Swim Drills for Triathletes: Enhancing Performance in the Water

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Triathlons are demanding events that require proficiency in swimming, cycling, and running. For many triathletes, the swim leg is the most challenging part. It's not just about endurance, but also technique, efficiency, and speed. This article focuses on swim drills specifically tailored for triathletes, aiming to improve their performance in the water. By incorporating these drills into your training routine, you can enhance your swimming technique, build endurance, and gain a competitive edge.

Importance of Swim Drills for Triathletes

Swimming in a triathlon presents unique challenges compared to pool swimming. Open water conditions, navigating in a crowd, and conserving energy for subsequent legs of the race are critical aspects that triathletes must consider. Swim drills help triathletes focus on specific aspects of their technique, develop muscle memory, and improve overall swimming efficiency.

Drill 1: Catch-Up Stroke

The Catch-Up Stroke drill focuses on enhancing stroke length and timing. This drill involves pausing each arm at the front of the stroke until the other arm catches up. It helps in improving stroke efficiency and encourages a balanced, streamlined position in the water.

Drill 2: Side-Kick Drill

This drill is designed to improve body rotation and balance. Triathletes swim on one side, with one arm extended forward and the other along the body, kicking for several strokes before switching sides. The Side-Kick Drill enhances the ability to rotate smoothly, an essential skill for efficient swimming.

Drill 3: Fist Swimming

Fist Swimming involves swimming with clenched fists. This drill heightens the feel for the water and encourages the swimmer to use their forearms more effectively during the pull phase of the stroke. It's excellent for developing strength and improving propulsion.

Drill 4: 3-3-3 Drill

The 3-3-3 Drill involves swimming three strokes with one arm while the other arm rests at your side, then taking a breath and switching arms for the next three strokes. This drill enhances unilateral breathing technique and stroke coordination, both crucial for open water swimming.

Drill 5: Zipper Drill

The Zipper Drill focuses on improving body alignment and reducing drag. It involves visualizing zipping up a wetsuit from hip to armpit with each stroke. This encourages a high elbow recovery and helps maintain a straight line through the water.

Drill 6: Bilateral Breathing

Practicing bilateral breathing (breathing on both sides) is vital for open water swimming. This drill helps in maintaining balance, improving oxygen efficiency, and preparing for variable conditions in open water, like waves and sun glare.


Incorporating these swim drills into your training routine can significantly improve your performance in the water, particularly for the swim leg of a triathlon. By focusing on technique, efficiency, and specific skills required for open water swimming, triathletes can gain an edge over their competitors. Remember, consistency is key. Regular practice of these drills will lead to noticeable improvements in your swimming capabilities.

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