How Swimming Drills Help You Become A Faster, Stronger, and More Efficient Triathlete

Whether you are just getting started with swimming or you’ve been swimming for years, improving your stroke technique is essential.

Incorporating drills into your workouts helps you swim faster, get a better workout, burn more calories, reduce your chance of injury, and of course have more fun in the water!

Swimming is a complicated and technical sport. It’s a full-body exercise that requires you to use various parts of your body in different ways simultaneously—all in an environment that makes you constantly fight resistance.

And with so many different components to consider all at once, swimming drills are one of the fastest ways to see improvements in your swimming. But they’re also challenging because they require commitment, focus, and mental capacity.

In this article, you’ll learn what exactly swimming drills are, why they’re important, and how they can help you reach your swimming potential.

What Are Swimming Drills?

A drill is an exercise done specifically to help your swimming technique. It’s usually a modified version of one of the four competitive strokes (butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, or freestyle). A drill is designed to help you focus on a specific part of the technique, like your arm position, kicking, or breathing.

On a fundamental level, swimming drills are a set of motions that focus on particular strokes, swim skills, or muscle groups.

They’re designed to break down your strokes and skills into individual components which you can target and improve to create a better holistic result.

Swimming drills also focus on improving key aspects of your form to help you to be more streamlined as you move through the water.

By intentionally building better strokes, your swimming will become smoother, stronger, and more efficient.

How Do Swimming Drills Help You Improve?

Isolating and Strengthening Specific Muscles

Some swimming drills serve to isolate specific muscles or muscle groups that play key roles in your overall swimming strength.

For instance, some swimming drills isolate your legs to create better kick strength while others focus on building greater upper body strength—particularly in those smaller, lesser-used muscle groups that are so vital to you as a swimmer.

Identifying and Correcting Bad Habits

Swimming drills help you to:

  • Identify areas for improvement
  • Correct bad habits and poor technique
  • Maintain good habits rather than reverting back to unwanted ones 

Becoming a stronger swimmer is a constant work in progress that requires consistency on an ongoing basis. Regularly incorporating swimming drills into your training sessions helps you to improve and maintain these gains.

Making You Faster and More Efficient

  • Aerobic: The word “aerobic” means “with oxygen.” Essentially, you can think of this as endurance training that helps you swim farther distances and for longer periods at a lower level of intensity.
  • Anaerobic: The exact opposite of aerobic, “anaerobic” means “without oxygen.” Anaerobic training focuses on short bursts of effort at really high-intensity levels. The benefit of anaerobic training is that it helps set the bar higher for the distance you can swim at lower levels of effort.

By mixing in swimming drills that focus on both short, hard bursts of effort as well as others that you practice at slower paces over longer distances, you’ll increase your overall swimming capacity, efficiency, and speed.

Making It All Instinctive

Swimming drills create neural pathways in your nervous system that help make the movements and motions of swimming instinctive rather than something you have to consciously think about with every stroke.

What Types of Things Do Swimming Drills Focus On?

There are many different swimming drills that you can use to improve various aspects of your strokes, form, and technique.


Many swimming drills focus on strengthening your swim kicks or making them more efficient, helping you propel yourself through the water more quickly.

Body Position

Your body position is incredibly important when you’re swimming. There are many swimming drills available to help you dial in your body position to help you move faster and more smoothly with less exertion.

Arm Stroke

The arm stroke is a complex cyclical movement and is the driving force of our power and propulsion in swimming. Drills focused on the arm stroke allow us to break down the stroke movement into each individual phase, and perfect those phases in isolation.


It takes full body strength to be a great swimmer and there are swimming drills that can help you strengthen every one of your swim-specific muscle groups.


Many swimming drills are designed to help boost your endurance over time, allowing you to swim farther and for longer periods without fatigue.


Your breathing is one of the most fundamental components of your swim. It’s virtually impossible to become a strong swimmer if you’re not comfortable and proficient with breathing while in the water. Practising swimming drills focused on breathing will help you improve more quickly than almost anything else.

With so many options available, it’s a smart choice to do targeted swimming drills based on the goals you’re hoping to achieve and the improvements you’d like to make.

Are Swimming Drills Better Than Just Laps?

While swimming laps are extremely valuable, it doesn’t necessarily serve to help improve your technique, which is ultimately the key to becoming a stronger swimmer.

Drills help you hyper-focus on and improve specific aspects of your technique which is especially if you’re looking to improve a skill or reach a goal.

What Kind of Equipment Do You Need for Swimming Drills?


43,004 Swimming Goggles Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty ...

Look for high-quality goggles that fit your face optimally to avoid distracting and frustrating leaks.


Swim Fins, HD Png Download - kindpng

These are used to help build your leg strength and make your swim kicks more efficient. They also help us keep our body position with much less effort in our kick, allowing us to completely slow down the stroke movement so we can hone in on that technical focus.


How to use a kickboard to improve your swim technique - 220 Triathlon

This is used to isolate and strengthen your legs during your triathlon swim training.

Pull buoy

Swim Training Tips - The Pull Buoy - The Rookie Triathlon

You’ll use this to remove your legs from the equation and strengthen your vital upper body muscles by swimming only with your arms. Pull buoys also assist in maintaining proper body position, keeping the lower body effort with less effort.


