Four Swimming Drills To Enliven Your Time In The Pool

10 Freestyle Drills for a Faster Freestyle

Four Swimming Drills To Enliven Your Time In The Pool

Here is the ultimate collection of freestyle drills that will help you build a faster, more efficient freestyle.

Everybody wants to swim faster freestyle, but all too often we get hung up on particular technical and mechanical shortcomings. Our catch isn’t strong enough, we lack proper rotation, or our feel for the water isn’t quite there yet.

That’s where freestyle drills are designed to help, by getting you to focus on a particular segment of your stroke, and then transferring it to your regular swimming stroke.

The following swimming drills for freestyle are designed to help you swim faster and to swim better.

Drills shouldn’t just be done for the sake of doing them, but rather, to apply them to your swimming.

Pick and choose a couple of the drills to incorporate at your next swim workout, and mix it with your swimming in order to reap the benefits of developing a more purposeful and faster freestyle.

In no particular order, here are 10 drills for freestylers:

1. Closed-fist Freestyle.

One of my favorite freestyle drills, and about as simple as it gets.

You ball up your hands, removing the surface area that your out-stretched fingers would usually provide for your pull, and otherwise swim freestyle as you normally would.

It reinforces the notion that when you are pulling that you should be also using your forearms, and not just your hands! This added emphasis on the surface area of the forearm also pushes you towards a higher elbow recovery.

Your stroke count per length will go down a little bit, and once you unclench those hands you will get a little jolt of power, your hands now feeling over-sized swim paddles.

Best for: Increasing feel for the water with your forearm. Encouraging high elbow recovery.

2. Mini-Maxi

This isn’t technically a drill, but it requires your full attention and concentration. The goal is simple: to swim as fast as you can, taking as few strokes as possible. Add time and stroke count together, and you get a total number that you should strive to beat.

This kind of swimming forces you to be efficient with every part of your stroke. You look for ways to take less stroke while maintaining speed, whether it’s keeping your hips raised, your head straight, nailing that high elbow recovery, and kicking without clanging your ankles together.

In the video below, while wearing fins and paddles, I am doing reps of 25-yards taking 5 strokes in approximately :10. (Giving me a Mini-Maxi score of 15.)

3. Underwater Freestyle with Fins.

This is an advanced freestyle drill that helps you to really feel out every aspect of your stroke. In particular, the added resistance of the water to your recovery will help to strengthen and increase the arm speed on the recovery.

A problem many competitive swimmers have once they get to a particular level of conditioning is that their turnover is too slow. They have the distance per stroke aspect nailed down, but need to crank up the RPM.

This drill creates resistance on the arm recovery, which will have your arms flying once you return to regular freestyle.

Best for: Freestylers who want to improve hand speed in the water.

4. Head-up Freestyle.

Not my favorite, but it does a couple things for your swimming. It puts you off-balance, forcing you to kick harder to maintain a somewhat straight body line. It removes any over-glide at the front of your stroke because gliding will sink your face into the water.

I find that having your head up the water gives you another angle at your hand entry. The removal of the glide also forces you to maintain a continuous rhythm with your stroke, which will encourage a higher elbow recovery.

Perform the drill with fins for added leg work.

Best for: Freestylers who are prone to over-gliding. A good warm-up for sprint work later in the workout.

5. Hand-drag Drill.

Another classic for hand speed and arm recovery speed for you freestylers with a classic, and one of my old stand-by drills– the hand-drag.

How do you do it? Swim freestyle normally, but during the recovery phase drag your hand through the water. Keep your hand rigid for added resistance (i.e. don’t just drag your hand limply through the water).

When you return to normal swimming your arm recovery will feel it’s slashing through the air.

Take it to the next level by throwing on some paddles to make it even more challenging.

Best for: Improving hand speed, maintaining body line.

6. Freestyle with Dolphin Kicks.

At the Sydney 2000 Olympics Michael Klim lead of the Australian men’s 4x100m freestyle relay. In the final 15m he switched his kick over to a dolphin kick (Klim is a multiple world record holder in the butterfly) as he powered into the wall, breaking the world record in the 100m freestyle with his hybrid stroke, clocking a 48.18.

It wasn’t until late 2015 that another elite swimmer–Michael Phelps–began also experimenting with fly kick at the end of freestyle races in international competition.

The reason that it works for these athletes is because they are both natural butterfliers, but also because the rhythm of using dolphin kicks helps to keep the stroke rate from tapering off when fatigue and exhaustion are setting in at the end of the race.

