Drills are a fundamental part of swim training. Because water is so thick, we have to constantly work on our form and technique to ensure we are travelling as efficiently as we can. Drills can be incorporated alongside full stroke as part of steady aerobic sets, as parts of warm ups and cool downs or even as part of a recovery from harder swims. They make you stay on point with your stroke (provided you’re focusing on making those habits stick!), there is NO reason not to do them!
One of the most common issues within athletes’ strokes that I see is a cross over pull – i.e. hands coming across under the body and causing the body to snake around. This tends to happen for one of 3 reasons:
Core not being engaged – this either means that the hips will be low or that the shoulders are doing all the work. Either way you lose a lot of control and as a result, power!
Hands swinging round the sides – as we have mentioned before, a straight arm recovery isn’t a problem. But if your arms come out and round the sides rather than up and over, then where you put your hands in becomes much more variable or out of control.
Extending from the shoulder and allowing the hand to cross over the centre line – if you can keep a straight line between your hip, shoulder and hand, things will stay a lot more controlled, minimising lateral movement.
Catch up is a great drill to sort out all of these problems. By always having a hand out in front of your head it helps engage your core and keeping your posture super strong. Because you have to focus on good rotation (otherwise its difficult to get your hands out of the water) your arms will recover higher and enter more in line. And because you have the opposite hand in front you can’t cross over the centre line on entry.
Why Do It:
Doing the catch up drill has many different benefits to it:
1) Improves length of stroke.
2) Helps maintain posture and core rigidity.
3) Focus on engaging pressure on the water on your hands and forearms right at the very front of your stroke.
4) Making sure that you’re pull is symmetrical, balanced.
How To Do It:
1. Start with a standard streamline push off, and keep your thumbs together.
2. Take a stroke with your right arm, keeping your left arm out in front of you.
3. As your right hand recovers stretch it forward to meet your left hand out in front.
4. Repeat with the left hand, and continue.
Catch up Drill
How To Do It Really Well:
If you swim the catch up drill slowly, you can think through each of the focus points of the drill. By making sure you meet thumb to thumb at the front end, you can get the maximum out of your stroke length. This doesn’t mean that when you swim you have to have a glide (though for some that works!), but you’ll be able to travel a bit further per stroke, and gain better leverage. Also by having both arms stretched out in front, you pull your core and glutes in tight, which will minimise drag and help your body flow through the water better. As you pull each time, you can focus on really feeling the pressure of the water on your hands and forearms; as we have discussed before, this is what will help you move forwards. And finally, if you keep your head still then you can watch your hands come through under your nose, and replicate the same action on both sides. If you really want to make sure you keep your head still, you can always invest in a front mounted snorkel. This isn’t a complete necessity though!
Cross Over the Centerline/Wide Entry
Swim a length where you deliberately let your hands cross the centerline. Did you wiggle? Did you notice a loss of power…or that crossing over took more effort? Now swim a length where you enter the hands wide – outside the shoulders. What do you notice?
If you have trouble entering wide, swim half a length of “water polo” freestyle, with your head out of the water. You can see exactly where your hands are entering, and can keep the entry outside the shoulders.
After half a length with your head out, put your head in and keep swimming, but with the hands entering just outside the shoulders. Notice how the wider entry sets you up for a high-elbow catch, and helps you put the power at the front part of your stroke.
Take your time with this – as with any drill. The point is that drills are there to make you smoother, stronger, more efficient. Make sure you hit all those target points!
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here!
Distance per stroke is a commonly used phrase with swimming and triathlon. But many athletes don’t fully understand what it means.
When swimmers see DPS, they immediately think, “Oh, that means that I should just extend my arm more and glide more.” While you will go farther doing this, you are making two critical errors.
Firstly, by extending through your shoulders. You are not only straining your shoulders, you are also not reaching as far as you could.
The key to DPS is understanding that it is primarily a rotational drill. To extend to your fullest, you should rotate your hips while extending forward. By doing so, you will get at least two inches farther and thus have a more efficient stroke. You should be aiming for a straight line from your hip to your elbow and on to your hand.
