Improving your efficiency as a swimmer is one of the hardest parts of being a triathlete. Not because swimming is that incredibly hard, but because proper swimming is a skill-oriented exercise. All the fitness in the world won’t help you if only 5% of that strength is contributing to your forward motion in the water.
For many, learning to swim is the equivalent of learning a foreign language. What comes easily as a child – or perhaps after hundreds of thousands of yards in the pool – simply doesn’t process the same way for adults. Our muscle memory patterns are almost hard-wired, we don’t have the time to dedicate to training and, more often than not, our brains tend to get in the way of what our body wants to do.
We need short cuts, and we need them to be both simple to practice but to implement as well.
Here are two great exercises you can do to improve your triathlon swimming, and neither one of them requires a trip to the pool! Review and implement them consistently for a few weeks and your in-water experience will most certainly improve!
Swim Catch Drill / Exercise
The most elusive part of the swim stroke for the adult novice swimmer, the catch can take many years to properly master. Ultimately your goal is to “anchor” your hand and forearm in the water and move your body past that point. Finding this right point takes and incredible amount of patience and self awareness, making this dryland exercise very valuable.
Most beginner swimmers mistake any form of tension for the right thing, and tend to pull massive windmill stokes through the water. This shotgun approach is very ineffective and places a great deal of stress on your shoulder.
Instead, learn to position your body almost perpendicular to the bottom of the pool to “open” your shoulder and forearm for a much easier catch process. Watch the video here:
Swim Cord Drill / Exercise
Once you have upgraded your catch to “work in progress”, it’s time to add some actual work to the process. This can be achieved by using swim cords.
Following the same approach as in the first drill, you can position your body to extend at the catch. Then you engage your back muscles / lats and pull through. Be sure to reinforce the initiation of the pull using the (bigger, stronger) back muscles so you can work on bringing that into your pool stroke.
These cords are typically flexible tubing available from any swim catalog or also found online via medical supply companies (especially good for bulk orders). Watch the video here:
Finally, Fast Track Your Triathlon Swim: My friend Kevin Koskella, one of the best swim coaches for triathletes on the planet, has created a new online learning space where triathletes can improve their swimming through video tutorials, written guidance, coach support and feedback and much more. It’s called TriSwimSecrets, and for the next 14 days, Kevin is opening the doors to a select group of folks. If you want to learn more, or are even considering signing up, simply visit TriSwimSecrets here to see the first video.
This is an affiliate link, so I get some of the proceeds if you do decide to buy something. I definitely recommend this course if you’re looking to change your swimming for the better in 2010. Kevin’s one of the best and his new site is very impressive.
If you’d like to learn more about proper swimming, there are tons of online resources available out there. Each works slightly differently and some might fit you better that others, be sure to do all your research first…and good luck!
See you at the races!