Top 20 Tools & Rules for Faster Triathlon Swimming (by Joel Filliol)
Top 20 Swim Tips Approved swim tools:
Finis Agility Paddles to learn effective catch (press on the water effectively in the correct way) Most athletes: size medium
Finis Instinct Sculling Paddles Smaller versions of the agility paddles.
Speedo Power Paddle: Basic flat paddles. Remove wrist strap.
Finis Pulling Ankle Strap A fancy ankle band (or use inner tube)
Finis Bolster Paddles – Yellow: won’t allow your wrist to “break”.
The Top 20 Rules for Faster Triathlon Swimming
1. Conditioning trumps drills. Technique matters, but the way most athletes try to improve technique doesn’t work. Get fitter, and your ability to hold good technique improves. It takes a lot of work to develop aerobic conditioning in your upper body. If you think you are already swimming a lot but aren’t improving, swim more and keep at it. There are no shortcuts.
2. Traditional drills don’t work. The type of drills & way most triathletes do them don’t actually have any material effect on swimming technique.
3. Swim more often. Frequency is best way to improve swimming (now see rule 4).
4. Do longer main sets. Don’t expect to swim fast & be fresh on bike if you rarely do main sets at same or + volume and pace than expected race pace. Short course: at least 2k, IM: 4k+. (eg 20-50×100, not many short broken sets adding up to 2-5km.
5. Don’t over think it. Don’t under think it. Be engaged with what you are doing in water, use tools to help get a better feel for water. But don’t overthink every stroke, and suffer from paralysis by analysis. Swimming fast = rhythm and flow, when good technique becomes automatic.
6. Increased swim fitness translates to the bike and run. Being able to swim harder, starting the bike both fresher and with faster riders is how that works.
7. Deep swim fitness allows you to swim on the rivet. See rule #6. Most triathletes don’t know how to really swim hard for the duration.
8. Include some quality in every swim. If swimming < 5x per week, easy swims are a waste of time. Always include quality (band/paddles/sprints in every swim).
9. Don’t count strokes. See rule #2. You want to get faster, not take fewer strokes.
- Learn how to use your kick: don’t spend lots of time w kick sets.Kicking= stroke control/body position, not propulsion for triathlon. Kick fitness doesn’t matter.
11.Use a band frequently. The best swimming drill there is. Do short reps with lots of rest at first. Both propulsion and body position will improve.
12. Use paddles with awareness of engaging lats. Paddles are primarily a technical tool to take more strokes with better mechanics, the result of which is learning how to use your prime swimming movers: your lats.
13. Keep head low on breathing and in open water. Head down, feet up. It’s a common body position error.
14. Do many short repetitions for stroke quality. It takes fitness to swim with good technique for long durations. Start shorter/swim faster. 50×50 works wonders. Don’t have time to do a 2500m main set? Drop the warm up and warm down.
15. Learn to swim with higher stroke rate. This takes conditioning. It will pay off on race day, and particularly anytime swimming in a group and in rough conditions.
16. If you need to write your swim session down on the white board or paper, it’s too complicated. Keep it simple.
17. Find a good masters program. Look for long main sets. Swim with others to challenge yourself. Good programmes are exception, not norm, unfortunately.
18. Don’t use swim tools as a crutch. Paddles/pull buoys are tools with specific uses. Don’t reach for them out of simple laziness, because the set is hard.
19. Do use swim tools when you are very fatigued, and will otherwise swim with poor quality.See Rule #18.
20. Dry land and gym can help swimming for some via improved neuromuscular recruitment. Use body weight and tubing not machines.
Bonus: Love swimming if you want to get faster. Embrace the process of getting faster in the water. Chlorine sweat is a good thing.
Follow the rules above to swim faster, and ultimately to be a faster triathlete. Enjoy.
#21 Repetition is your friend. Variety is for the weak minded, and interferes with the learning process. Repetition, Repetition, Repetition.