Being a beginner swimmer is definitely not easy.

Where do I start? How do I do it? It seems much harder than it looks. How come?

These are just a few questions I get asked all the time.

As I discussed on many occasions, swimming is not as simple sport as it may seem.

Sure, what is there to it, just go back and forth between two walls.

However, in reality, the swimming motions are actually quite complex and very difficult to master.

It is quite complicated to learn a stroke (be it butterfly, breaststroke, freestyle or backstroke) without breaking it down to specific swimming drills.

This means isolating one or two aspects of a stroke and zooming in your focus.

However, this brings another dilemma. Which drills should I do? What are they good for?

As you already guessed, drills are an essential aspect of swim training and any competitive swimmer can give you a list of their favorite and least favorite swimming drills.

While putting in the yardage/kilometers is certainly essential to becoming a better and faster swimmer, training your mind and body to perform the strokes properly is even more important.

Swimming is a sport of practice and patience.

Dedicated swimmers must spend hours and hours in the pool each week training their bodies to perform their strokes in the most efficient, most powerful, and safest way possible.

To help them, swim coaches use different drills to deconstruct strokes for their swimmers. By deconstructing the strokes and focusing on each essential movement using different drills and techniques, swimmers can learn a specific aspect of the style much better.

When mere hundredths of a second stand between you and your best time or the swimmer in the lane next to you, every movement you make in the water counts and every technique glitch you encounter can harm your performance.

More importantly, performing a stroke the wrong way can be harmful to your health as joints get pressure in the wrong places etc.

Without further ado, here is a list of a drill for every style which could be useful to you.

Fingertip Drag Freestyle

Fingertip drag drill
Fingertip drag helps you relax your arm

Freestyle is the fastest and most used stroke in swimming. I'd bet my goggles that the majority of your workout happens in freestyle.

Imagine how many strokes per year that can be. Hundreds of thousands.

So, an incorrect posture or placement during freestyle can lead to serious injuries.

The fingertip drag drill is one of the more straightforward and simple drills to master.

While swimming freestyle, keep your relaxed fingertips grazing the surface of the water as you take your stroke.

By forcing yourself to keep the tips of your fingers on the surface of the water during the peak of your stroke recovery, you are helping yourself to master the correct high elbow and body position of the freestyle stroke.

This drill will also help you refrain from "slapping" the water with your hands thus catching a lot of bubbles under the palm. For the best results in freestyle, the fingertips should enter the water almost splash free and be relaxed throughout the entire recovery cycle.

Often we hear coaches telling their swimmers during this drill to put their fingers into their armpit.

This is just silly. Nobody swims by putting fingers in the armpit.

This position is very unnatural and the swimmers have to twist their hand to even reach the armpit.

Instead, drag your relaxed fingertips through the water next to your body.

If you'd extend your thumb towards your body, it still wouldn't touch it, there should be about a 10 cm gap between your extended thumb and your shoulder when they pass each other.

Another important aspect of the fingertip drill is to make sure that you lead with your elbow and not your hand. So your elbow leaves the water first pulling the relaxed fingertips with it.

At the peak of the stroke recovery, your hand with your fingers should just dangle down pulled by gravity towards the water.

One Arm Backstroke Drill

Keep one arm by the body and one arm swimming (not straight though)
Keep one arm by the body and one arm swimming (not straight though)

What many swimmers do not realize is that backstroke and freestyle share many of the same drills and mechanisms when you swim them.

Both are longitudinal strokes, working on the same axis. For these reasons, your body position and movement from side to side should be almost the same for both freestyle and backstroke.

One of the biggest issues with backstroke for swimmers is timing and the one arm backstroke drill helps swimmers with just that.

You can perform three strokes on your back with your right arm while your left arm is relaxed at your side and underwater.

You want to be almost on your side in the water when you are taking the three strokes.

Though the stroke is called backstroke, it is important that you understand that you should almost never be completely flat on you back in the water.

You need to spend an even amount of time on each side, even though you only swim with one arm.

After you take three one armed strokes with your right arm, you then immediately do three normal backstroke strokes using both arms.

Next, you put your right arm relaxed at your side and do three back strokes with your left arm.

You should repeat this three-step process over and over. Or any number of combinations, for example, one length of the pool left arm, on the way back the right arm.

