credit: Jonny Gawler

Profile image of Andrew Sheaff Andrew Sheaff Swim coach


Andrew Sheaff has been helping people improve their swimming for over 20 years. He’s worked with everyone from children learning to swim to Olympic medalists to masters triathletes and swimmers. He specialises in helping triathletes improve their swimming skills through online coaching. He is also the author of 'A Constraints-Led Approach to Swim Coaching'. For more information about improving your swimming and to work with Andrew, please visit www.masteringflow.info or www.youtube.com/@masteringflow.