2 Pull Drills for Faster Freestyle

Are you a frustrated back-of-the-pack (BOP) or middle-of-the-pack (MOP) swimmer? No matter how many yards you swim or how many sprint sets you do, is it difficult to move up in your triathlon swim pack?

More speed drills, more yards, and even tighter intervals aren't necessarily the answer. There is hope, but before building speed training into your swimming workouts, you should master your balance and technique. Speed work is futile if you do not have the right form.

You should be balanced front to back and side to side, meaning your lower half isn't inclined to sink and your strokes are even on each arm. Try kicking on your sides if you need help getting balanced.

Once you're balanced in the water, you're ready for speed.

There are two big things you can do in the water that will help lead to a faster freestyle: They both involve working on your pull. Try these two pull drills during your next workout.

#1) High Elbows

Swim several hundred yards each session just concentrating on keeping high elbows through your pull. Here's how it should feel:

  1. Slice your hand forward into the water. Be sure to keep it a bit to the outside of your middle line. Entering the water at the center point, by the top of your head, causes you to push against the oncoming water, making it more difficult to properly set up for the pull.
  2. Extend the arm forward as you rotate your hips, and as you breathe to the side.
  3. Bend your elbow as you begin the pull.
  4. Keep your pull to the outside. Again, you don't want to pull back in the middle towards your chest. As opposed to the "S" motion, think of it as pulling around a barrel. Keep your elbow high and close to the surface.
  5. Push the water back behind you towards your feet at the end, coming to just about a complete extension before lifting your elbow out of the water for the next recovery cycle.

#2) Deck-Ups

Another drill that can help you understand the pull, as well as improve your strength for swimming, is deck-ups. Swim to the side of the pool and put your hands on the pool deck. Pull yourself out of the pool and extend your arms. Try doing a set of 5 to 10 of these. Then start swimming again and concentrate on your pull. It should feel similar to how it felt pulling yourself out of the water.

When doing your deck-ups, if you put your hands too close together it's going to be very difficult. Move them a little past shoulder width, and you'll have a lot more leverage.

Again, pull drills won't help much if you don't first hone your balance in the water.

But if you're looking to move up in your pack, regroup and add high elbows and deck-ups to your workouts.

Active logo Fine-tune your freestyle at a swimming class.

Kevin coaches sessions for Masters swimming and triathletes in San Diego, and conducts a variety of clinics, private lessons and video-analysis of personal swim style with critique and correction. He has helped professional Ironman triathletes reach their goal, but his passion is to give the new triathlete the confidence to be successful in the swim portion of the race. He also runs the websites www.triswimcoachonline.com and www.triswimcoach.com, where you can find his products, including The Essential Triathlon Swimming DVD and The Complete Guide to Triathlon Swimming.

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