Swim Drills

Here are some of the drills that are featured in our swim program. If you swim on your own you can include these to further develop technique. 
  • This list is designed to compliment our program coaching and not be a stand alone training guide.
  • New swimmers or those looking to recreate their stroke should check out our LTS progression.
  • For information on the equipment listed below visit our equipment page.
  • We are hoping to add further videos in the near future.  For now some are available on the LTS page.

Sample Swim Drills


    Training Tips
    • When developing technique it is important to rest to recovery between lengths. Don't do these drills to fatigue.
    • Focus on one important stroke element at a time.
    • Follow drill sets with front crawl sets, focusing on the element drilled.
    • Do some of back stroke and some breast stroke during warm-up and cool-down, and on occasion in the midst of a workout, to help maintain muscular balance.

    Drill Inventory

    Desert Island Drills (Coach Geordie's Big 3)
    • Kick​ ​with​ ​board​ ​and​ ​fins​: 
      • Purpose: The fins help facilitate a kick from the hip and increase ankle mobility
      • Options:
        • On your belly with board extended out front 
        • On your back with board extended on surface above head
        • Kicking vertically in a static position
    • One​ ​Arm​ ​with​ ​Paddles​: 
      • Purpose: Builds strength, practices body position, focuses on phases
      • Focus Points (pick one at a time):
        • Head position: make sure head is low when breathing such that your bottom goggle is partially in the water
        • Stroke Phases: finish, recovery, entry, catch, pull
    • PBPB​: pull buoy/paddles/band
      • Purpose: Forces upper body to balance without compensation from legs
      • Focus Points:
        • If you feel your body or legs snaking through the water, increase the width of your entry and pull
        • As you initiate the catch, engage your core to help increase the power of the stroke.