Secondly, swimmers like to glide because they feel that they will get the most distance. When you glide however, you are slowing down and creating a dead zone in front of you. If you are in a strong current, you will actually move backwards. When practicing DPS, therefore, do not slow down and glide.
Instead, after rotating and extending, start your high elbow pull in a controlled fashion and drive forward rotating and extending with the other hip. Then repeat the catch and pull on the other side. Your hands should almost always be in motion – just not necessarily at the same speed.
Finally, the biggest thing that will have an impact on the distance you travel for each stroke: anchoring on the water. If your hands slice through the water like a knife through butter, it really doesn’t matter how far you reach or rotate. Focus on engaging your hands and forearms on the water to press it back behind you – as a result you will travel further and faster every single time.
Next time you see DPS on your workout be sure to a) extend through rotation, b) don’t emphasize the glide, and c) focus on extension from the front all the way to the back of your stroke. By focusing on those three points, you will be faster and more efficient for it.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here! Remember, you can always get your swimming reviewed in the endless pool with our video swim analysis packages.
If a new runner wants to get faster, what’s the best way to improve on their race times? Surprisingly, beginners should not focus on difficult workouts or faster paces during easy runs. These training strategies have their place, but new runners are most limited by two factors:
1. Endurance is low since they haven’t been running for long.
2. Injury risks are high.
So to improve, beginners must maximise their endurance while limiting their risk of injury – two goals that are often at odds with one another. After all, the best way to increase endurance is to run more mileage. But mileage increases are the most common time period for injuries. Therefore, it’s critical to build endurance in a safer, less risky manner.
Two strategies can be used by beginners to both boost endurance and limit injury risk so they can continue improving.
Train the Heart Without Damaging the Legs
Running is a contact sport—there’s no doubt about it. It’s your legs versus the ground and those impact forces are what damage muscles and connective tissues. A little damage is a good thing because this is what prompts your body to adapt and get stronger. But too much damage without enough recovery can cause injuries.
This risk can be virtually eliminated by alternative aerobic exercise—also known more simply as cross-training. There are two types of exercise that give runners many of the same aerobic benefits of running but with none of the damaging impact forces: aqua jogging and cycling.
Aqua running and cycling are the preferred types of aerobic cross-training for runners because they’re more specific to running itself—they challenge your body in similar ways and most of the fitness gains are transferrable to running. While you should never expect cross-training to replace running, it can greatly enhance your training efforts and increase endurance with very little injury risk.
Run Consistently by Reducing the Risk of Injury
Even though higher and higher mileage weeks often cause injuries for new runners, there are ways to mitigate this risk to ensure you’re still getting in great shape while staying healthy. First, make sure you’re increasing mileage at a conservative rate. You may have heard of the 10 Percent Rule, but new runners should limit their mileage increases to about 2-4 miles every other week. That means some weeks your mileage won’t increase at all—and that’s ok! Your body takes time to adjust and adapt to new training stresses.
Learning how to increase mileage is one of the best skills a runner can develop, after all. Even with slow, gradual jumps in distance, runners can often succumb to injuries if they run those miles too quickly or lack strength. It’s critical to build “armour” that helps protect you from overuse injuries—and you do that with a strong dose of strength workouts. Running fast too often puts an unnecessary burden on the muscles, bones and joints and doesn’t allow the body to recover sufficiently – and this fatigue along with a lack of strength means that injury is more likely.
These exercises are classics—and for good reason! They’re compound, multi-joint exercises that train movements, not muscles. They’ll help beginner runners move more efficiently and develop the strength necessary to handle the rigours of running more and more mileage.
Most new runners simply don’t do enough strength training and the results are often injury or chronic aches and pains that derail consistent training over a long time period. It’s this consistency—what I call the “secret sauce” to successful running—that builds monster endurance over the long-term. By injecting a healthy amount of aerobic cross-training and strength training, runners will not only dramatically increase their endurance in the short-term, but will gradually build stamina over the long-term by consistent, injury-free training.
As always, I encourage your comments, experiences, and questions about cadence and technique in the comments section. See what’s up next week for our #RunFormFriday tip! For more in depth understanding on how to put this into practise, get in touch and we’ll see how we can help!