The Most Transformative Swim Drill

This week, in Lanes 2-4, we feature my favorite drill, the six kick, one stroke drill using fins and a low-octane or bent-arm recovery. We use this drill in every camp for freestyle and backstroke, progressing to an 86 stroke rate for events 200 meters or longer. I love the drill because it is one of the few drills that teaches swimmers three important fundamentals, rather than just one. Most swimmers and coaches are familiar with this drill, but it is the way we do it that makes it different. First, we create an imaginary string rising up from the shoulders toward the sky. This imaginary string turns out to be very important in developing the most powerful coupling motion, body rotation. Second, we stop the swimmer’s arm at the top of the recovery, near the imaginary string, and have them dangle their hand which should be hanging below the wrist to confirm that the hand, wrist and arm are completely relaxed. We call this the magic of the relaxed wrist. Proficient swimmers relax their wrists naturally and unknowingly during the early recovery. Beginner swimmers and many triathletes have a hard time letting their hand, wrist and arm relax during the recovery. They look more like rigor mortis is setting in. By not chilling out on the early part of the arm recovery, the arms fatigue much faster. Just getting a mini-vacation on the way up, the arm’s muscles have a chance to regroup and get ready for another strong firing during the next pull. Third, this drill teaches swimmers to do the opposite of what many coaches teach them, which is to be gentle with the hand entry. Instead, we have them drive the hands down to the water aggressively, piercing the water with their stiffened hands, arms fully extended. Most swimmers are so paranoid about making air bubbles with their hand entry, they lay the hand slowly and delicately into the water. I call this action the modern toilet seat syndrome because the hand comes down like a toilet seat with a spring hinge on it. It is a common malady. Forget about air bubbles. By driving their hands hard to the water, swimmers increase the kinetic energy of this motion, which then increases the propulsion of their pulling arm (one arm must be pulling for this to work). This driving downward motion of the hand and arm also causes the body to rotate quickly, so swimmers get two powerful coupling motions with one single effort, particularly when the swimmers draw the elbows up to that imaginary string during the recovery.  By causing these two important fundamentals to happen with one motion, this drill may be the only one in our sport that offers a buy one get one free. I call the six-kick, one-stroke drill transformative. It turns non-swimmers into swimmers. It helps transform good swimmers into very good swimmers. I hope that you enjoy our webisode and will use this drill to improve your freestyle and backstroke technique.   Yours in Swimming,   Gary Sr.