100 More Swimming Drills - Blythe Lucero - ebook

100 More Swimming Drills ebook

Blythe Lucero



To swim better, we have to swim more efficiently. While good technique is the foundation of efficient swimming, it is difficult to achieve by simply swimming lap after lap. Ongoing stroke problems leave many people feeling unrewarded. Therefore, swimming drills are a fundamental and ongoing element of practice at all levels of the sport. Following the successful book 100 Best Swimming Drills, swimming coach Blythe Lucero has compiled another collection of the most effective swimming drills in 100 More Swimming Drills. The purpose of each drill is clearly defined so a swimmer can focus on a specific goal while practicing. Each drill is explained step by step. Drill Feedback Charts are included to help swimmers identify problems and make modifications. Underwater and surface photographs give swimmers optimal images to emulate as they practice. 100 More Swimming Drills is an excellent resource for coaches and swimmers at any level in the quest for better swimming.

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BLYTHE LUCERO has been coaching swimming for more than 25 years. She currently oversees two teams, Berkeley Aquatic Masters and Berkeley Barracudas, where she brings her passion for swimming to the development and training of swimmers of all ages, from novice to world class. Blythe grew up in Berkeley, California, in a large athletic family. She swam competitively in her youth, achieving All-American status in college. In addition to coaching swimming, she trains Water Safety Instructors for the Red Cross.

100 More Swimming Drills follows the successful Strength Training for Faster Swimming, Technique Swim Workouts, The 100 Best Swimming Drills and Masters Swimming – A Manual.


This book has been very carefully prepared, but no responsibility is taken for the correctness of the information it contains. Neither the author nor the publisher can assume liability for any damages or injuries resulting from information contained in this book.


by Blythe Lucero

Dedicated to PB

Special spirit, special soul

Meyer & Meyer Sport

British Library Cataloguing in Publication DataA catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

100 More Swimming DrillsMaidenhead: Meyer & Meyer Sport (UK) Ltd., 2013ISBN: 978-1-78255-001-3eISBN: 978-1-78255-343-4

All rights reserved, especially the right to copy and distribute, including the translation rights. No part of this work may be reproduced—including by photocopy, microfilm or any other means—processed, stored electronically, copied or distributed in any form whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher.

© 2013 by Meyer & Meyer Sport (UK) Ltd.Aachen, Auckland, Beirut, Budapest, Cairo, Cape Town, Dubai, Hägendorf,Indianapolis, Maidenhead, Singapore, Sydney, Tehran, Wien

Member of the World Sport Publishers’ Association (WSPA)www.w-s-p-a.org

Printed by: B.O.S.S Druck und Medien GmbH, GermanyISBN: 978-1-78255-001-3eISBN: 978-1-78255-343-4E-Mail: [email protected]



