Swimming drills

Single Arm with Kick Board

Using a Kick board to isolate one arm movement completely is very useful. Place one hand close to the centre of the KB then hold it on the surface of the water ahead of you while the other arm strokes. Your stroking arm should be able to enter the water beside the KB without touching it, so if your hand hits the KB simply move the hand on the KB a small amount. When your hand enters the water make sure that you rotate to the opposite side so you gain maximum extension, then point your hand down while keeping your elbow near the surface and above your hand. Then stroke through accelerating your arm through to your thigh.

Single Arm Swimming

The same as the above drill except you don’t use a KB. Still make sure you keep your non-stroking arm on the surface throughout the drill and follow the instructions as if you had a KB. This is a good drill for body rotation and catch.

Catch Up to Kick Board

Catch up is a drill related to single arm swimming. You’re effectively isolating each arm in turn, by Keeping the other arm still and fully extended on the surface of the water, effectively forcing you to keep your non stroking arm on the surface. You begin with both hands on the back edge of the board with your hands lightly placed on the left and right edges. Each arm takes a full stroke in turn, returning to the side of the board at the very back edge. The most important part of this drill is for the hand to leave the side of the board, not slip off the back. Then the hand should move down just enough to point to the bottom of the pool but with the elbow kept high, so the hand and forearm point backwards to some extent. From there you should be able to drive back effectively, accelerating your arm throughout the stroke.

Catch Up

Catch up is exactly the same as the previous drill, except there isn’t a kick board for your hand to rest on. The aim though is to do the drill precisely the same as if one was, so one arm strokes with the hand point to the bottom of the pool but with the elbow kept high before accelerating through the stroke and coming back to a position touching the other hand before the second arm strokes.

Finger Drag

Finger Drag is a very useful drill and is done as a full stroke drill, which means we don’t isolate any arm or leg movement. With this, each stroke is done completely normally but on the recovery stroke (the bit where your arm is above the water) the tips of your fingers are dragged lightly through the water. It’s important that the elbow stays high throughout the stroke and to do that you have to rotate to both sides. The elbow should lead the recovery, so your hand shouldn’t overtake your elbow until it reaches your shoulder. From that point you push your hand forward, still finger dragging with your elbow high, effectively leading with your forearm, placing your hand flat in the water so it’s directly in front of but below the level of your elbow, in line with your shoulder. This drill should be done with good control and at a slow speed.


This is a very simple drill which helps you get a good feel for the water. Instead of having your hands act as paddles you clench your fists and try to use the underside of your forearms to grab the water. You’ll be surprised how fast you manage to swim without your hands. When you re-introduce your hands you should have a better feel for the water. Make sure you use the underside of your forearm to firstly grab the water by keeping your elbow high before driving yourself forward by accelerating your arm backwards.


Zip up’s are a similar drill to finger dragging. Another full stroke drill, when your hand reaches the end of it’s propulsive phase at your thigh, you use an outstretched thumb to trace an imaginary zip up the side of your body, all the way to your arm pit. The arm then recovers straight and enters the water in line with your shoulder, remembering to keep your hand flat on the water but below your elbow.

Doggy paddle

Not what you used to do as a child, this drill is great to see and feel what’s going on with your stroke under water. Keep head out of water and still, shoulders stay under water and reach far forward and then start your catch, keep elbows high and push back. This drill develops thought about what makes a strong arm movement under water.

Kick on Side Arm Leading

There are many variations of this drill, youtube is a great place to see them.

This drill attempts to divorce your head movement from the movement your body makes when you swim, it also gets you used to rotating your torso independently of your head and helps with balance. In this drill you change sides every length or every ½ length. Place your lead arm that’s closest to the bottom of the pool outstretched with the hand on the surface of the water and the palm facing the down. The other arm is held flat against your body. You can use fins if your pool will allow them.

When you turn to breathe keep your ear against your shoulder.

 Variations 6/1/6 & 6/3/6 & 6/5/6 drills

These drills are simular in principle to the kick on the side drill. You kick on your side for 6 kicks then take one relaxed arm stroke through with your upper arm until you are on the other side.

6/3/6 is six kicks but you then take 3 full consecutive arm strokes.

6/5/5 drill is the same but 5 full arm strokes.

Try to breathe  after the arm strokes not during the stroke.

If you find yourself running out of air reduce your 6 kicks to 4 kicks.

Shoulder tap

The aim of this drill is to promote a high elbow recovery and to make you aware of hand entry (elbow above wrist, wrist above hand and point fingers) and inline with shoulder.

Think of spearing a fish!!!!

 In the recovery phase of your stroke tap your shoulder every stroke…this is also very good for body position and control; try to breathe every stroke as well to help with good body rotation.


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