Swimming Exercises: Streamline, Stability, and the Power of Pull ups

Swimming Tips by Dan Daly

DALY Tip 1: This is #1 thing slowing most swimmers down!

It’s not your fitness, or the mechanics of your stroke, but the shape, form, and streamline of your body going through the water, frontal drag. Your entry, extension and glide are critical pieces to maximize efficiency and minimize effort. Focusing on the first two phases of the freestyle stroke can have a positive ripple effect through the rest of the phases, reduce drag and maximize your effort to swim faster through the water. 

Check out a few of these land and water drills to improve your position and streamline. 

  • Balance, streamline and buoyancy
  • Shoulder mobility 
  • Shoulder core and hip stability


DALY Tip 2: Common streamline mistakes

One of the biggest mistakes I see in stroke analysis is an efficient streamline off every wall.

A good streamline sets the tone for the lap, and reinforces body position and drag efficiency.

Check out these examples of common mistakes, with cues to think about to improve. 


DALY Tip 3: Your best stroke is a loaded and anchored catch with the body moving and rotating around it.

Here’s a few kettlebell drills that teach shoulder stability with hip and spine mobility. 

  • Windmill 
  • Bent Press


DALY Tip 4: Here’s a series of progressive pool drills and supporting dryland exercises to help you establish better streamline and efficiency through mobility and stability that improve balance and buoyancy.
  • Surface Push Offs
  • Foam Roll Lats
  • Side Kick with Fins 
  • Side Plank 
  • Side Kick 1 Stroke 
  • Armbars 
  • Single Arm Stroke 
  • Single Arm Dryland Cords 
DALY Tip 5: Balance and Buoyancy

Here are a few follow up drills to practice balance and buoyancy on the surface. These drills give you a sense of what it feels like to stay in the water and move through it between strokes. 

Surface Streamline - arms long and in line with the shoulders. Head between your arms. Eyes down, taught body line, long legs. Push off the wall at surface and glide as far as you can until you become upright, or run out of breath. 

Single Arm Streamline - same as above but one arm forward, one arm by your side, just like between strokes.

Surface Balance - attempt to lie flat and long at the surface of the water. Maintain a tight and long body line, feeling the water hold you up for a moment without momentum.

Dive and glide - from a dive streamline and glide as far as you can. One hand over the other, head between your arms, long body line, tight pointed legs. Notice your body rise as it slows, and continue to glide at the surface before rising upright. 

Surface Kicking - kick at the surface with your arms shoulder width part, head between your arms, eyes down. With or without a snorkel and fins.


DALY Tip 6:

With all the time spent swimming overhead, a smart pulling plan is essential for healthy shoulders, and a propulsive stroke. Try these horizontal pulling alternatives to give your shoulders a break.

  • Overhead supported 3-Point Row
  • Wall supported 1 arm row
  • Birddog Row
DALY Tip 7: Common streamline mistakes

Whether you’re trying to hone your 2-beat kick, or balance out left to right power on the bike and run, single leg training is essentially for developing the strength and coordination to swim, bike , run fast and efficiently.

Here’s a few examples that don’t require much equipment or setup.



DALY Tip 8:

The evidence is clear, strong pull-ups translate to a more propulsive stroke and a faster swim. Yet, pull-ups can be a challenge for many athletes. When’s the last time you were on a pull up program? Try these pull up progressions as a starting point for any ability. 

  • Band assisted pull ups from the knee 
  • Band assisted pull-ups from the foot 
  • Jumping pull ups with a slow descent 
  • Jumping pull ups

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