1. How to use this book

2. The quest for better swimming

3. What's in a drill?

4. 100 drills

Drills for freestyle

Body position drills

1. Tip forward

2. Lateral balance

3. Streamline

4. Power zone

Kick drills

5. Fish don't have knees

6. Kick the ball

7. Invisible kickboard

Arm stroke drills

8. Over the barrel

9. Elbow extension

10. 3D freestyle

11. Accelerate the arm stroke

Recovery drills

12. Trailing hand

13. Loose hand swing

14. Pocket

Breathing drills

15. Reach to inhale

16. Breathe from the hips

17. Constant breathing

Leverage drills

18. Lean in, lean out

19. No flat freestyle!

20. Maintain the centerline

21. The kick lever

Coordination drills

22. United strokes

23. Reach and recover

24. Catch and push

25. Swimming tall

Drills for backstroke

Body position drills

26. Spine line

27. Head on a pillow

28. Banana

Kick drills

29. Kick up!

30. No knees/no toes

31. Streamline back kick

32. The ankle drill

33. Good knee, bad knee

Arm stroke drills

34. Z Pull

35. Descend to catch

36. Short pull, long push

37. Throw it!

Recovery drills

38. Release to recover

39. Non-Stop recovery

40. Eleven o'clock and one o'clock

41. Firm elbow, loose wrist

Breathing drills

42. Nose breathing/mouth breathing

43. Fuel your stroke

Leverage drills

44. Hip to hip

45. The independent head

46. The perfect angle

Coordination drills

47. Home base checkpoint

48. Find your X

49. Backstroke silhouette

50. Core stability/core power

Drills for breaststroke

Body position drills

51. Two balance points

52. Long float

53. Short float

Kick drills

54. Foot awareness

55. Around the knees

56. Recover first

57. Straight hip line

58. Feet outside knees

Arm stroke drills

59. Sweep out, sweep in

60. Hairpin

61. Accelerate and abbreviate

62. Elbow grease

Recovery drills

63. Speed recovery

64. Get back to streamline

Breathing drills

65. Inhale with the insweep

66. Exhale with the kick

67. No nodding!

Leverage drills

68. Exaggerated breaststroke

69. Teeter-Totter

70. Breastroke Wave

71. Ride the glide

Coordination drills

72. 3-phase breaststroke

73. Arms then legs

74. Counting breaststroke

75. Breaststroke silhouette

Drills for butterfly

Body position drills

76. Active floating

77. Hang from your hips

78. Short and long balance

Kick drills

79. Head to toe dolphin

80. No bones

81. High / low

82. Dolphin with fins

83. Spirals

Arm stroke drills

84. Pull/push butterfly

85. Catch wide

86. Lean in, lean out

87. Deep and shallow

88. Finish and release

Recovery Drills

89. One arch

90. Hands follow

Breathing Drills

91. Low profile

92. Turtle

93. Head then hands

94. Breathing rhythms

Leverage drills

95. Pike

96. The moth

97. Kick and catch, kick and breathe

Coordination drills

98. Grab and go!

99. Weightless fly

100. Full body fly




It was when I was about twelve, that I figured out swimming really agreed with me, and for the next twelve years competitive swimming was a central part of my life. My identity was to a large extent defined by swimming. My schedule revolved around training and swim meets. My daily routine was to rise before dawn and ride my bike, along with my sisters single file through the streets of Berkeley, California, pedaling the slight but steady uphill grade to swim practice at the YMCA where in that 20-yard basement pool we swam a two-hour workout before school, and another one after school.

I worked hard at those practices, accomplishing lots of swimming and thereby achieving a superior level of conditioning. I also developed very efficient strokes, partially by necessity–to make it through those tough practices–but also because of my coaches’ focus on honing of the mechanics of swimming. In addition to the countless 200s I would do on a daily basis, there were a variety of technique drills that used to annoy me to no end. Thinking back, I can remember drills that applied to body position, kick, arm stroke and recovery, breathing, leverage and coordination. But at the time, I had no patience for drills… probably because I didn't understand them.

I was one of those “thinking swimmers” with the distinct need to understand the purpose of each set we were assigned, as opposed to the kind of swimmer who simply trusts that the coach knows best. “How exactly is this exercise going to make me a better swimmer?” I recall asking my coach, to which he would simply reply, “Ready, go!”

So I would push off and do the drill of the day, lap after lap, convinced I was wasting precious practice time, but eventually realizing improvements to my stroke efficiency through all that repetition. I often wonder what would have become of my swimming if I had understood the purpose of each drill before pushing off.

Author Blythe Lucero as a young swimmer focuses on her race to come.

Now that I am coaching swimming, I make a big deal of the mind/body connection. I want each swimmer to understand the goal of every drill before doing it. I spend a lot of time defining the purpose of each exercise, describing the desired outcome so the athlete has a clear mental picture before pushing off the wall. I feel strongly that an athlete whose mind is as involved in the act of swimming as his or her body is, will improve more steadily because he or she is prepared to absorb the full benefit of the drill, and is further prepared to put into use the technique the drill brings forward.The goal of a drill is not to do it then leave it behind, but to do it and then incorporate it into one's swimming. To best accomplish this, the swimmer has to understand what he or she is trying to achieve in the first place.