By adding dolphin kick to your freestyle arms you cannot help but begin to develop a rhythm that promotes the smooth, kayak stroke we want in our freestyle.

The first time trying it will be a little awkward, but once you get comfortable with it you’ll be surprised at how fast you can get going.

Best for: Improving stroke rhythm. Increasing stroke rate. Encouraging a high elbow catch.

7. Sculling.

Sculling is the Swiss-army knife of swimming drills. The variations you can come up with are nearly endless, and can help improve your feel for the water.

  • Having trouble sticking the hand entry? Spend some time sculling back and forth (none of those half-breaststroke strokes!) with your hand or hands outstretched above you.
  • Want more power and more “stick” with your catch? Angle your arm a few inches below the surface and scull your way down until your arm is perpendicular to your body.

When you are doing sculling drills get your body positioned as closely as to when you are normally swimming to maximize effect. If this means using a pull-buoy or fins to achieve a proper body position, so be it!

Best for: Trouble-shooting the weak parts of your stroke.

8. Dip & Kick.

I stumbled across this freestyle drill last year and fell in love with it right away. It comes courtesy of Mike Bottom (University of Michigan’s head coach), and one of his former swimmers Bobby Savulich who demonstrates it below.

I prefer doing it in a long course pool so that you can get a few stroke cycles in. With swim fins on in particular once your arms get going you can build up some great speed.

Here is Coach Bottom explaining how the drill works:

Best for: Exploding the shoulders the water. Proper hand entry.

9. Catch-Up Freestyle

One of the classic freestyle drills, Catch-Up is used with swimmers from tadpoles to experienced Olympians.

Catch-up freestyle helps isolate arm movement, which is good for teaching young swimmers proper mechanics, helps with distance per stroke, while it also promotes a hand entry that doesn’t cross-over.

In the video below Lower Moreland Swimming’s head coach Karney McNear shows his swimmers performing the drill at a recent practice.

Notice how the drill encourages the swimmers to use a fuller and more balanced flutter kick in order to sustain propulsion:

10. Freestyle Retraction Drill

Elite freestylers understand that having a strong early vertical forearm is essential to fast swimming. Having good EVF means that you get into the catch earlier, which results in a “fuller” and more powerful pulling motion.

Coley Stickels, head coach of the Canyons Aquatic Club, has used the retraction drill with his swimmers in the past, who include Olympians Abbey Weitzel, Roland Schoeman and Santo Condorelli.

The drill is performed below by one of his athletes at a recent training session.

Some focus points on doing the drill properly:

  • Strap on a swimming snorkel and one paddle.
  • The paddle stays on the “catch” arm, with the opposite arm in a recovery position.
  • The catch arm does a quick scoop- motion engaging the core and forcing the torso and hips into a flattened position, while the recovery arm moves forward.
  • Both arms quickly retract to the original catch and recovery position, before then taking a full cycle of a stroke.
  • The swim paddle then switches to the other hand.

Take The Next Step

Developing a smoother, more powerful freestyle is actually pretty simple when you start to break it down into sections.

Whether it is improving stroke rhythm, keeping your elbow from dropping, or increasing your stroke rate there is a drill to help you break it down and improve it.

Try out the above freestyle drills during your next practice and drill your way to a faster and more technically proficient freestyle.

** Shout-out to Coaches Brett Hawke, Karney McNear, and Coley Stickels for taking the time to share video of the above drills.

See Also:


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Four Swimming Drills To Enliven Your Time In The Pool

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Drills to Improve Your Swimming

Four Swimming Drills To Enliven Your Time In The Pool
Looking to improve your technique in the pool? Here is a collection of swimming drills to add to your workouts. Find and register for swimming lessons, classes, clinics, and races near you with our directory of swimming events.

Are you a frustrated back-of-the-pack swimmer? Speed up your freestyle with these drills.

Swimming freestyle on your side may seem foreign at first, but with consistent practice you'll swim more efficiently. This means faster times and greater energy conservation.

Sometimes, improving your grip on the water takes balls–tennis balls. Try this twist on a popular swimming drill and feel your stroke improve almost instantly.

Swimming is all about displacing the water in front of you with your body. Learn how to regulate the pressure you use to move that water with this drill.

No, this isn't some strange cross-training technique. Find out how a fun game of “golf” can lead to faster swimming.

Here are two drills each for freestyle and backstroke to improve the catch and roll in your stroke.

