Archives for posts with tag: stroke

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!


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,


I’ve been setting a mix of technique and aerobic paced sets on Saturday mornings for most of the winter and from February onwards I want to start changing the sessions to start adding some higher intensity work.  Before we do pick up the intensity I want to write a little about the technique work we have been doing and how to take advantage of it.

There are many things we could all do to improve our strokes but the most common thing I see that will make the biggest benefit to most of us is the efficiency of your underwater stroke.  In my experience, the efficiency of the underwater stroke comes from having a good feel for the water, which is usually governed by starting the underwater stroke with a strong catch.  The most important thing for a strong underwater catch is to press with your hand over a high elbow, so your hand is leading the pull.  You will have seen this in the videos I posted last year, but if you need a reminder here is another Youtube video to remind you of what I have been talking about:

I don’t think there is any one way to get the right feel and develop the right catch, which is why I have set a range of different drills to help you think about it.  Much of it comes from feel, trial-and-error and learning what feels strong for you.  When you get it right it should feel strong and typically you will see it in fewer strokes per length and greater speed.  My biggest piece of advice is to slow your underwater stroke down.  Most people I see who slip water in their underwater stroke are rushing it and ripping their arm through without the time for a proper catch.  If you watch the fastest swimmers on a Saturday morning most of them have the slowest strokes underwater – because they have a good hold of the water and can get plenty of speed by just squeezing a bit harder on each pull.

Hopefully, some of you have developed a better feel for the water – and fitness – over the last few months and the challenge over the coming months is to translate that improved feel, technique and fitness into better swimming times.  As we start to introduce more faster swims from February onwards the challenge is to keep your hold of the water as you swim faster.  The temptation will be do rip your arms through the water faster.  Don’t! You will usually slip water if you do.  Instead, try and think about keeping a strong, slow catch and get your speed by just squeezing harder on each underwater pull.  The “golf stroke” sets we do where you add your stroke count and time for each swim together are good to help focus on this – where you need to go faster each time but still keeping your stroke long.

Check out this video for a demonstration of some drills I will be setting at some upcoming Saturday sessions:

The two I want to focus on are the “quick catch” and “high swingers” drills.

Quick catch is a great drill I have used in sessions in the past and having done it myself think is a good one for working on the high elbow position for the catch at the start of the stroke.

“High Swingers” is a horrible name so I call it “Straight Arm Recovery” which I think is a bit more descriptive and a lot less naff. This is a great drill for working on shoulder roll and I have also found it very useful to cure a fault I see with many triathletes – over-reaching. Over-reaching at the front of your stroke puts you in a weak position for the catch and also can cause snaking as you reach too far forwards and kick your hips out of from their streamlined position. This drill stops that by bringing your arm straight over – with a good rotation – and ready for a strong catch.

Check out the video and get ready to try these drills if you haven’t already!

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