In this book the reader will find 100 swimming drills to understand and practice.

This book is a sequel to “The 100 Best Swimming Drills,” (Meyer & Meyer Sport, 2006), which has been used by swimmers around the world. This second drill book follows the same format as the first and gives swimmers and coaches even more variety of drills with which to use to improve swimming technique.

This volume contains drills for each of the competitive strokes, and for specific aspects of each of these strokes. Accompanying each drill are diagrams and photos to help the swimmer visualize what the goal of the particular drill is while doing it. Drill feedback charts follow each drill to help work through rough spots.

As you work your way through the drills in this book, the key word is focus. It's all about thinking and swimming. If you find yourself losing focus, take a break. Start again later. If one drill doesn't seem to work for you, try it a few more times, but don't get frustrated and stop completely, just move on to another drill. Maybe go back to that one that you just can't get after you finish all the other drills. Every drill does not make sense to every swimmer. That is why there are a hundred drills!

Above all, have fun becoming a better swimmer.




This book is designed for a swimmer interested in improving his or her swimming skills all around to start at the beginning and build the various elements of one stroke, from float through coordinated action, and then move on to the next stroke, again practicing and building each element one upon another. The reader can work through the four competitive strokes, starting with freestyle, then proceed to backstroke, breaststroke, and finally the elusive butterfly!

The strokes are presented in this order because many concepts central to the drills in the Freestyle section, including correct floatation, productive kicking and arm stroke acceleration will be helpful in achieving skills in the other strokes. In addition, although the muscle development that occurs through practicing each particular is slightly unique, practicing all the strokes gives the swimmer the most well rounded strength development that will be beneficial to swimming in general. Lastly, many swimmers will discover that a stroke they have previously avoided because it felt slow or awkward will become their new favorite stroke as they learn to perform it with the correct technique and coordination.


Swimmers interested in only a particular stroke can start at that stroke section and work their way through the drills pertaining to that stroke, from float to coordination, simple to complex. Swimmers who want to focus on improving one certain aspect of a particular stroke, will be able to flip to that particular section and find a variety of drills to work on a certain troublesome stroke element.

Swimmers using this book in this last way will find it helpful to follow up drill practice for a particular element, such as arm stroke or kick, with the drills presented in that stroke section for leverage and coordination. The reasoning behind this is that once a swimmer improves one element of their stroke, the stroke fits together a bit differently, either because of changes in the timing or momentum. Therefore it is to the swimmer's advantage to practice putting all the stroke elements together again to get the most out of their improved skill in the area of emphasis.


Whichever way you want to use this book, start by reading the drill(s) you are focusing on thoroughly. Read them more than once. Look at the diagrams and photos so you have a picture in your mind of what you are trying to do before you do it. Then take the book with you to practice. Refer to it. Get it wet!

Practice a lot. Practice over several days and weeks. Most drills are awkward, even uncomfortable at first. It is only through practice that they start to feel more natural. It is only when a drill starts feeling natural that it can start making sense and help you make improvements to your swimming.

Between practice sessions, use the Drill Feedback Charts that follow each drill, diagram and photo to work through stumbling blocks. The problems included in these charts represent the most common trouble spots that can frustrate a swimmer's progress in achieving the full benefit of a particular drill. Accompanying each common problem are modifications to help the swimmer stay on track. Remember that making modifications is part of the learning process. Quality practice is key to improving stroke technique. Strive to learn and practice each drill correctly for it to have a positive impact on your stroke. Finally, the observations and feedback of a trusted coach can be valuable in making the most out of every drill.