Regardless of your level of proficiency in the water, there's always room for improvement, so even the most talented swimmers can improve by continually tweaking and refining their strokes.

Sculling is arguably one of the most underused swimming drills to increase good feel of the water and improve the initial catch and thrust of all strokes. There are many positions for good sculling.

Olympians make moving through the water look effortless. They do this by developing and honing their feel for the water. These drills will help you increase your water awareness.

You may have had coaches that made you count strokes throughout a workout. Here's why it is so important to your continued improvement.

One of my favorite “Long-Axis” Drills is what we refer to as the side-aligned balance drill. Basically, you begin at the “T”, in a streamlined balanced position, not moving or touching the wall.

Here is a great drill for each stroke–backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle–direct from the University of Georgia swim team.

Some swimming novices blindly stick to the idea that technique will improve with conditioning. Structure these two drills into your training plan to improve balance and body position.

Although it may sound a painful gymnastics maneuver, negative splitting is a training technique that is simple in theory, but takes discipline and a healthy dose of endurance to execute.

Now is the time to perfect your stroke. Add these drills to your workouts to develop your form and become a smoother swimmer.

These four kicking drills will help improve your body position and rotation, thereby making your overall stroke more efficient.

The offseason is the best time to overhaul your swimming technique. The challenge is that drills and yardage without focus are barely worth the effort.


Four Swimming Drills To Enliven Your Time In The Pool

Four Swimming Drills To Enliven Your Time In The Pool

Swimming is a phenomenal way to stay fit and active. No-one should need convincing of that. But if you’re a lapsed paddler who learned to swim as a kid and are just coming back to the pool, it can also be phenomenally boring – slogging away at the same speed with the same stroke.

To help make the whole experience more enjoyable and beneficial, Speedo has launched Mind Body Swim, a microsite that offers training plans tailored to four goals and your current level, as well nutritional and well-being advice.

If you just fancy dipping your toe in the water, though, throw one of these four swimming drills taken from Mind Body Swim workouts into your next session. To help you pick, we asked Speedo coach Dan Bullock to break down how each drill will benefit your technique, as well as common mistakes to look out for. But first…

When to do these drills

When you’re in the pool, obviously, but once you’ve warmed up Bullock recommends doing them either before or after a main block of swimming.

Doing them beforehand can help you to perform a stroke to the best of your ability and, as Bullock explains, “it makes sense to perform the drills while in a non-fatigued state so the body can adapt and make changes.”

Alternatively, Bullock says, “drills can also be of use after the main set as a way to polish a tired and exhausted swim technique ahead of leaving the pool. Ideally, you restore your technique ahead of finishing rather than leaving with a deteriorated technique.”


This macabre-sounding drill isn’t called the tombstone because it’s killer on the legs (although it could be). The name refers to the vertical position of the float in the water.

What it does: The increase in resistance from holding the board in this way will help to improve your leg strength and if you follow the technique points you’ll also develop a more powerful kick. “The two elements of better technique and strength in your legs will combine with your arm pull to assist your overall swim speed,” says Bullock.

Expert tips: Don’t keep your head up because this action will sink your hips and legs, making moving forwards harder. “Pop up quickly for air and return the head to the water face down,” advises Bullock.

“Start with a small amount of the float submerged. You can easily progress this by submerging the float fully.

“Don’t take bigger kicks thinking this will shift you forwards. Instead, take more frequent smaller kicks to remain streamlined in the water.”


Patting your head and rubbing your stomach can baffle your brain, and so can the BAFL drill – initially at least. BAFL is an acronym that stands for breaststroke arms and front crawl legs.

What it does: “Swimming is a highly cerebral process,” says Bullock, “combining timing, rhythm, proprioception [your body’s positional sense], skill and co-ordination. To improve certain movements we can make them more challenging so that the normal movement comes easier.

“Combining breaststroke arms and front crawl legs does this to an extent. By not rotating the body as you would for front crawl you can focus on a continuous leg kick. Often, during full stroke front crawl, the legs develop a pause linked to breathing.”

Expert tips: “The usual issues with this drill are keeping the head up and facing forwards which will increase resistance, combined with an arm movement that is too big,” says Bullock.

“During the pull, don’t allow the hands to travel behind the chin. Sweep your hands out, around and into the chin area as you start to look down and push your arms forwards.

Kicks should be strong and continuous with no dead spots.”


Bad news, you do not get to take your pent-up aggression on the water – this drill doesn’t encourage furious splashing (save that for your bath). Worse news, using clenched fists instead of open hands makes swimming as difficult as it sounds. Good news, your front crawl technique is going to improve tremendously.

