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The 5 swimming drills every triathlete should practice

Sports — 29 august 2014

You either love them or hate them but if you want to improve your swimming for triathlon, there's no getting around swimming drills. They've got to be done! Check out the drills below.

Fingertip drag

Having a high elbow is essential to extend your reach and improve efficiency in the water. There are a few variations you can practise. One of the simplest is the fingertip drag. Let the tips of your fingers brush the top of the water as you reach forward with your recovery arm. You can also make it even harder by having your whole hand in the water.


Nothing reveals the magic power of your pulling hand better than trying to swim without it! For this exercise, swim with your fists clenched. This is a great drill to appreciate the role your forearms play. And when you then repeat using your hands as usual, you'll discover a new-found understanding of hand and forearm position.

Suunto ambassador Conrad Stoltz shows how it's done. © Berger


If you're looking to improve your swim technique, sooner or later you need to work on your rotation. This is a great way to get your body used to rolling from side-to-side. It also helps to keep your recovery hand close to your body. For this drill, roll on your side and run the thumb of your recovery arm – the one that's out of the water – from your hip, all the way up your side before placing. Can be used with fingertip drag as well.


In order to speed up, you need to slow down. Fewer strokes also means less energy expenditure, which is crucial in triathlon. This drill works on your reach to ensure you're getting the maximum power from your strokes. Instead of going straight from recovery into pull, let your recovery arm touch your other hand, and then reach forward before beginning the opposite pull. The goal is to make every stroke as long as possible. 


Oh yes, these are among the most feared and unloved exercises for swimmers but also some of the most important. In triathlon, your legs should do the bare minimum to save their strength for cycling and running. In fact you shouldn't look to get any propulsion from your legs. But you need them for good body position and to ensure they don't drag. One of the best drills is to use a kick board. Point your toes, kick from the hips and whatever you do, don't bend your knees.

All images © Berger