Swimming is a sport for patient athletes. It takes time and focus to learn good technique, and time and dedication to get strong enough to maintain good technique for any distance. Instant gratification is not often experienced in competitive swimming. But, with patience, focus and dedication the rewards of better swimming will come.


Practice is a key element in improving swimming technique. And frequent practice has been shown to increase the rate of improvement. Further, in swimming, where forward motion is achieved through repetitive stroke actions, it is essential to use correct technique while practicing the series of actions that make up the stroke. If you practice poor stroke mechanics, you learn poor stroke mechanics. In swimming like most things, it is quite difficult to un-learn bad habits. So, the saying “practice makes perfect” is not exactly correct. What is more accurate is to say, “perfect practice makes perfect”.


When doing drill work to improve swimming, it is very important to understand the point of each drill you are doing. Know what you are trying to achieve. Know what the drill is supposed to emphasize. Know what improvements you are supposed to feel through the drill. Focus on these things the entire time you are practicing.

Doing drill work without this focus will not help you improve effectively because you do not have a clear goal in mind. It is mindless swimming, and although sometimes it's relaxing to be on auto-pilot when you swim, you must be alert and focused to get good results from drill work.


Body Position

Body position is the foundation of good swimming. Time and effort devoted to developing the best body position possible is well spent. An ideal float eliminates a great deal of drag and positions the swimmer to get the most out of arm stroke and kick, and to produce more leverage. Without a good float position a swimmer will work harder for less return.


Being a strong kicker makes you a stronger swimmer. Good kickers depend on flexibility and foot speed. Good kickers tend to have well developed endurance that can give them an edge. The power added to the stroke by the lower limbs can make the difference between winning a race or not. In addition the kick also adds balance to the rest of the stroke, and provides an important rhythmic element.

Arm Stroke

In every stroke except for breaststroke, the arm stroke provides most of the potential power in swimming, making it a priority among all stroke elements to develop, refine and perfect. For the purposes of this book, when the term arm stroke is used, it refers to the propulsive part of the arm cycle, that is, the part where the arm is in the water. Key points of the arm stroke include the catch, the path of the hand, elbow position and acceleration from front to back. These are some of the primary elements of the arm stroke that affect swimming efficiency and speed. As well as forward motion, the arm stroke contributes to stroke alignment and balance to the rest of the swimming effort.


The arm stroke recovery is an often-misunderstood element of the swimming stroke. While the recovery is the most visible part of the arm stroke, as it happens out of the water (except for breaststroke), its contribution to forward motion is minor. Therefore spending a great deal of time and attention fashioning the look of this part of the stroke is not a high priority. Instead, attention should be paid to the balancing effect that the recovery has on the rest of the stroke. In addition, as the name “recovery” implies, this is the time that the arms can rest, so developing a relaxed recovery where rest can truly be achieved should be a main focus.


Breathing in swimming, like any athletic effort is essential to keep the muscles fueled. But more so than any other sport, breathing while swimming is limited by the fact that the face is mostly in the water. Therefore breathing in swimming must become an integral part of the stroke action, incorporated seamlessly into the line of the stroke. Because poor breathing technique can halt forward motion by interrupting the flow of the stroke, it should be a priority to develop good breathing technique that works within the silhouette and rhythm of the stroke.


Unique to our sport is the way swimmers create forward motion from a floating position, without the benefit of the ground used by land athletes to provide stability and to create traction. Swimmers must create the leverage effect within their bodies and learn to produce effective and ongoing leverage to realize the most efficient forward motion while floating.


The effectiveness of the many actions of swimming can either enhance each other or fight each other. The best swimmers have discovered how to sequence and combine these various actions so that each individual action works in a chain reaction to enhance the way the body moves forward in the water.


I have frequently heard, “I just wanna swim!” as a coach. Some swimmers choose to skip over drill work either due to time constraints, or because they think that conditioning is a more important use of their time. Others view their swimming time as a chance to relax. The problem is that due to the repetitive nature of swimming, imperfect technique practiced again and again becomes habit, and can slow a swimmer's progress, and even keep the swimmer from reaching his or her potential.

