Winter mixed swim stroke workout

Strengthen your race-day front crawl by swimming mixed-stroke sets this winter and reap the rewards come next season

Credit: Remy Whiting

There are significant benefits to swimming mixed-stroked sets and the early off-season is a great time to learn new skills and invigorate training.


Why swimming other strokes is beneficial for your front crawl

Tri training typically focuses on a relatively linear range of movements and thus muscle usage. By swimming strokes other than front crawl, we recruit, strengthen and stretch different postural and dynamic movement muscles through a wider range of movements, thus helping you become more robust.

Practising different stroke drills will enhance your body awareness and understanding of propulsion through the water. This can then be applied to your front-crawl swimming – e.g. the pull/push arm stroke phases in backstroke almost mirrors that of front crawl; swimming single-arm fly helps develop a more powerful and propulsive underwater stroke, as well as increasing stroke rate.

If you don’t come from a swimming background, embrace this session and you’ll be surprised at how much you can improve.

What each stroke offers:


This is a useful drill  for developing more explosive arm propulsion and arm cadence in front crawl, but is easier than fully fly stroke


Practise fly kick drills both on your front and back to develop leg strength and power, and to generate more effective acceleration out of starts/turns and in dive and beach starts.


This is a really useful stretching drill to swim in recovery sets or a cool-down, opening out the chest and shoulder muscles.



4 x 100m as: 25m reverse Individual Medley order; fly drill

4 x 50m as: 25m front crawl kick; 25m backstroke kick


4 x 50m transition sculling drill

100m alternate 25m front crawl; 25m backstroke

4 x 50m single-arm drill

100m alternate 25m single-arm fly drill; 25m front crawl

4 x 50m extended doggy-paddle drill

100m alternate 25m front crawl; 25m backstroke

4 x 50m as: 15m fly kick; 10m front crawl

100m alternate 25m single-arm fly drill; 25m front crawl


10 x 50m as: fast start into three strong fly strokes, into 5m fast streamline kick, into front-crawl sprint to 25m; 25m super-easy recovery


4 x 50m as: 25m single-arm backstroke; 25m double-arm backstroke

Adapt for beginners

Replace full fly stroke in warm-up with single-arm fly drill or front crawl. Reduce the distances of the main set drill working technically rather than just volume purposeful practice!


Adapt for Ironman

Swim full fly stroke in warm-up. Increase the distances in the main set from 100m swims to 200m swims.