Archives for posts with tag: front crawl

Now the main triathlon season has finished for most of us we will be moving into Winter training.  This period of Winter training before Christmas is my favourite as it’s the perfect time of year to have a bit more variety in our swimming sets and try and few different things.  The objective is still the same – to try and improve our triathlon swim – but we are far enough away from competitive racing to spend a bit more time trying to improve all round swimming ability rather than focusing on race pace fitness.  Hence, on Saturday mornings we will be doing

  • some more different strokes, as we did at this time last year,
  • more technique work than we have done in the summer alongside our usual aerobic-paced swims, and
  • some other general swimming skills sets with the aim of making you more comfortable in the water and better all-round swimmers

This week we will be doing some technique work focusing on shoulder rotation as well as some individual medley swims (butterfly, backstroke, breast stroke and front crawl) alongside the steady-paced aerobic front crawl sets.  I know many of you find some of the other strokes hard work so my general advice when approaching these is to try and relax, don’t fight the water and try and make them feel as comfortable and efficient as you do when you’re swimming a steady front crawl swim.  If you want advice on specific strokes there are a few articles I wrote last year – so use the search box to read some of my thoughts for the stroke you to know more about – or ask me in the session on Saturday.

See you Saturday!


This week is the final week of longer, mainly aerobic-paced sets before we start introducing some faster paced swimming  as we start to build towards the racing season.  So, after the technique on different strokes we’ve been doing, I want to move back to front crawl so this week I’d like you all to think about using your forearms and the back-half of your underwater pull.

To do this we will do a couple of different drills.  The first is front crawl with fists – which is exactly what it says – front crawl swum with your fists closed.  This will be done as part of a golf stroke set so you see the effect of clenching your fists on your stroke count, measured as part of your golf stroke.  The important thing here is make sure you focus on the propulsion you get from your forearms underwater rather than just relying on your hands.  Try and keep your stroke count with fists as close as possible to your normal stroke count by using your forearms as much as possible.

The second drill, which we have done before, is reverse catch-up.  This is the opposite of normal catch-up front crawl where your arms catch each other up but with both arms by your sides rather than out in front.  This is a great drill to help you focus on keeping the length at the end of each pull rather than at the front.  It also has the added benefit of really helping you think about shoulder rotation.  For a good video demonstrating it see the following:

After the drills we will follow-up with a long set of aerobic-paced 100s, with short rest, and a few IMs thrown in to keep it interesting.

See you Saturday!


We will do the Saturday Christmas Swim a week on Saturday (21st Dec) and last year we did a set of 30-45 x 100s depending on the lane.  This year I asked for suggestions in one of my weekly emails, a few weeks ago, but the only two suggestions I received have been to “play waterpolo” and “swim 1k Fly”.  Unfortunately, the pool won’t let us play waterpolo, because of the large windows, so 1k Butterfly it is then!  Although we can also practice waterpolo-style front crawl – which is just head-up front crawl – so I will throw some of that into the Christmas swim, too.

I actually think doing 1k Butterfly will be a great challenge – and great mental preparation for the hard times in a race when you know you will have done something most other triathletes would never dream of doing!  However, I don’t think any of us could manage it continuously doing full stroke all the way – myself very much included.  So, like any tough challenge, we will break it up into manageable chunks and will do lots of front crawl in between.  This has the benefit of allowing us to continue the theme from our sessions in the last couple of weeks of focusing on efficiency when swimming front crawl to make sure we have as much energy as possible to tackle the Fly.

This week we will do some more Butterfly technique alongside our usual aerobic front crawl set.  Please treat this as an opportunity of trying to be as relaxed and efficient as possible – even on the Butterfly.  Most of us will struggle to do 1k full stroke Fly so try and make sure you can drop back to a more manageable Fly drill that is less tiring – single-arm is a good candidate for this as is extra-kick Fly.  In fact, doing 4 or 5 long slow leg kicks per arm stroke should be much easier than full stroke Fly.  Last week we all did 550m of Fly during the session, this week we will do a bit more so that 1K of Fly next week will feel a lot more achievable.

See you all Saturday!


During this week’s session I would like everyone to focus on swimming efficiently.  To help with this we will all be doing a set of 50s golf stroke.  Golf stroke, as most of you will remember, is when you count your strokes for 50 and add it to the time it takes you to swim each 50.  So if you take 45 strokes per 50 and 45 seconds per 50 then your golf stroke is 90.  The thing I really like about golf stroke is that your golf stroke is a pretty good measure of your stroke efficiency and you can use it to test out how changes to your stroke affect your efficiency.  The first 50 we will do in the session will be for you to swim a normal steady-pace 50 to remind you of your usual “golf stroke”.  Then we will do some different drills for you to test the effect of the different drills on your golf stroke.