In addition, stroke problems are a main cause of injury in swimmers. Even the most developed swimmer has stroke flaws that, if repeated over and over, can cause injury. For the same reason, it is very important that less experienced swimmers learn correct technique and practice swimming correctly before they try to tackle big workouts. Everyone can improve their swimming technique… and everyone should, both to see their full potential, and, to avoid developing a technique-based injury that can keep a swimmer out of the pool for months.


The process of improving your swimming requires patience. Improvements rarely happen instantaneously. For those of us who are looking for instant gratification, this may be a challenge. Often it takes several days or even weeks of repeating a drill, or series of drills before you see and feel results. During those days or weeks frequent practice is an important part of the learning process. Keep a clear picture in your mind of what you are trying to achieve. Think about it while you are performing the drills, and again afterwards.

All the time you devote to technique drills is cumulative. One day's work will build a foundation for the next day's work. Be determined in your quest, and be sure to celebrate every breakthrough!



Drill work involves performing a routine or exercise that emphasizes correct technique through repetition, exaggeration, contrast and/or example. Drills often require the swimmer to perform only a part of a swimming stroke in order to focus on a specific skill or movement.

Through practice, the drill becomes more natural for the swimmer to perform. Only at that point, can the swimmer expect it to “rub off” on their regular swimming stroke.


You will see quantitative change and qualitative change when working with drills. At first you may only be able to perform the drill for a few seconds.

Gradually, through practice you will find it possible to perform the same drill for several minutes at a time. Or, at first you may not even get to the end of the pool doing a drill for the first time, but over time you will be able to accomplish multiple laps. Likewise, at first a drill will be so awkward that you just don't go anywhere. Yet with patience and practice soon you will be performing the drill with ease.

Drills work over time through multiple stages of psychomotor learning. There is no set time each stage will take. Every one is different. In order, the stages are:

Mechanics: The step-by-step movements which, like a new dance routine, are awkward and slow at first, but through practice become more comfortable and fluid to perform

Discovery: The instance when you actively begin to feel the point of the drill while you are doing it

Understanding: The stage when you can perform the drill seamlessly with the goal clearly in mind

Feel: The ability to change from drill to the regular swimming stroke and hold on to the point of the drill.

Mastery: Swimming with improved understanding and feel, and more efficiency as a result of drill practice


In Warm Up

After loosening up the muscles with a few laps of relaxed, progressive swimming, drills can be successfully merged into the warm up. Alternating 50s of drill and swim works well. Using a series of related drills is also very beneficial to build towards an efficient stroke. Using drills within a warm up sets the tone for a quality practice session.

As a Recovery Set

After an intense set at practice, a few easy laps are in order. At that point, a less intense recovery set should be done. This is the perfect time to fit drill work into the workout. Not only will a drill set provide a needed break from swimming hard without wasting precious time in the water, it will also give the swimmer the opportunity to recapture his or her technique after the previous speed-centered set. Sometimes technique can be sacrificed for speed, especially at the end of a set when the swimmer is getting tired. So, using a drill set after one of these hard sets is very beneficial.

Within Sets

Sometimes it works to incorporate drills into a regular swim set. For instance, instead of simply doing 5 x 100 freestyle, make the first lap a drill lap, but keep the same interval as you would for all regular swim. Of course only certain drills would be appropriate in this case. Some would just not work. Choose a drill that is designed to do at near swim speed, so the set will be challenging, but doable. This can be a fun and interesting way for swimmers to accomplish both conditioning work and technique work at the same time.


Pre-meet swimming is an excellent time to bring in drills, both during taper, and within the meet day warm up. Drills bring the mind into one's swimming, and focus it on swimming right. Drills can be grounding if a swimmer gets nervous. Using a long set of drill/swim laps that include many of the drills that have been especially meaningful to swimmer is a good way to set a positive tone for the big swim.

