Swim drills: fun but important, too

Sedona Race Pace Club swimmers working on butterfly drills to develop correct timing.

To the casual observer, drills can sometimes appear to have little to do with “real” training. In fact, some swimmers enjoy drills so much, you might think the experience is about having fun trying new things with your body.

And it is about trying new things with your body. Drills are an important part of learning to swim and — once you’ve got the hang of that — learning correct technique. It’s pretty mind-bending and overwhelming for the nervous system to make all kinds of corrections at once, so drills offer a good way to help the body learn one step at a time.

“I could read to you out of a book and say, ‘here’s what you need to do with your arms and legs,’” said Sedona Race Pace Club Head Coach Sean Emery, “but you’re not going to be able to just magically make your body do all those things just because I told you to.” 

Drills break down the correct movements for swimming as individual experiences. Swimmers begin with drills to get their head and body position in correct alignment because without achieving that aspect, it’s impossible to correctly perform the stroke to achieve the least resistance and greatest force to move through the water fast. 

Then come drills for timing. These get the kids moving some big overall mechanics of the stroke in the correct order. Kicking drills are the best way to help new swimmers develop the very specific muscles needed for balance and strength in the water. Then there are drills designed to focus on the eight basic aspects of any arm stroke.

Drills are helpful for teaching novice swimmers the easiest way to swim through the water and develop correct technique right from the beginning. But it’s also helpful for more advanced swimmers to revisit these basic drills from time to time to retrain less-than-optimal movement patterns by breaking the stroke down into small segments.

That’s why you might see SRPC elite swimmers doing very basic drills during their time in the water. Drills let the swimmer focus solely on one aspect of the body and how it plays into the stroke. As kids grow and develop throughout their youth, they need to constantly tweak their swimming pattern to be the most efficient for their current size and build.

Correcting one incorrect aspect of your technique commonly ends up making your entire stroke more effective. That paves the way to improving your times and number of repetitions in USRPT sets. And that’s a lot of fun for everyone!