There are many variations of this drill to keep the drill interesting, one variation uses the stroke count where you could swim one with left arm, two with the right arm, three with left arm, two with the right arm, one with left arm etc.

I am sure you can come up with your own fun way to vary this drill.

The one arm backstroke drill will force you to concentrate on your body position while you pull underwater and will help you slow down your stroke movement.

By doing a one arm pull, you can feel the strength of you pull and focus on ways to achieve optimal catch in the water with your hand and more importantly forearm.

Also, do not forget that your backstroke hip rotation is the product of your hips guiding the way.

Your shoulders are not what rotates you from side to side. So always lead your rotation first with your hip and then the rest of your body will follow.

Double Kick Breaststroke

streamline during the breaststroke double kick drill
streamline during the breaststroke double kick drill

Breaststroke is often one of the most difficult strokes for swimmers to master properly.

Correct timing and body position are essential aspects of figuring it out.

One of the most common mistakes that swimmers make with breaststroke is timing when to take a breath and when to kick.

During the double kick breaststroke drill, you should perform the breaststroke the way you normally would, however, do two breaststroke kicks one after the other. This will give you enough time to think about the timing.

While you are gliding after each kick, your arms should be tight in the streamline position and your head should be down facing the ground.

Also, make sure your body is fully submerged and you are parallel with the swimming pool bottom holding your streamline. Try to refrain from too much up and down motion during the kick.

Also, you can play with the positioning of your kick, so you find the most efficient kick with the least resistance.

On top of the timing help, doing two kicks in a row forces you to draw out your breathing process in the stroke. This is great aerobic training and is a good way to get you to breathe at the appropriate time during your stroke.

Furthermore, the breaststroke kick is one of the most powerful kicks in the water.  By performing two kicks, you are forced to concentrate on finishing the entire kick and getting the most power you can out of it.

Don't forget to squeeze your ankles all the way together with each kick.

This drill is a wonderful way to help you recognize the power of your kick and master the timing of your breathing for the stroke.

Pulse for Butterfly

Keep arms shoulder width apart for butterfly pulse drill
Keep arms shoulder width apart for butterfly pulse drill

Butterfly is also one of the more difficult strokes to truly master.

There are several positioning and timing tricks that can be hard to get a hold of for beginners or intermediate swimmers.

As with breaststroke, one of the most important aspects of swimming butterfly is mastering timing and body position.

The pulsing drill is a little bit trickier than some of the other drills I've described here.

First, start by floating on your stomach with your arms out in front of you in a "superman" position. This means that arms should not be tight together in a streamline position, but instead with hands about shoulder length apart.

Your face should be looking down in the water and your ankles should be squeezed together, but not tense.

The pulsing drill works just as it sounds — you will pulse up and down using your core and sternum to move forward. Press your chest down towards the bottom of the pool while keeping your hands at the same water depth as before.

When you do this your butt should go up some in the air and your arms should come further apart from one another (holding the same horizontal plane though).

Then press your hips down towards the bottom of the pool, this causes your chest to come up some and your arms to move together again.

It is at this time that you should peak your head up for a breath. When doing the pulse drill, you do not need to breathe with every pulse though.

Essentially, you will be doing a butterfly kick and body movement without doing the arm pulls.

The slight up and down movement of your body should very slowly propel you forward.

The pulsing drill also simulates the body movement that you should perform while swimming breaststroke. You can do this exact same drill to master the body motion and breathing pattern for breaststroke as well.

The butterfly pulsing drill is one of the most important lessons to learn for the latitudinal strokes (breaststroke and butterfly).

This drill is best performed with the swimmer's snorkel.

Don't let the breathing confuse you. Instead, worry about the right rhythm of pulses.

Also, do not worry about going forward too much. When you get it right, you will move forward inch by inch.

With that in mind, try not to kick with your legs. Let your legs just follow the wave of your body initiated by your sternum and hips.

Lastly, during the chest press down motion, don't think that your head has to go with it. Keep the back of your head right at the surface and push the chest down, so in other words, make sure your neck is relaxed :).

Hope this was helpful. Don't be shy about leaving a comment below about your favorite drill.

Swim Advice Topics

The Most Useful Drill for Each Stroke is part of the following categories: Drills-Tips, Freestyle, Backstroke, Breaststroke, Butterfly

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