Off Season

Off season swimming offers a low pressure atmosphere when many swimmers are able to focus better on the technique of swimming, than during meet season. Off season is when many swimmers and coaches choose to use drill work as a primary element of their workouts.





Good body position in freestyle makes everything else easier. Working on how to float better in the water is not a waste of time at any level of the sport. A positive body position decreases the amount of drag a swimmer produces, improves the catch, and sets the swimmer up to get the most out of their stroke. Use the following drills to improve your body position in freestyle.

The purpose of this drill

• Achieving a downhill floating position

• Understanding how to change your floating position

• Avoiding drag

How to do this drill

Step 1: Take a big breath and float face down in the water, arms at your sides.

Step 2: Notice that your chest and upper body float higher, while your legs and the lower body float lower. While this is the natural floating position for most people, it is not advantageous for swimming. It is like swimming “uphill.” From this uphill position, your body bumps into a lot of water, creating drag.

Figure 1A: The natural floating position for most people

Figure 1B: Tip forward by pressing down with your chest for a more advantageous floating position

Step 3: To change this position into a more advantageous floating position, press down with your chest and feel your hips and legs rise. Practice tipping forward until you are able to achieve and maintain a downhill float, the positive body position for freestyle.

Drill feedback chart



When I press down with my chest, my body bends in the middle.

Hold your core firm while you press your ribs down about two inches. Relax.

I run out of breath.

Simply stand up and start again. Do it as many times as you need to until you are able to achieve a positive floating position by tipping your body forward.

My legs still sink!

Some people with low body fat or high muscle content will find it harder to float downhill. If you are one of those people it is even more important for you to learn to positively affect your floating position. Practice more. You might also need to add a gentle kick, but remember that the purpose of the kick should not me to hold you up, but to move you forward, so work hard to perfect a positive float by pressing your chest downward.

The purpose of this drill

• Getting away from flat swimming

• Learning to float well while rolling

• Feeling unified power from the hips and shoulders

How to do this drill

Step 1: Take a big breath and float face down in the water, arms at your sides. Achieve a downhill floating position.

Figure 2: Achieve lateral balance

Step 2: Holding your positive floating position, roll your body, but not your head to your right about 45 degrees. Your left shoulder and hip should be out of the water. Hold for the count of three.

Step 3: Roll your body back to your starting position, maintaining your effective, downhill position. Hold for the count of three, then roll your body, but not your head to your left about 45 degrees. Your right shoulder and hip should be out of the water. Hold for the count of three.

Step 4: Roll back to your starting position. Stand and get another big breath then repeat.

Step 5: Repeat Steps 1 - 4, adding a gentle flutter kick.

Drill feedback chart



I can't seem to control my roll to 45 degrees… I just keep going.

Use your hips and shoulders to start and stop your roll.

I loose my downhill float very quickly when I roll.

Make sure you are looking down towards the bottom of the pool and not forward.

When I add the kick, I can't roll as well.

The kick should be a very gentle, quiet kick and very narrow. Make sure your hip action is connected to your roll primarily rather than to your kick.

The purpose of this drill

• Learning to float tall

• Eliminating drag

• Creating a narrow silhouette

How to do this drill

Step 1: Standing with your back against a wall, extend your arms above your head. Clasp one hand over the other, so they make a point.

Step 2: Squeezing your ears with your arms, reach higher with your hands. Press your hands, head, neck, shoulders, spine and legs into the wall.

Step 3: Holding your position against the wall, stretch your whole body upwards. Lift your ribs. Stand on your tiptoes.

Figure 3: Streamline position

Step 4: Get in the water and push off the wall completely underwater, immediately assuming the same position as you practiced against the wall. Be tall. Be narrow. Feel yourself cut through the water without resistance.

Drill feedback chart



I can't see where I am going!