What it does: “Taking the hand away makes front crawl much harder,” says Bullock. “Everything else needs to work a little harder to compensate. Ideally, it encourages the swimmer to pull with the forearm to offset the missing hand, which promotes an early pivot at the elbow and vertical forearm. The body is very clever at making up for what is missing!

“Vary this by swimming with just one fist clenched for a half-length to note differences in arm movements, pathways under the body and speed of pull.”

Expert tips: “Just because your hand is clenched does not mean your arm pull will be perfect,” cautions Bullock. “Avoid pushing down with a straight arm and pivoting at the shoulder as this will boost the head up and limit forward propulsion. Instead, pivot your arm at the elbow and roll your knuckles to point down early just as your fingertips would with a normal pull.

“Fins might make this a little easier and of course you don’t have to attempt a full length using this drill. Performing two or three strokes with fists clenched before opening and closing them can help you feel a stronger pull on the water.”


There is nothing wrong with humming the Superman theme tune to yourself while trying this drill that helps you to get a feel for how you should rotate and elongate your body during front crawl. There’s also nothing wrong with using fins and a float – none of us is actual Superman.

What it does: “The perfect front crawl isn’t swum flat with shoulders horizontal to the surface of the water,” says Bullock. “Instead, rotating your upper body from side to side lowers your frontal profile, which creates less drag and elevates the trailing shoulder, enabling easier breathing.

“This simple-looking drill is actually quite tricky to do well but it does encourage an enhanced body position in the water and prompts you to breathe on both sides.”

Expert tips: Work on finding that Goldilocks zone. “If the kick is not quite strong enough then it is not easy to elevate your trailing shoulder above the surface,” says Bullock. “But too much violent kicking will see the upper body and shoulder rocking from side to side.

“Try not to look to the side when performing this drill – you want your face down as you would when swimming the full front crawl. Keep your head still until you need to breathe. Your lead arm should be parallel to the surface but not at the surface pointing up from a lower shoulder position exposing the arm and adding drag.”

For sets, laps and full workouts, sign up for Mind Body Swim at


Opera & Gardens in the Kingdom of Kerry

Four Swimming Drills To Enliven Your Time In The Pool

Please find below further details pertaining to the hotel or click on the booklet to download. 

Parknasilla Resort & Spa overlooks the Atlantic coast on 500 acres of tropical paradise along the Wild Atlantic Way and The Ring of Kerry, sixteen miles from Kenmare town and two miles from the village of Sneem.

The Hotel has 89 bedrooms including stunning suites. Unwind in the sanctuary of County Kerry’s spectacular and awe inspiring resort, nestling next to the breathtaking Kerry Mountains and caressed by the lapping waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The facilities of this historic hotel include an elegant restaurant, traditional bar, indulgent spa and 12 hole golf course.


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Begin a new day with hot Irish porridge, a traditional Irish breakfast or a selection of tempting continental pastries and fresh fruit, served in the Pygmalion Restaurant by the highly trained and highly personable waiting staff.

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The beautifully decorated Doolittle Bar is the perfect place for a light bite or lazy lunch. Come in the evening when the bar bursts into life with conversation, song and laughter. Enjoy a pint of local beer, a glass of chilled wine, an aged Irish whiskey or watch as the expert bartender mixes your favourite cocktail.


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The Lounges, with open fires and soft couches, are the perfect place to curl up with a good book or read the daily newspaper while taking in the breathtaking views over Kenmare Bay and the Kerry mountains.

Fitness & Sport

Walking is one of the most popular ways to immerse yourself in the pleasures of the lush vegetation, woodland setting and coastal delights. Maps, markers and guides are available to help you enjoy the many scenic walks around the resort.

In the gym, located in the spa, you will find dumbbells, treadmill, cycling machine, cross trainer, bench press/shoulder press, rowing machine and free standing weights for more focused workouts, and the adjoining thermal suite area will enhance your general well-being.


All guests will have their own “room account” once credit card details have been given to reception on arrival which allows you to sign for any expenses and then settle your bill at the Reception Desk at the end of your stay. Prices are shown and charged in Euro. Your room account can be paid by: • Credit Card (Visa, MasterCard or American Express). • Cash (Euros) 


From antiques and soft pastels to contemporary chic, the hotel offers spacious rooms to satisfy the most diverse and discerning tastes.

