Tips & Advice

Improve your triathlon swim technique and body rotation

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Open-water swimming expert and triathlon swimming coach, Dan Bullock, reveals his tips and advice for improving your triathlon swimming – including how a round of swim golf can be a useful benchmark for technical and endurance improvements.

Chasing a ridiculously low stroke count can be a common goal in a group of stats-driven triathletes. However, it’s important to recognise that the lowest/highest number does not always win – sometimes consistency and the ability to repeat a certain average number yields greater progress. Not always does more/less of anything guarantee a greater economical result. More strokes, less strokes and staying on your side for longer doesn’t always translate to fast, sustainable swimming.

Yes, swimming is about a shift from one side to the other with the least amount of time spent in the flat ‘transition’ position preferred. But overdoing getting on to your side and gliding will not help. A lot of swimmers are often surprised when I ask them to reduce their degree of rotation, and that no, it’s not about fully getting onto your side. If you keep your head still and drive the lead arm forwards, it’s unlikely you will shift more than 45-degrees (think a flat stroke with the shoulders parallel to the surface). Drive the lead arm forwards and the trailing shoulder up to the surface and this will be about 45-degrees. Anymore and you’re likely to move your head, which has other repercussions.

Swimming can be extremely dull in the effort needed and the amount of repeats required to be able to reproduce the same movements over and over again with great accuracy. The key to swimming fast is not necessarily being able to swim faster – the hard part is not starting to swim slower as your race unfolds. Given the amount that water punishes us for mistakes, this is not easy. A streamlined profile is key to this, but so are propulsion and the limb movements that keep us moving forwards. Not too many strokes, not too few, not streamlined, but equally not too little.

Triathlon swimming training drill: Swim golf 

To help you get into the right mind set for repeating and performing the same movements over and over again, we have an interesting twist on swim golf. Swim golf is the addition of swim time to stroke count in order to record efficiency. A further twist is to maintain this score as rest reduces. Record your golf scores at the start of a training block and check again 8 weeks later. Can you hold a lower combined score? With less rest? Technical and endurance improvements will result in better scores on both counts.

The below exercise is fairly challenging, so start sensibly with an interval where you get 15 seconds rest, at least to start with. The total is 1000m, if swimming in a 25m pool. It is important to perform a sensible warm-up ahead of starting this more intense block of work. Consider this your main set and follow it with a cool down.

1) Swim 16×1 length freestyle, allowing 45 seconds for each length. In other words, you have 45 seconds to swim 1 length. Make it in 30 seconds and then take 15 seconds ‘recovery.’ If you achieve 30 seconds and 25 strokes over 1 length you score 55. Try to maintain whatever score you achieve for all 16 x1 lengths.

2) Swim 4 lengths recovery then continue straight into step 3.

3) Swim 12×1 length freestyle, allowing 40 seconds for each length. In other words, you have 40 seconds to swim 1 length. Make it in 25ish seconds perhaps and then take 15 seconds ‘recovery.’ An aim could be for 25 seconds and 22 strokes over 1 length (i.e. a golf score of 47 or under on each length). Whatever the score, aim to maintain this throughout.

4) Swim 4 lengths recovery then continue with step 5.

5) Swim 8×1 length freestyle, allowing 35 seconds for each length. In other words, you have 35 seconds to swim 1 length. Make it in 25ish seconds and then take 10 seconds rest. Maintain the previous golf scores with less rest.

6) Swim 4 lengths recovery then continue with step 7.

7) Swim 4×1 length freestyle, allowing 30 seconds for each length. In other words, you have 30 seconds to swim 1 length. Try for 25ish seconds and then take 5 seconds rest. Not easy but try to maintain your lowest score with the least rest.

Use the swim golf swimming exercise as part of your triathlon training to improve your technique and endurance, and don’t forget to check your progress regularly so you can make a note of how you’re improving. For more open water swimming and triathlon tips, visit our news, tips and technique section. 

 

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