5 ways to develop your swim technique

Posted on Posted in Triathlon Training
3T5A8405aI see so many triathletes struggling with their swim technique, desperately trying to keep up with their piers through the water.  Killing themselves to hang on to the group in front of them.  I guess it is one those things as a coach, I sit on the pool deck watching people swimming freestyle, constantly analyzing, thinking if only I could have five minutes with them to help them be more efficient in the water. You can not win a triathlon in the swim, but you can certainly lose it. Within our Squad Sessions in the Perth Hills our athletes spend plenty of time smashing up and down the pool, BUT the coaches spend quality time working on technique and providing key coaching points to each athlete throughout the session.  Our faster swimmers swim about 3000m / hour - plenty of opportunity to work on their technique.  The F4L Triathlon coaches focus more of the session on swim technique with some of the weaker swimmers. When I break down a swim stroke to look at technique, I break it in to five main parts: Body position, Leg action, Arm action, Breathing technique and Timing.
Body Position
Without a solid foundation of nailing the body position you will be struggling from the beginning.  I see so many triathletes trying to constantly 'cheat' by using a pull buoy.  You can't use a pull buoy in a race so you must learn to swim without one.
Leg Action:
is about focusing on just that - the action - you are a triathlete, you don't necessarily need a six beat kick, but you do need to make sure your legs go up high enough that heels break the surface of the water with each leg action.  Its about making sure you focus on kicking from the hip and butt... imagine each leg as one big flipper.
Arm action:
now this is where your swim technique starts to get a bit more technical.  There are various phases of the arm action and then sections within each of those.  However, in very simplistic terms the arm action is:
  • Hand entry - I use this as the starting point for freestyle.  Your hand should go into the water between your elbow and your wrist, if your other arm was extended.  Beyond the wrist you are over reaching, too short and your goggles may well be taken off!  A good drill that helps your hand entry is Almost Catch Up
  • Catch - At the start of this phase your fingers should be below your wrist, wrist should be below your elbow and your elbow should below your shoulder at this point.  Also the pointy / boney bit on the back your elbow should be pointing up.  A great drill for this is Skull.
  • Push - Keeping the elbow 'up' we encourage athletes to 'push' or 'press' the water back to their feet.  As they push the water back to their feet the body should roll to lead the arm action... imagine you have a piece of string attached from middle finger to hip... your hip them pulls the finger.  Why not practice this phase of the stroke with Long Arm Doggy Paddle
  • Recovery - Everybody's recovery is different.  There is nothing wrong with a straight arm recovery.  The key is to lift the shoulder out of the water with your upper arm and elbow.  Where the forearm 'flows' is only important in terms of where it positions the hand for the entry.  I love the Triple Tap Drill for this.  But if you want to see that then come and join in our squad sessions!
Breathing and Timing:
are so integrated into swim technique that I coach them as one and to be honest its a whole another article.  The one thing I will reveal here is that you should be continuously exhaling under water... traditionally called Trickle breathing.  If you find yourself holding your breath whilst your face is in the water then explosively breathing out as you turn your head to breath... you are making it very hard for yourself.  Practice exhaling and being relaxed under the water. One of the best ways to improve your swim technique is to have a one-to-one swim technique session.  Failing that come along to our squad sessions in the Perth Hills. by Paul Jones Paul is a British Triathlon Level 3 Coach based in Darlington, Western Australia.  He runs regular squad sessions in the Perth Hills. If you are looking for some assistance in your training for 2016 and beyond then check out F4L Triathlon Coaching's website for more information.    
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