The Zipper Drill: Enhancing Your Swimming Technique

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Swimming efficiently involves mastering various techniques that optimize your speed and reduce water resistance. Among these techniques, the zipper drill stands out as a fundamental exercise for swimmers looking to enhance their freestyle stroke. This article delves into the specifics of the zipper drill in swimming, its benefits, and how to incorporate it into your training regimen.

Understanding the Zipper Drill

The zipper drill is a swimming exercise designed to improve arm movement and body rotation in freestyle swimming. The name derives from the imagery of zipping up a jacket, which mirrors the arm motion in the drill. This exercise focuses on a high-elbow recovery, encouraging swimmers to keep their elbow pointed upwards as their hand exits the water and moves forward.

Benefits of the Zipper Drill

Improved Arm Technique: It teaches swimmers to lead with their elbow during the recovery phase of the stroke, which is crucial for an efficient freestyle technique.
Enhanced Body Rotation: By emphasizing one arm's movement at a time, the drill helps in developing a stronger and more balanced body rotation.
Reduced Drag: High-elbow recovery minimizes water resistance, allowing for a smoother and faster swim.
Better Breathing Technique: It aids in synchronizing breathing with the stroke, which is essential for maintaining rhythm and endurance.

How to Perform the Zipper Drill

Start Slowly: Begin by swimming freestyle at a slow pace, focusing on your arm movement.
High-Elbow Recovery: As one arm exits the water, keep the elbow high and close to the body, mimicking the motion of zipping up a jacket.
Touch and Glide: Lightly graze your side with your thumb as the arm comes forward, then extend it into the regular freestyle stroke.
Alternate Arms: Practice with one arm for a length, then switch to the other arm. Eventually, incorporate the motion into your regular swimming stroke.

Common Mistakes and Corrections

Overreaching: Avoid stretching your arm too far forward, which can lead to shoulder strain.
Low Elbow: Ensure your elbow remains higher than your hand during the recovery phase.
Rushing the Drill: Take your time with each stroke to fully engage the muscles and understand the movement.

Incorporating the Drill into Your Training

Warm-Up: Use the zipper drill as a warm-up to refine technique before high-intensity workouts.
Skill Sets: Include it in skill-focused sessions alongside other drills to enhance overall freestyle technique.
Regular Practice: Consistency is key. Regularly practicing the zipper drill can significantly improve your freestyle stroke over time.


The zipper drill is a valuable tool for swimmers seeking to refine their freestyle technique. It not only improves arm movement and body rotation but also contributes to a more efficient and faster swimming experience. Like any skill, mastering the zipper drill requires patience and consistent practice. Incorporate it into your training routine to experience its full benefits. Remember, the key to effective swimming lies not only in strength but also in the elegance and efficiency of your technique.

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