All rooms offer crisp white sheets and duvet, en-suite bathroom, hairdryer, selection of soft fluffy towels, bathrobe and slippers, luxury bath products, multi-channel TV, tea & coffee making facilities, mineral water, direct dial telephones and Wi-Fi. Approximate sizes of rooms listed below.

Standard Double/Twin – West Wing. Rooms are decorated in soft colours with a view of Kerry Mountains and feature a large double bed, spacious seating area, writing desk and an en-suite bathroom with bath and shower. (21ft4 x 11ft9)

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With breathtaking views of the Kenmare Bay, Parknasilla’s lush grounds and the Kerry Mountains beyond, each room has their own character and style.

These rooms feature a king size bed and en-suite bathroom with shower only. (15ft9 x 24ft3)

Superior Manor Sea View – Main House. Rooms are beautifully spacious and open plan in design with a large sleeping area and relaxation space with awe inspiring views of Kenmare Bay and Kerry Mountains. These rooms feature a king size bed and en-suite bathroom with shower only. (17ft5 x 26ft)

Manor Suite – Main House. This suite exudes the air of understated elegance of a bygone era.

Individually designed with breath-taking views of the Kenmare Bay, Parknasilla’s lush grounds and the Kerry Mountains beyond.

Bathrooms with stucco lustro painted walls and elegant Thomas Crapper and Co Victorian/Edwardian fittings. Rooms feature a king size bed with bath and shower. (19ft x 11ft9)

Balcony Suite – West Wing. Indulge your taste for contemporary luxury in the Balcony Suite with a large bedroom and separate sitting room.

The Balcony Suite contains floor to ceiling windows leading on to a large balcony to ensure that the serene views of Kenmare Bay or the Kerry Mountains are truly memorable.

Rooms feature a king size bed with an en-suite bathroom with bath and shower.(33ft x 26ft)

Parknasilla Suite with Balcony – West Wing. Situated in the newest part of the West Wing, the Parknasilla Suite with balcony rooms are open plan with soft couches and lavish furnishings.

The suites with balcony feature floor to ceiling windows leading on to a large balcony to ensure that the stunning views of Kenmare Bay or the Kerry Mountains are truly memorable.

This suite feature a king size bed with bath and shower. (17ft x 26ft)

Princess Grace Suite – Main House. Parknasilla’s most famous suite is the Princess Grace Suite and is made up of a large living area, double bedroom, spacious bathroom and separate toilet. The wonderful sea views and large wrap around balcony makes the suite extra special. This suite features a king size bed with bath and shower. (37ft x 25ft)

Small Parknasilla Superior Single – West Wing. These rooms are designed in a contemporary style and located in the newest part of the West Wing with a double bed, en-suite bathroom with shower. (17ft9 x 16ft1)

Standard Single – West Wing. These rooms are smaller than the Superior Singles and offer a double bed with en-suite bathroom with bath and shower. (13ft9 x 11ft2)


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Surrounded by the natural beauty of woodland, parkland, river, ocean and mountains, let your troubles drift away as you take in County Kerry’s awe-inspiring backdrop. Swim in the 18 metre pool, enveloped by floor to ceiling windows, and marvel at the sea and the sky with every stroke.

Exclusively created for Parknasilla, the thermal spa experience helps to purify, detoxify and ultimately relax you, with a mix of warm, dry and wet heat as well as aromatherapy, steam, light, salt and herb therapies.

 Let the therapists pamper you from top to toe with a range of Elemis professional and Neom Spa therapies and enliven your senses with luxurious massages, facials, body treatments and hydrotherapies. Spa reservations can be made in advance or at the Spa Reception desk.

Fees for all treatments are available at Reception and will be charged to your room account. 


Calls to other hotel rooms can be made free of charge by dialling the 8 before the room number. You can make external telephone calls from your hotel room. Lift the handset and press 9 for an outside line.

Enter the country code then city code without zero (0) in the beginning followed by the phone number. Example for Ireland: 00 353 (0) phone number #.

Costs are available from Reception and charges are automatically billed to your room account.








All hotel rooms are equipped with a 32” HD ready LED Television.


All hotel rooms are supplied with the following complimentary amenities: • Shower gel • Hair shampoo • Soap • Shower caps • Nail file • Tissues


Wake up calls can be requested through the Reception Desk.


Water from the taps in your room is safe to drink. 


Complimentary Wi-Fi is available throughout the hotel.

PLEASE BE ADVISED: These details should be used as a guideline only. Information is subject to change.

V.2 November 2019

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