Gary Hall: Swimming Myths Debunked (9)

Ten Swimming Myths Busted

Myth #9: All swimming drills are good for you.

I am a big believer in doing drills. In fact, if more swimmers spent a little more time doing drills and not worry so much about squeezing in another minute of aerobic fitness in, they might come out ahead. The biggest problem with drills is that too often they are being done without any real understanding of what they are supposed to be teaching. Drills should be done slowly, deliberately, correctly and with a specific purpose in mind. In fact, a drill should have only one purpose in mind. If one is trying to learn two things from one drill, neither one will likely sink in. Since there are no drill races that I am aware of, nearly all drills should be done slowly. Coaches often go to great lengths to explain how to do a drill properly, but then forget to mention what the drill is for. This is doing your swimmers a great disservice.

I also believe that following a drill with a swim is important. A swim immediately following a drill will reinforce what is being learned from the drill. It gives the swimmer a chance to practice what was learned without delay. If you wait ten minutes after a drill to start swimming, you may have already forgotten the point of it. At The Race Club, we like going 25 meters drill, followed by 25 meters swim. That seems to be enough time and space to do both effectively.

One of the reasons I love FINIS is that their equipment is ideally suited for drills. Using a snorkel, for example, to teach head down position, or the Agility Paddles to reinforce the high elbow position, make the drills more successful. The Alignment Kickboard to teach proper streamlining and the Tempo Trainer to teach higher stroke rate are both indispensable tools for learning these techniques.

Sometimes the drills that are being recommended actually teach you the wrong thing. For example, if you have no kick and you are trying to get faster by learning how to increase your stroke rate, then a catch-up drill may be doing you a big disservice. Or if I ever see anyone who has been told to flick water with their hand/wrist out the back end of their stroke, I kindly ask them to hit the delete button. Or what does sliding your fingertips across the surface of the water (finger tip drill) teach you that will help you swim faster?

All I ask is that you do some drills nearly every time you jump in the water, even if for warm up, and that you use the right tools (equipment) to reinforce the drill lesson. Finally, please understand what the drill is trying to teach you AND that the drill is designed for the technique you are trying to learn. Good drilling is all part of Swimming Smarter.

Yours in swimming,

Gary Sr.
The Race Club