Let’s work on Pressing the water. This is the first phase of your underwater pull and immediately follows the “Catch.” So, you have anchored your hand in stable water and now it’s time to start pulling. During this workout experiment with various hand pitches. Somewhere around 45 degrees is typical. That means keeping your elbow high and not dropping your wrist. I hope you like this workout!
Today, we’re working on your “feel” of the water. As you glide with your lead hand, you’re using your hand, wrist and forearm to find stable water in which to anchor your hand. Both the Stroke Work and Main sets include a round of 75s. The Race Set includes some speed play. This is a workout that focuses on a small part of your stroke that can make a BIG difference.
Today, we’re going to focus on improving our timing, particularly through the technique of Upfront Swimming. This technique is essential for a seamless and effortless freestyle swim. The goal is to achieve a smooth glide with your leading arm, holding onto that position until your other arm, the pulling arm, enters the water and assumes the leading arm (gliding) role. Have fun!
Today we’re working to make sure that you aren’t “snaking” through the water and that your catch is solid. See the “Skill” text and image below. One way to make sure that your hand isn’t crossing over the central bodyline is to make sure that you’re practicing “upfront” swimming. Both the Stroke Work and Main Sets work on keeping a lead hand upfront. This lead hand serves as a central bodyline guide.
Let’s work on your hand entry. It’s an important skill to learn , especially for anyone who gets shoulder pain when swimming. Reaching over the water before entering — instead of reaching through the water– can stress the shoulder. Throughout this workout we’ll focus on spearing the water with your fingertips, then reaching to 8-12 inches below the surface. Have fun!
Today, we’re working on the “squeeze” part of your underwater pull. Be sure to stretch and warm up your triceps. Remember to reach with your lead arm as you squeeze the water with your back arm. See how much distance you can get with each stroke. I often think about skating, with the back foot creating the propelling force while the front foot stays planted…gliding. Have fun!
Drills: Catch-Up /// Single Arm Drill
We’re practicing breathing in this workout. I encourage you to practice timing and relaxing. During the warm up, hang on to the side and bob. Practice yoga breathing in through mouth and out through nose. Relax. The Stroke Set and Main Set both have drills to practice upfront swimming. Breathing early in the pull while the opposite arm is extended opens up a long window to take a breath. Commit to relaxed swimming during this workout.
Drills: Catch-Up
In this workout, we’re practicing Upfront Swimming, a.k.a Front Quadrant Swimming. (See the description in the sidebar below.) Upfront Swimming is key to a smooth, relaxed stroke. The Main Set uses a pull buoy and snorkel, so that you can isolate your timing without thinking about kicking or turning your head to breathe. If you don’t have this equipment, don’t worry. Just swim. Stretch out your stroke. Relax.
Drills: Kick w/ Arms by Side
Finding the right body position can be a true moment of enlightenment. Everything starts fitting into place when your body position is right. We’ll use a kick drill during the Stroke Work Set and then some pulling in the Main Set. Throughout this set explore various body positions. Small adjustments can make a huge difference. Be sure to read the Skill & Drill comments below. Have fun!
Drills: Head Tap /// Zipper Drill
In this workout, we focus on “reaching forward” when the hand enters the water. We use Head Tap and Zipper drills. Both are designed to influence the trajectory of your hand entry. The race set includes some build swims, where you make each swim consecutively faster. Be sure to continue reaching forward as you add speed to your stroke. Have fun!
Drills: 6 Beat Extension Kick /// Kick w/ Arms by Side
Let’s work on our kick! (Did I hear a few groans..?) Keep in mind that we’ll kick our legs MUCH harder and faster during this workout than you need to during your race. During the swim leg, you should mostly use your legs for balance and conserve them for the bike and run. But, it’s helpful to practice the correct kick technique. Plus, it’s good cross-training for your legs.
Drills: Fist Swim /// Golf
This workout is designed to practice the press phase of the pull. It’s part of the all-important catch. Throughout this workout, keep in mind that you want to use your hand and your forearm as a paddle. To do this, you must keep a high elbow when beginning your pull. Dropping the elbow means you will “slip” the water. Have fun!
Drills: Head Tap
This workout will help you practice your hand entry. Dropping your hand into the water doesn’t seem like a difficult or important skill. But a good hand entry sets up a good catch. And a good catch is essential for efficient swimming. With a high elbow and a neutral hand position, enter the water fingertips first in front of your shoulder. Then reach to 12-inches below the surface and glide.
Drills: Board Catch-Up /// Single Arm Drill
This workout is designed to practice breathing at the right time. It’s important that your opposite arm is extended as you turn your head to breathe. If your arm has already started pulling — instead of reaching and gliding — you will mostly likely have to rush your breath. We have quite a bit of catch-up drill in this workout because it helps exaggerate the timing.
Drills: Single Arm Drill /// Tarzan Swim
Today we’re focused on the “catch.” Review pages 12-14 in the eBook and think about the ladder analogy described there. The Stroke Set uses “single arm drill” to help you focus on the catch. The Main Set is designed to keep you moving. There’s not much rest, so pace yourself. The Race Set practices spotting the buoy and retuning to a neutral body position. Have a great workout!