One of the drills we will be doing is quick catch.  I know many of you find it hard to “get it” with this one but it is one of my favourites as I think it can really help you focus on a strong catch with your hand.  This helps you reduce the likelihood of slipping water by dropping your elbows and reduces the tendency to over-reach for the catch and cause snaking with your hips.  If you do this correctly you should feel a surge of power as you lock onto the water at the start of the stroke.  If you don’t feel this, try slowing down the catch and feel for it more with a slight sculling motion.  It is more important to get a strong catch than a quick catch – but many people achieve this by thinking about getting a “quick” catch.  For those of you that need a reminder of this drill please watch again the Dave Scott video I have sent round before:

The main set this week will be quite a long set of 100s with a fairly short rest.  I will also aim to disrupt your rhythm a bit by throwing in a few IMs for fun.  When doing this set, and any long main set we do, please do try and aim to relax as much as possible by swimming efficiently.  Often it can feel stressful when you are trying to “make the turn-round” and you then tense up, swim less efficiently and swim slower over the set.  Instead, try to keep as relaxed as possible and focus on keeping your stroke relaxed and efficient.  Don’t worry about not having much rest – if you are swimming efficiently and relaxed you won’t need it!

See you all Saturday,


It’s time to get back in the pool and blow away those cobwebs from the last few weeks.  This week we’ll be doing mainly aerobic front crawl  and for technique we will be focusing on front crawl head position and breathing.

The best head position on front crawl is looking straight down at the bottom on the pool – keeping your head really still – and one of the most common mistakes many triathletes make is to look forward and have their head too high.  The usual consequence of this is to push your hips and legs below the surface so you end up being not very streamlined and dragging your legs through the water.  A pull buoy or wetsuit will compensate for a high head position – so you can get away with it more when swimming in a wetsuit – but you need to be able to swim streamlined with a good head position whenever you don’t have a pull buoy or wetsuit to help you!  If you need to look forward, try and do it by keeping your head as flat as possible, and if you need to look up at the end of each length please just glance up quickly and get your head back down.

The fastest you will ever swim is with your head completely still and face down in the water.  Unfortunately, unless you are doing a 25 sprint, you are likely to need to breathe at some stage and the most important thing is for your breathing to disrupt your stroke as little as possible.  To do this, turn your head as little as possible and breathe in the bow wave formed near your shoulder.  It will feel like you are looking either at your shoulder or slightly behind you.  See the following video for a good demonstration:

We will be doing some closed-eye drills on Saturday to help practice your breathing – trying to breathe on both sides.  You will close your eye to the side that you are breathing to and the aim is to make sure your open eye then never breaks the surface of the water.  In the video above the swimmer doesn’t quite accomplish this – but does get pretty close.  Your aim will be to achieve this on Saturday – it can be done.

And one more thing…  Please, please, please start in a streamlined position every time you turn and push off the wall with your head down and your arms squeezing your ears together, as shown in the video below:

If you start in this position then you are at least starting each length with your head in the correct position so you just have to maintain it for the remainder of each length!

See you Saturday!


We’ve been through all of the strokes now so we will put them back together and do some Medley swims as part of the sets this week alongside the usual aerobic front crawl.  Remember the key things on each of the strokes that we have been practising:

  • Keeping your head really still on backstroke with a good shoulder rotation
  • Keeping your elbows high on the breast stroke pull and having a good glide
  • Kicking twice on each Butterfly stroke and diving down with each hand entry

This is the last session before Impington closes for two weeks (4th to 16th November inclusive) to replace the air conditioning system so you will need to use the Monday night session at Frank Lea or public sessions to keep your swimming going.  I would recommend doing some slow front crawl swimming if you can get to a public session to really help you think about your technique.

When you do some slow front crawl I would strongly recommend

  • Breathing every 5 and remembering to keep your head flat and looking straight down at the bottom of the pool
  • Thinking about a strong catch with your whole hand and forearm
  • Keeping your stroke count at least two less than your normal stroke count, but achieving this by focusing on a stronger pull rather than cheating and kicking harder or adding any pauses into the stroke

For some front crawl inspiration you could try watching one of the greatest front crawl swimmers of all time – Alexander Popov:

When we get back to Saturday swimming on 23rd November we will be continuing to build on our aerobic swimming base.  This will be mostly front crawl but with some other strokes thrown in for variety and helping you work on being better all round swimmers.  We will then have about a month of training to get ready for the Christmas Swim.

Ideas are welcome for what everyone wants to do for the Christmas Swim this year.  The only suggestion I have had so far is 1,000m Fly, which sounds fun, so if there is anything else you would like to suggest I am very open to ideas!

See you all Saturday,


As we get closer to the racing season we are starting to do some faster swimming during the Saturday sessions.  The key challenge for most of us is to try and maintain our technique as we swim faster as a good technique will help you swim faster for longer.  When you are trying to swim faster, try on concentrate and getting a good strong catch as you do at slower speeds – don’t rush it and slip water – and gain the extra speed by applying more pressure with your hand all the way through the underwater stroke.

A good way to check the efficiency of your stroke as you swim faster is to count your strokes.  You will typically do a stroke or two more per length when you pick up the pace but try to keep it as close to your best stroke count as you can, especially as you tire towards the end of a long set or long swim.

You can watch the following video for a great example of good technique at speed – from 2001 when Grant Hackett and Ian Thorpe broke the 800m world record:

Notice how strong and long their strokes are at the pace they are swimming (under 60s per 100m).  Ian Thorpe is doing 29-30 strokes/50m length and Grant Hackett around 33 strokes/50m.  None of us are in their class (yet!) but what we can all take from watching this, I think, is an appreciation for how fast it is possible to swim over a long distance by maintaining excellent technique and keeping the pull very strong and long.  This is something we can all work on!

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