1 Pair Hand Paddles for Swimming Swim Paddles with Adjustable Straps Power Strength Training Aid Pool Exercise Equipment Accessories for Adults Kids Children Unisex (Black) : Sports & Outdoors

Hand paddles help strengthen your upper body by stopping the flow of water through your fingers.


Swimmer's Snorkel: Really Focus on Swimming Technique

Unlike the traditional type, snorkels for swimming drills go up and in front of your face rather than out to the side. When you do swimming drills with a snorkel, you don’t have to worry about turning or lifting your head to breathe. Instead, you can focus on the head position body position, catch, and rotation without interruption.

Tips to Become Successful with Swimming Drills

Be Patient

When you’re doing your swimming drills, a good philosophy is to go slow so you can go fast. Sometimes you’ll need to go slower than you’re used to to do your swimming drills properly. But by slowing down, focusing on technique, and making sure every motion is dialled in, you’ll ultimately find yourself swimming faster, stronger, and more efficiently.

Follow a Plan

The most effective way to improve your swimming is to follow a training plan that focuses on working through swimming drills in a strategic way that will help you get better over time.

Don’t Make It “One-And-Done”

Adopt the mentality of a lifelong learner. Getting better at a swimming drill doesn’t mean you can stop working on it for good. Becoming a stronger swimmer requires consistent and ongoing focus and effort rather than a “one-and-done” mentality.

Drills will come with a specific complementary focus, and maintaining the drilling focus is just as important as the performance of the drill.

15 Tips to Help You Become a Better Swimmer

1. Relax.

You should feel and look pretty relaxed when you swim. If your arms are moving like crazy all the time, you could probably benefit from some swimming drills. Try the “catch up” drill to slow things down.

2. Embrace Youtube.

Watch videos of elite swimmers or proper technique drills and see it all in action.

3. Film yourself.

Get videoed yourself and see what exactly you are doing, we all think we are the perfect swimmer and doing just what we should but when you actually see it you will be able to recognize your flaws. Film yourself or consult a professional who can do this and point out mistakes in your technique.

4. Attend a swim clinic.

Get valuable stroke technique advice and meet other like-minded people as determined as you to improve their swimming.

5. Goggles.

Go to a good swimming shop and ask to try a few different shapes and sizes of goggles. They are all shaped a little differently and some fit specific faces better than others. Hold a pair to your eyes and let the strap fall loose in front of you. Push them slightly into your face, and a good-fitting pair of goggles will stay put for a couple of seconds before coming loose.

6. Wear a swim cap.

Swim caps can make you more streamlined and keep your hair out of your eyes but will also help protect it from the effects of chlorine and salt.

7. Buy a lap counting watch.

Free yourself up from the drudgery of counting laps and even strokes to allow yourself to concentrate on technique.

8. Polyester is your friend.

A good chlorine-resistant swimming costume is a must, lycra perishes in chlorine so look for a 100% polyester or PBT fabric. They will outlast others considerably and no one wants a saggy bottom.

9. Fins.

Short swim fins can help you achieve an efficient kick and avoid crossing over your feet. They can also improve ankle flexibility. They are also a must for technique drills as they will keep you moving through the water with minimal effort so you can concentrate on body position, rotation, and arm and head motion.

10. Paddles.

Swim paddles can increase arm strength but be careful not to overuse and strain muscles.

11. Increase endurance.

The best thing you can do to increase your endurance is to perform workouts with short rests between intervals. Try doing something as short as 6 x 1 lap with 5 seconds rest between and build it up.

The goal of intervals is to enable you to swim longer distances while maintaining proper stroke. If you start out in poor shape and attempt to increase your endurance by swimming long distances without rest your stroke will deteriorate and you’ll get much less out of the workout. Is it good for you? Yes, better than nothing but intervals will see you improve much more quickly.

12. Increase strength.

Turn a swim into a strength workout by adding strength work at the end of the lap. Swim 100m sets and instead of resting between sets do 10 vertical pushups. Keep your legs in the water and place your hands flat on the poolside shoulder width apart. Raise yourself up so your arms straighten, do 10 reps and straight into your next swim set.

13. Sustain your speed.

Try a reduced rest workout, and swim sets but decrease your rest by 5 seconds for each interval. Try for one more each time you do it.

14. Work on your efficiency.

The goal of this is to be more efficient in the water, you’ll need to work on covering more distance per stroke without getting any slower. Easier said than done, so try on shorter sets to start with.

15. Heart Rate will be lower when swimming.

When swimming your heart rate will be lower than it is when running or cycling even if you are putting out the same effort. This is because you are horizontal, supported by the water, cooled by the water and also because of the “dive reflex” which is a neurological response to immersion in water. It can be around 13% lower than on land- something like 17bpm.

Final Thoughts

Don’t give up! When you first start at practice, you will feel exhausted and dead because swimming is so good for you and your body isn’t this used to it. Give it time. It may take 6 months to actually start feeling great at practice, but you just have to give it time.

Swimming makes you live longer! The more you swim, eat right and avoid smoking, the longer you’ll live, according to two studies of more than 355,000 people. You may add as many as 10 years to your life, says heart disease researcher Jeremiah Stamler, M.D., of Northwestern University in Chicago.




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