Archives for posts with tag: sideline kicking

This week with will be continuing with the same theme of high-elbow and rotation from your core.  We will be doing similar drills – sideline kicking and Unco – as well as a mix of pull and swim sets.  So please focus your efforts in all of the sets on a good technique, as follows:

  • In the pull set take advantage of the slower arm speed and higher resistance of swimming with paddles to focus on levering yourself past a fixed point in the water using your core.
  • In technique subset focus on the basics of high-elbow catch and rotation.
  • In the main set focus on maintaining the benefits of your good technique on every repetition throughout the set as you being to tire.

We will also be doing a bit more kick in this session and all the sessions building up to Christmas.  Kick is good for working on your core fitness so focus on really kicking with straight legs from your glutes and core.

See you tomorrow!



Well done to everyone who braved the high chlorine levels on Friday and Saturday last week to attempt some of the challenge swim at least.  The Duty Manager was very apologetic and did everything he could to reduce it with extra water and opening the door, with all the chemicals turned off, but it took a long time to even out.  The good news is that the water quality was so much better on Tuesday so hopefully it will remain so.

This week we will be starting more technique work and steadier-paced swimming in the Winter training leading up to Christmas.  There are lots of things to look forward to in this period, such as time trials, some fun new drills and video analysis, but we are going to start with some simple sideline kicking drills this week.  I would really like you to think about three main things when doing this:

  1. Really engaging your core muscles to hold a good straight body position
  2. Making sure your lead arm always has your palm facing down and your elbow higher than your hand, ready to start a high-elbow pull
  3. Keeping your head looking down (only looking slightly forward to check your high-elbow) and only moving when you turn for a quick breath

After the technique set the most important thing to do is to try and keep what you have been practising on the drills throughout the main set and beyond.  Think “technique” on the first length of each rep and keep it going.

See you Saturday!


Now the triathlon season is over for most of us it is a great opportunity to think about improving your stroke as we start Winter training.  Although most of us can improve on many different aspects of our stroke the one improvement that most of us will gain the most benefit from is improving the underwater pull.  And the key to doing that is getting the high-elbow catch, or early-vertical forearm as many people call it.  If you want to see a great example you can watch some of this slow motion video of Ian Thorpe.

So how do we all do swim with a high-elbow better?  This week we will be doing some side-line kicking to help practice the body position for keeping a high elbow even when swimming on your side, so please focus on:

  • Keeping your head looking down and slightly forward when not breathing and checking that your hand is below your elbow.
  • Keeping your palm facing downwards towards the bottom of the pool and when you pull
    • Start the pull slowly and not putting any pressure on the water until your forearm is vertical in the water with your hand pointing down to the bottom of the pool
    • Press the water straight backwards once you start applying the pressure and trying to keep pushing straight to the end of your stroke

And please, please, please take your time when doing drills.  Take extra rest if you need it.  The most important thing is doing the drills well and feeling as relaxed as possible.  Since most drills we do are best done while breathing as little as possible you will need to be rested and relaxed before you start each of the drills.

See you Saturday,


October was the month working on body position and now we’re in to November we’ll be focusing on the arm stroke and especially the high-elbow catch.  On the last Saturday of November we will also start our Winter time trials where we set a baseline for measuring any changes in technique and fitness that you make over the Winter.

This week I’d like everyone to think about the start of the pull with a high-elbow catch so we will be doing some new drills to help you work on this.  The drills will go as follows:

  • Sideline kicking
    • Look down and slightly forward so you can see your hand and elbow
    • Make sure the elbow of your lead arm is above your hand all the time
    • This should be quite hard and you will need to flex your shoulder quite a lot to achieve it!
  • Sideline kicking with quarter pull
    • Same as sideline kick but doing the first quarter of the pull with your lead arm
    • Recover the pulling arm underwater, as you would for puppy paddle or doggy paddle drill
    • Swim it slowly without pressing hard – you are not generating propulsion just practising keeping your elbow above your hand and getting ready to catch
  • Reverse doggy paddle
    • Like normal doggy paddle but starting and finishing each stroke with both arms at your sides (like reverse catch-up)
    • Let your shoulders rotate as you would on normal front crawl and breathe to the side
    • Focus on keeping your elbow nice and high at the start and throughout the pull
  • Full stroke
    • Keep the high-elbow catch you have just been practising
    • Do the catch slowly – don’t start pressing hard until your forearm is pointing to the bottom of the pool so you only push the water backwards

 There’s a video also here of me explaining these new drills if you need it.

See you Saturday!


As the triathlon season is now finished for most of us we’ll be backing off from the higher intensity sets we’ve been doing for the last few months and replacing it with some steadier paced aerobic swimming, technique work, some different strokes and some time trials (in November).  I would really encourage everyone to take advantage of this unique stage in the season to think about their technique and making any necessary changes at this stage of the year.  The biggest challenge with older swimmers when making changes is often that it can be really hard to change bad habits that are ingrained.  So my advice is:

  1. Decide what you want to change.  You can ask me or any of our coaches for advice and decide what is right for you.  Or you can get lessons from other organisations or clubs such as City of Cambridge Masters or Ed’s Elite Swimming Academy.
  2. Practice, practice and practice whenever you can, in every possible session, to make the change you want. A change in bad habit will only come for most of us with lots of practice.  It takes discipline and perseverance to do this but I think everyone can do this if they really want to.
  3. Get regular feedback to see if your change is effective.  You can do this by asking the coaches to watch you, or your fellow swimmers, and really make sure you are making the right changes you want to.  You can also get feedback from more measurable indicators such as your times for certain distances or strokes per length.  But beware that you will often go backwards on speed while you are making a change to your stroke before you start improving as we tend to tense up when trying to bed in a change in our stroke so visual feedback from others is often invaluable to help you push through this.

I am planning to break the technique work for Saturday sessions into different things each month.  During October we will be focusing on body position and this week working body rotation.  To do this we will be doing some sideline kicking and the following video shows some examples of what we will be doing in the technique set this week:

The most important thing I would like you all to think about when doing these drills is keeping your elbow higher than your hand.  The easy, and wrong, thing to do when on your side is to let your elbow drop.  It is hard to keep your elbow higher than your hand when swimming on your side as you are over-exaggerating your normal body rotation.  That is why it is really good to practise this when you do this drill and will help you keep that high-elbow catch in your normal swimming, especially at the point when most people lose it during their rotation when they breath.  So please do focus on keeping that lead arm with the elbow above the hand and your palm facing down towards the bottom of the pool in the right position ready to catch and start the underwater stroke.  Watch the super slow-mo clip of Keri-Anne Payne swimming open water and notice how she manages to keep that lovely high-elbow underwater even when siting and breathing to the side:

See you Saturday,


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