Whether you are new to swimming or want to improve your technique, we’ve collated some of the best swimming drills to help you in improve your in-pool performance. With better technique you’ll be able to swim faster, burn more calories, reduce chance of injury and simply enjoy swimming more!
For advice on effective on-land exercise that can also improve your swimming technique, checkout our useful blog on dryland exercises for swimmers.
Swim Drills for Beginners
Before conquering any lengths, do these beginner drills weekly to perfect your technique. Only once you feel comfortable with these drills should you begin ‘proper’ swimming. Aim to mix your time in the pool between drills and swimming, starting with 75% drills and 25% swimming, then slowly increasing your swim time as your technique improves. Also, beginner swimmers should start slowly and do what is appropriate, i.e. do 2 lengths of a 25 metre pool, take 30 seconds rest, then do 4 more sets.
Each swim drill focusses on a different aspect of swimming, helping you to improve breathing, kicking, strokes, gliding and more in the water!
Swim Breathing Drills
By controlling your breathing and becoming more confident with breathing around water, you’ll be able to better control your heart rate and go for longer. Give these drills a go to overcome intimidation of breathing underwater.
- Underwater Exhales – Exhale while your head is underwater. Bring your head up to inhale and repeat the process a few times. Get used to this process and become more comfortable in the water.
- Side Breathing – Extend one arm and hold the side of the pool, place head underwater and exhale through nose. Bring your head to the side pointing away from your extended arm and breathe in through your mouth. Repeat a few times then switch side. Be sure to practise this important skill and take care not to swallow water!
Swim Kick Drills
When swimming, your legs provide power. Kicks should be from the hips, not just the feet. These drills are good for perfecting the kick without relying on arms too.
- Kickboard – Hold onto a float board with your arms stretched out in front and practice your kicking motion. Once you get more confident, try this with your head underwater.
- Kickboard Lengths – Following on from basic kickboard drills, increase intensity by doing whole lengths by just kicking and using a float board for floatation. Also try floating on your back with the float on your chest and kicking for lengths this way. If you can, try without the float and support your own body while doing kick drills.
Swim Stroke Drills
Without proper technique, swim strokes can be inefficient. Use these drills to improve arm power and strokes.
- Catch-up Drill – While swimming freestyle, leave one arm outstretched while the other performs a whole stroke and only begin the next stroke once the arm has returned (consider tapping thumbs as a signal to start the next stroke or using a foam noodle to rest on). By slowing the process and taking it one stroke at a time you’ll focus on technique not speed.
- Single-arm Drill – Swim freestyle while one arm remains by your side and the other performs strokes. Keeps your abs pulled in to remain balanced. This may be hard to sustain so only perform this drill in small reps.
- Fist Drill – Swim freestyle with your hands in a fist or holding a small ball. This will reduce hand surface area and make your arms pull more water instead of just your hands. Compare how this feels to without the fists and see how your arms can be better used in strokes.
Swim Glide Drills
Glide drills help swimmers practise staying streamline and get the most out of push offs.
- Streamline Glides – At the edge of the pool, keep your arms outstretched in front of you brushing past your ears and push off from the wall. Concentrate on keeping your body inline, from head to body to toes. Repeat a few times and perfect the straight line.
- Starfish Push and Glide – For this drill, begin in the same position as above, but as soon as you push off, open your legs and arms to create a star shape. This will increase your surface area and inevitably slow you down. Compare this to the streamline glide to understand the important of staying inline.
Swim Balance Drills
Swimming involves a lot of rotation, so it helps to practice the motion and get used to maintaining balance while rotating.
- 6-Kick Switch – Balance on your side with your head down and take 6 kicks, then a single stroke with your upper arm, then rotate onto the other side for 6 kicks, and repeat. This not only helps rotation balance, but also brings in breathing and kick drills skills.
- 3-Strokes and 6-Kick Switch – If the above drill is too difficult, perhaps for breathing or stamina, then do the same but add in 3 strokes instead of 1. This should make the break between kick sets a bit longer and help you do the drill for longer.
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