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Swim drills are exercises, of varying difficulty, focusing on a specific aspect of the swimming technique. Repeating this exercise lets you correct the movement, become aware of it, and then make it automatic so that it eventually no longer requires conscious effort (physical and/or mental).
As you are no doubt aware, if your goal (albeit an ambitious one) is to achieve the perfect swimming technique, then drills are part and parcel! Breathing, glide, propulsion, coordination… it can all be improved with drills!
With this month's focus being biceps, we will specifically be looking at the most effective drills to perfect your arm technique.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to work on your swimming skills!
1. Clenched Fist Crawl
This doesn't mean you have to fight with the water! The glide of your stroke and amplitude of movement still prevail.
This drill is an exercise based on the feeling of propulsion. Sensations in swimming are very important to feel the best possible push points against the water and use them to your advantage. The more water displaced, the greater your progress will be.
The aim of this drill is twofold: Firstly, it makes you use your forearms to compensate for the lack of catch. That's right. When swimming, your hands are not the only part of your body to propel you. Your forearms also play an important role in traction. - Secondly, by alternating clenched-fist and regular strokes, your sensations of traction and propulsion will be increased tenfold
But watch out because if you do this exercise too often you might just turn into an outboard motor!
2. Surface Crawl
This drill is a very effective exercise to perfect your aerial arm movement and is also very enjoyable to do.
Similar to the classic crawl movement, the difference lies in the aerial return phase of the arm where the tip of your fingers must brush the surface of the water. Your fingers should draw a straight line and never leave the water.
The first aim of this drill is to force your elbow to bend and rise above your head while relaxing your arm. The less the aerial return of your arms is over to the side, the less unbalanced your stroke will be and the better your alignment will be.
Beyond the purely technical aim of this drill, letting your fingers glide over the smooth surface of the water will be somewhat enjoyable and satisfying.
As this exercise focuses on relaxing the arms, take the opportunity to become aware of how the water feels against your skin, its soothing sound and the way you are gliding through it.
When something useful is also enjoyable and fun it makes it all the more satisfying. So make the most of it!
3. Catch Up Crawl
Well known by most swimmers, the catch-up crawl is a rhythmic exercise that can, at first, seem difficult.
The instructions are as easy as 1-2-3:
Swim the crawl but wait until the aerial return phase of your arm is finished before you begin the opposite movement. There must always be an immobile arm "in front", alternating between left and right each time. Much like in a relay, at the end of your right arm's cycle, your right hand must touch your left hand so that it can start, and so on.
The difficulty of this drill lies in the timing of the stroke and synchronising your arms with your breathing. There should be no pause when changing arms. The transition must be smooth and continuous. Breathing should be done at the end of the traction phase.
This drill helps isolate the movement of each arm so that you can more easily integrate the aerial and underwater phases of the crawl. Also, the obligation to touch your other hand with each movement helps maintain perfect alignment as you swim.
This exercise is a great all-rounder to practice. Whether you are a beginner or experienced swimmer, it helps perfect your technique in terms of coordination, breathing, alignment and propulsion.
It even has a beneficial effect on your legs and core strength, would you believe it!
4. Single Arm Crawl with Kickboard
"The crawl is already hard enough, and now you want me to do it with just one arm…“
Don't panic... Treat this drill as a challenge and you will succeed, you'll see!
This drill consists in taking your kickboard and swimming by kicking your legs, just as you would work on your legs. The difference lies in the position of the board. Instead of holding it lengthways, it will have to be used widthways.
Once you have started, you will move forward using only one arm. When the arm's aerial phase is about to come to an end, your hand moves under the board to extend the movement and prepare for the next cycle. Your head should remain raised throughout the exercise and your legs must keep kicking without stopping.
Like any good drill, it is energetic. You should, of course, change arms every 25 metres or 50 metres, as you see fit.
The strength of this drill is that it is like a "Swiss Army Knife" in terms of its versatility. Body alignment, propulsion, amplitude and aerial return are the technical points that will allow you to improve considerably.
Once again, this gives your core muscles and legs a serious workout so this drill is to be consumed without moderation!
5. Straight Arm Crawl
If you are imagining yourself doing this exercise and looking like a watermill then you wouldn't be far off…
Again, the rules are simple (the clue is in the title): swim the crawl with your arms straight!
This drill may seem easy given its name and its instructions, but in practice it is much less simple than it seems, believe me!
So when Simon says "Swim with your arms straight", you must, of course, swim with your arms straight—the whole time. This goes for when your arms are both in and out of the water!
You will notice that keeping your arms straight in the pull phase is no small task. However, you must work hard to efficiently roll your shoulders as well as focus on the trajectory of the movement in the water.
In addition to this, the straight-arm crawl drill will make you stronger and as a result gain amplitude!
So it's time to put on your swimsuit and pierce the surface of the water!
To get the most out of your drills, you must stay focused on your movement so that it becomes automatic. If you do the drill in a hurry, it will not be assimilated properly.
There is no point performing these types of exercises during all of your sessions. It is also important to alternate drills and full (normal) swimming to make use of the technical point in a real situation. One or two drills over short distances per training session is a good compromise.
Butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke swimmers don't fret! You will soon be getting the Top 5 drills for your speciality