Swimming Drills – 3 Golden Rules

Posted in swimming on May 9, 2013

Expert swim coach Glenn Shepherd talks as through how to get the most out of you training drills.

As a swimming coach, a previous competitive swimmer, and spectator of the sport, I see many coaches and swimmers regularly use drills in their training sessions.

I am a firm believer of practising drills in most if not all sessions, as it promotes skill resilience, which refers to one’s ability to maintain correct stroke technique during pressurised or fatigued conditions. Furthermore, regularly practicing drills can allow a swimmer/coach to identify different areas in the stroke technique that may need tweaking, such as:

Body position, balance, coordination, and proprioception (feel of the water).

– Weaknesses in the entry, catch, and recovery arm phases

– Strength of the kick

– Timing of the breathing

– Muscular strength imbalances (affecting stroke mechanics)

– Flexibility weaknesses

All these areas will subsequently affect the overall efficiency of stroke mechanics and technical ability, and as I’m sure most of you will agree, drill repetition should be recognised as an important part of swimming training.

Choosing what drills to use, however, can be difficult and needs to take into account age, ability and experience.

Nevertheless, there are 3 Golden Rules that can help as a guide to the best drills. These are:


The drill aims to improve propulsion


The drill aims to reduce drag


The drill aims to increase overall efficiency 

So next time you are thinking about a drill set, see if your chosen drills satisfy at least 2 of the above conditions. If not, they could be cowboy drills, and not worth bothering with.

To help get you started here are some Front Crawl Drill examples that use a minimum of 2 out of the 3 golden rules:

Shark Fin – reduces frontal drag via a better body position, which will improve overall efficiency of the stroke.

Hold a high elbow position in the recovery phase for a second and then continue with arm stroke.

Finger Drag – reduces drag through better body and hand entry positions, improving overall stroke efficiency:

Lightly let the finger tips drag through the water during the recovery phase.

Fist drill – improves propulsion via forcing correct forearm positioning (and improved feel for the water), improving overall efficiency of every stroke pull.

Clench your fists gently and maintain this position throughout the entire stroke phase.


“Drill for Skill not just to Thrill!”


For more expert advice and guidance, you can book a training session with Glenn here.