Drills: 6 Beat Extension Kick /// Extended Dog Paddle
Throughout this workout, we’re focused on reaching and gliding. As you probably know by now, I like to use analogies. Imagine you have ropes tied to your wrists. When your hand enters the water, someone sitting underneath the water pulls the other end of the rope, causing to you reach through the water to around 12-inches deep. This also causes your shoulders and upper body to rotate slightly. Hope it helps.
Drills: Head Tap
We’re focusing on your hand entry today. It’s important to reach through the water, not over. Reaching over the water can cause shoulder problems, plus makes it very difficult to catch the water. The Stroke Set uses Head-Tap Drill to practice a high-elbow entry. The Main Set uses some pull, so you can continue to focus on good hand-entry form. We’ll wrap up with some speed play during the Race Set. Hope you enjoy it!
Drills: 6 Beat Extension Kick /// Golf
This workout is all about GLIDING! We’re practicing a smooth stroke, where the lead hand stays extended while the back hand push forward, This skill often conjures images of skaters, where the skater’s back foot pushes them forward while their front foot is planted, ready to glide and make the most of each push forward.
Drills: Catch-Up
If your goal is to have a smooth and relaxed stroke, then arm timing is extremely important. In the eBook, we introduced you to “upfront swimming” or the idea of always having a lead hand upfront. This workout is designed to practice that skill. I hope you enjoy it!
Drills: Golf /// Single Arm Drill
Throughout this workout, I want you to focus on creating a powerful pull. This means anchoring your hand into the water, then using it to pull your body forward. Remember, when you have an efficient freestyle stroke, your hand doesn’t move through the water….you do. Your hand stays where you anchored your hand. Think about getting good distance per stroke.
Drills: Hesitation /// Tarzan Swim
Today we’re working on a very common issue for beginner triathletes. When your hand enters into the water, you should reach forward and avoid reaching across your body. The hand can often cross the central body line when the swimmer rolls their body or turns their head to breathe. If you have a lane to yourself and it has a line down the center, consider using it as a guide.
Drills: Head Tap /// Zipper Drill
Today we’re working on keeping a low arm recovery. You want to avoid reaching high and tracing a rainbow with your hand. Keep a relaxed arm as you recover over the water. The main set focuses on a related skill. We use Head Tap drill to focus on reaching through the water on entry.
Drills: Catch-Up /// Hesitation
This workout focuses on stroke timing. When you see a swimmer effortlessly gliding across the pool, taking half as many strokes as everyone else, they probably have great stroke timing. Their lead hand stays extended while the other arm recovers over the water. We call this “Upfront” swimming.  The main set adds some speed, while practicing upfront swimming. Have fun!
Drills: 6 Beat Extension Kick
Today we are working on our kick. Even though you won’t kick hard during your race, developing a good kick technique is a good skill to have. It helps balance your stroke. In the main set, we practice kicking on our side. This skills helps develop good body rotation. Freestyle kick can be a slow endeavor for many swimmers. Stick with it!
Drills: Tarzan Swim
Today we’re working on your body position. This is the Essential Skill that can deliver the greatest improvements with the least amount of effort. Establishing a neutral body position can immediately reduce the amount of effort and increase speed at the same time. Experiment with various body positions during the Stroke Set. Maintain it under pressure in the Main Set. And practice it under race conditions in the Race Set. Have fun!
Drills: Head Tap
In today’s workout we’re focusing on how your hand enters the water at the beginning of each pull. A good pull starts with a good catch…and a good catch starts with a good hand entry. I see many beginner triathletes reach over the water before their hand enters. This is not good practice.
Drills: 6 Beat Extension Kick
Today we are working on the last phase of your underwater pull. This is important because it’s the part of the pull that adds the most momentum. “Squeezing” the water towards your thigh pushes you through the water. But it’s important that your lead hand is extended and ready to ride the momentum generated by the squeeze. Your triceps will get a workout here, so make sure they are stretched and ready to go.
Drills: Flick Water
This workout is designed to help you practice the full range of your underwater pull. It’s common for swimmers to terminate a pull too early by lifting their hands out of the water without fully extending their arm. The result is a shortened pull. It should be remembered that it’s the second half of the underwater pull that moves the swimmer through the water. Read the section on Pull in the Essential Swim Skills for Beginner Triathletes eBook, especially the comments on the “Push” and “Squeeze” phases. Have fun!
Drills: Zipper Drill
Today’s stroke work set focuses on your arm recovery. While this phase does not add anything to your forward momentum, it can dramatically change a swimmer’s underwater pull. Your hand’s entry will naturally follow the trajectory of the arm recovery, so having a compact recovery rather than swinging your hand wide and across the water is preferable. The main set includes some negative split 400s.
Drills: Catch-Up
In this workout, we focus on the timing of your freestyle pull, to make sure that you always have a leading hand catching water. We’re working on creating a smooth and efficient stroke. The main set includes some 100’s pull and swim. Then we finish up with a little backstroke, for fun. :o) This is an arm-intensive workout, so be sure to stretch well. Have fun and please remember to give me feedback on the workout.