    Most Used Drills
    • Standing stroke practice (for new swimmers): 
      • What: Walk slowly in the shallow end, simulating strokes with each arm
      • Why: This allows you lots of time to think about the phases
      • Focus: 
        • high elbow recovery
        • entry width and distance
        • high elbow recovery
    • Side Swim (with fins)
      • What: Kick on your side with bottom arm extended and top arm on side
      • Why: This helps to develop balance and horizontal body position
      • Focus: 
        • Side Swim Head Up (SSHU) helps you to find the correct head position while breathing
        • Side Swim Head Down (SSHD) helps to ensure you also rotate when not breathing
    • One arm (breathe same side as stroke)
      • What: Stroke with one arm while keeping the other extended forward.
      • Why: This allows you to focus on the motion of just one arm at a time and to rotate the head into the breathing position while keeping it low.
      • Focus:
        • Rotate head from down to breathing but not lifting too high
        • Entry (distance, depth)
        • Catch
        • Pull pattern
        • Finish
        • Recovery
    • One Arm Fist Palm
      • What: Do one arm drill but alternate 6 open palm strokes with 6 in which your hand is in a fist
      • Why: Without the palm, the brain will be forced to swim with a high elbow and use the forearm.  Once you open the palm again, try to maintain that high elbow.
    • One Arm with Dolphin kick
      • What: Do a fast, powerful stroke every two dolphin kicks
      • Why: This is an advanced drill that helps to build strength and prepare swimmer for butterfly.
    • One Arm Off Side
      • What: Stroke with one arm at a time while keeping the other arm at your side. The key: breathe to the non-stroking side.
      • Why: The back side stroke tends to often go astray (too deep, too wide, cross over). Keep your head low and focus on just that back side arm.
      • Focus: 
        • Extend and enter as shoulders and head rotate to breathe
        • Keep the head low when breathing
        • Make sure not too push down as you start your stroke.  Pull back.
        • Keep your pull pattern relatively straight, not going too wide or too narrow as a compensation.
    • PBPB: pull buoy paddle band
      • What: Swim with pull buoy between legs, band on ankles, and paddles on hands.
      • Why: Many swimmers use their kick to compensate and balance cross-over or other flaws that occur in their stroke and body position.  Eliminating the legs (pull buoy and band) will make this clear as the swimmer will feel the legs snaking.  Once the upper body is balanced, the legs will stay aligned and not snake.  Paddles help to ensure the palm is positioned to maintain pressure on the water.  If the pull angle is off, the paddle will rotate off your palm (*use only middle finger loop, not wrist loop on paddles)
    • Hypoc-6
      •  What: Hypoxic means without oxygen.  Swim at a relaxed intensity then, in the middle of the lane, take six strokes (3 each side) without breathing.  With your in the water, focus on your pull pattern and rotation.  Strive for symmetry.  When you start breathing again, try to maintain that symmetry.  This drill can also be done with PBPB.
      • Why: Stroke imbalances are very common.  This drill gives you the chance to take a look at what's happening and compare both sides.
    • DPS (Distance per Stroke)
      • What: Count the number of strokes it takes you to travel each 25m length. Keep your push off the wall consistent.  
      • Why: The more relaxed, streamlined, powerful and efficient you are in the water, the fewer stroke it will take to travel 25m.  Experiment with changes to your stroke to lower the count.
      • Note: This is a drill not a race tactic.  When you race, the majority of swimmers will be faster with a faster stroke rate and more strokes per 25m.  This drill is there to simply help you fine tune your efficiency.  Increase your efficiency then increase your stroke rate and you'll be a faster swimmer.
    • Band only
      • What: Swim with a band on your ankles.
      • Why: 'Cause it's really hard!  This is an advanced drill.  Work on the finer points of body position in order to keep the legs up and this will help your body position when the band is off.
      • Focus:
        • Make sure the head is kept low when breathing.
        • Push your chest deep so it feels like you're swimming downhill.
        • Use your core to keep the legs as high as you can.
        • Consider small changes in your body position to increase streamlining.
    • Recovery Drills
      • Why: What you do above the surface isn't as important as what you do below it but a relaxed and efficient recovery will help save energy and set up a good stroke.
      • Note: No phase of the stroke places more demand on shoulder mobility than the recovery.  If you can't do a high elbow recovery or have trouble with these drills, consider whether the limiter is mobility as opposed to skill.
      1. Touch top of head with thumb during recovery
        1. Tap your head with your thumb as you move towards entry, forcing elbow high
      2. Zipper
        1. Drag thumb up side while recovering forcing elbow high.
      3. Finger tip drag
        1. Drag tips on surface of water during recovery forcing elbow high.
    • Deck up for high elbow and width
      • What: Pull yourself up to waist height on the pool deck.
      • Why: Notice that you will place your arms wide to gain the power needed.  Also notice that your elbows will be bent in order to activate the powerful muscles of the back.  This helps to demonstrate why we want to swim with a high elbow.
    • Deck ups to stand then jump/dive back in
      • What: Pull yourself up and right out of the pool, turn around and (when safe) dive back in.
      • Why: This is less a drill and more of a means of adding challenge and variety to a main set.
    • Mid lane flip and build
      • What: Swim down the lane and when at the half way mark, do a full somersault in the water.
      • Why: First, it's fun (for most :).  Next, it forces the swimmer to exert extra force to get going again, increasing strength demand and placing a focus on a high elbow pull.
    • Kick
      • Hold wall static
        • What: Kick in place while holding the wall
        • Why: To relax and work on a good hip driven kick motion.
      • Fins
        • What: Kick with fins.
        • Why: Firstly, they help to increase ankle flexibility, a very common limiter with recreational swimmers.  Next, they help to better feel and develop a hip driven kick.
      • Front
        • What: Kick on your belly with a kick board extended out front
        • Why: Fitness and technique.
      • Back
        • What: Kick on your back with board extended out front (beyond head).
        • Why: 
          • Focus on a straight leg recovery (not bending knee when leg is going to down to prepare for next kick.
          • Focus on a hip driven kick such that the knee doesn't break the surface of the water.
      • Vertical
        • What: Kick in place while vertical in the water.  Fins are recommended.
        • Why: This helps to develop a hip driven kick.  Reach your toes to the bottom of the pool and keep body aligned.
      • Grave Stone
        • What: Kick on belly with board out front but held vertically with at least half of board submerged.
        • Why: Increased workload.
      • One Leg
        • What: Fins are recommended.  Kick half the pool length with one leg, then switch to the other leg.  Focus on a slightly slower and more powerful kick with a slightly bigger range of motion.
        • Why: This helps to build strength and allows focus on the hip driven motion of just one leg at a time boosting focus.  It also helps lead to the development of a dolphin kick.
      • Dolphin
        • What: Do dolphin kick with both legs, board optional.
        • Why: Increased workload and allows for transition into butterfly.
    Other Drills
    • Elevator: Kick with hands at side, slowly lifting and lower head.  Helps to understand head's effect on body position.
    • Log Roll: Kick down lane with hands at side.  Slowly rotate from head up to side, head down, side and back to head up.
    • Back Side Back w/ head up: Kick on back with hands at side. While keeping head above water (nose to ceiling) rotate on to one side, back to back, then to the other side.  This helps develop balance and set up back stroke rotation.
    • Finger flick for finish: Swim normally but flick fingers upon finish.  Helps to focus on finish.
    • Shark pause, 3 stroke shark: Pause the arm in the middle of recovery to ensure high elbow.
    • 3 stroke glide: Pause to glide every three strokes.
    • Catch up: Don't commence your stroke till the two hands are side by side.
    • Dog paddle catch drill: Swim dog paddle but focusing on keeping high elbows.
    Do you have a drill that's worked for you that's not part of the list?  We'd love to hear about it.  Email us.