3 Reasons Why Drills Matter In Swimming

Courtesy of Gary Hall Sr., 10-time World Record Holder, 3-time Olympian, 1976 Olympic Games US Flagbearer and The Race Club co-founder. 

1. Drills Isolate the problem

Once the problem is identified, the best way to fix it is to focus on it. There are simply too many complex movements going on in the act of swimming to enable one to think about one single movement or position of the body. For example, one of the best ways to learn to pull with a high elbow underwater (early vertical forearm position) is by doing one arm drill. Holding one arm in front, swim with one arm only, rotating from side to stomach, but focusing on the high elbow position as the single arm pulls through. It is much easier to grasp the concept swimming with high elbows, after practicing with each arm alone.

2. Drills help correct the problem

We are all creatures of habit. Once we develop a poor technique, it may be a challenge to ditch it. Even when we have discovered the right thing to do, we tend to gravitate back to old bad habits. A good example is head position. Most freestylers hold their heads too high, causing more frontal drag. The best way to correct this problem is by doing a 25 drill, sculling with the hands above the head in front, chin nearly on your chest, followed by a 25 freestyle swim with the head in the same down position. Doing a swim after any drill will reinforce the correct habit and help practice the correct swimming technique.

3. Drills help keep the problem corrected

While getting fit is important in order to swim fast, spending a few minutes at the beginning of each practice working on specific drills to help your weak points will help you become a better swimmer. Or devoting one extra 45-minute practice per week to just doing drills and drill/swims is another way to get faster. Correct technique requires that you not only know what to do, but that you build the stamina required to keep using the good technique throughout your swim. Some drills can help with both. One of my favorite workout sets is doing 10 x 25 yard high elbow sculls with fins as fast as you can and with short rest. This drill is difficult to do correctly, but helps build the strength and stamina to set up the correct underwater pull and to maintain it.

At our Race Club camps, we make certain that each drill has a purpose. Once a problem is identified, we repeat the drills over and over in order to correct it. By doing so, we help put each Race Club swimmer in a better position to improve. Here’s how to do a few of our favorite high elbow drills for common problems: http://www.theraceclub.com/aqua-notes/high-elbow-pull-freestyle-stroke/

Gary Hall, Sr.,  Technical Director and Head Coach of The Race Club (courtesy of TRC)

Gary Hall, Sr., Technical Director and Head Coach of The Race Club (courtesy of TRC)

Yours in swimming,

Gary Hall Sr.

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I’m a huge fan of Gary Hall Sr’s videos – I love the way he merges science/physics with swimming in an understandable format. Thank you for posting them!

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