Tips For Freestyle Breathing

Tips For Freestyle Breathing

How To Put An End To Your Extreme Urge To Breathe

Written by Rory | Technique Advice

Hey Team, it’s Rory here. Any new swimmer will tell you that freestyle breathing is THE biggest obstacle to learning to swim. In pretty much every other sport oxygen is always on demand, but in the water that’s not the case.

Working with a limited supply of air is a sensation that every swimmer gets used to.

If you’re gasping for air on every stroke, don’t stress this quick guide will help you feel more comfortable the next time you hit the water. Here are some simple tips for freestyle breathing.

Dealing With That “Need To Breathe” Feeling

Did you know that your need to breathe isn’t triggered by your body sensing a lack of oxygen? That feeling of desperation for air is triggered by your body’s reaction to a build up of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Most people don’t know this, but it’s key to freestyle breathing.

Exhaling the CO2 is critical.

The way you breathe out is just as important as how you breathe in when learning to control your breathing in the water.

Most inexperienced swimmers don’t even think about how to exhale. They’re only focused on breathing in!

Good swimmers know when to start exhaling, how hard to blow air out, how much air to exhale and can adapt it to the type of swimming they are doing.

Great swimmers make this exhalation such an unconscious habit, many them aren’t even aware of what they are doing.

Action Step

Next time you jump into the water, start by paying attention to the way you exhale and see if you notice any patterns or freestyle breathing habits. Send me an email and tell me what you notice

How Long Should You Breathe Out For?

Let me introduce you to something called your “breath ratio”.

It simply refers to the amount of time you spend exhaling compared to the amount of time spent inhaling.

On land, you tend to spend equal amounts of time breathing in and breathing out, so your ratio is 1:1 (One In: One Out)

If you transfer this 1:1 ratio to your freestyle breathing your stroke would be all kinds of messed up.

The outward breath would be so short you wouldn’t have enough time to complete a full stroke while your head is down. You’d turn your head for the breath at the wrong time in your arm cycle, get completely out of sync and everything would fall apart quickly.

Your ability to prolong the outward breath while your face is in the water is a key to efficient swimming.

Prolonging your outward breath gives you more time to streamline and balance you body with your head down.

With a long, controlled exhale you also trick your brain a little.

Remember it’s the levels of CO2 in your body that trigger your need to breathe. When you begin exhaling you are removing CO2 from your system. As the CO2 levels decrease so too does that voice in your head that’s screaming “BREATHE IN, BREATHE IN NOW.

It’s the voice that causes you to lose your composure and control of your breathing. Exhaling shuts that voice up for a little longer.

Action Step

Bob up and down in the water. Work on breathing out for twice as long as it takes you to breathe in (1:2). With practice you will want to increase that ratio to 1:3 and 1:4 then even longer.

Should You Breathe Bilaterally?

Here’s a topic a lot of other swim coaches and I won’t agree on.

There is a massive focus on bilateral breathing in many triathletes that are new to swimming.

While being able to breath to both sides is a very valuable freestyle breathing skill, it isn’t foundational to learning to swim.

Open water swim coach, Steve Munatones talks about the pyramid of open water success in his book:

Breathing to both sides is part of the skills training that falls in the second tier of the pyramid. It’s key to being a great swimmer but it’s not foundational to learning to swim effectively.

The primary reason for this comes back to breathing.

Let’s imagine you take 90 strokes in a minute minute worth of continuous swimming and you breathe every 3 stroke. How many breaths do you get in a minute?

90/3 = 30

Now maintaining the same 90 strokes in a minute of continuous swimming. If you began breathing every 2nd stroke, how many breaths do you get in a minute?

90/2 = 45

The change from breathing every 3 strokes to breathing every 2 gives you a 50% increase in oxygen intake. That 50% it will make a massive difference to how long you can continue to swim and the type of pace you can sustain!

Remember, your body needs a constant supply of oxygen to feed your muscles as they contract. The longer you hold your breath the more ineffective the muscle contractions become.

Without air you will reach a point of failure and have to stop.

Action Step

During your next warm up, try breathing only to your right hand side on even lengths and your left hand side on odd lengths. During your cool down, try breathe 2-2-2 to your right then 3 strokes without a breath followed by 2-2-2 to your left. These breathing patterns will keep some balance in your stroke while still allowing you to breathe every 2 strokes.

💁🏽‍♂️ Can I Help You With Your Freestyle Breathing?

If you’re struggling with to get comfortable with your breathing, leave me a comment below with your specific issue. I’d be happy to help you out.
~ Rory

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Freestyle Breathing

About The Author

Hey, I’m Rory!
I write and record everything on It’s my way of giving back to the sport that gave me so much for so many years. Thanks for reading and hanging out on my site, I hope you’ve found it valuable!

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Are Swim Drills For Triathletes A Good Idea?

Are Swim Drills For Triathletes A Good Idea?

A Guide To Improving Your Technique Using Swimming Drills

Written by Rory | Technique Advice

Hey Team, it’s Rory here. Swimming is the most complicated, and technique dependent sport in triathlon. That’s what makes it so hard to learn and master.

No doubt you’ve tried a few swim drills for triathletes to help you master freestyle, but are you getting the full benefit out of them?

You see, swim drills are not a magic pill. You won’t automatically get faster just because you do them everyday!

Having said that… The right drills, used in the right way can do wonders to your stroke, if you practice them correctly.

In this guide, I’m going to teach you how to use drills as a triathlete to get the greatest improvement in speed & efficiency.

Let’s Go!

Why Should Triathletes Use Swimming Drills?

Chance are you’ve been told swim drills for triathletes are a good idea. They will fix your freestyle. After all the best swimmers and triathletes in the world work drills everyday. So you should too, right?

It’s true, the best swimmers and triathletes in the world do complete drill sets every day. But drills alone are not your answer to faster, more efficient swimming.

While swim drills for triathletes are crucial to learning how to swim fast, they can also waste your time. Or worse… harm your stroke mechanics.  Used in the wrong way without the intended and required focus, drills will hurt more than they help.

So why should you use drills?

Look at it like this: swimming is complicated. There are a lot of moving parts… Your breathing is limited… There are 1000 things to think about to achieve the “perfect stroke”.  It’s too overwhelming to  get everything right all the time.

This is the reason we do drills.

A good swim drill is just a small piece of a deconstructed freestyle stroke.

It should allow you to isolate one particular piece of your perfect freestyle stroke. Or it should put you in a specific position you want to hit in the perfect freestyle stroke.

Drills give you the opportunity to practice that particular piece or position repeatedly. They allow you to to target a weak part of your stroke and work on it until it becomes a strength.

To swim faster with less effort, you need to start using your drills in a way that gets you the biggest bang for your buck. Here’s my guide to helping you find the value in your drill sets. Value and learning that carry over into full stroke swimming.

Key Takeaway

A good swim drill is just a small piece of a deconstructed freestyle stroke. They are crucial to learning how to swim fast, but they can also waste your time and harm your stroke if they are used incorrectly

Swim Drills For Triathletes

1. You Have To Concentrate

To be effective, your swim drills should be done at a slow enough pace that allows you to really concentrate on:

WHAT you are doing with your body in that specific part of the stroke.

Your focus isn’t getting to the end of the pool as quickly as you can. Neither is it on what you are having for breakfast after your morning swim.

To get the most out of a drill slow down.  Concentrate on one specific part of your body, or one specific piece of the stroke. Refine the movement, perfect the position!

Every drill has a different focus.

● May be you should be focused on keeping your core tight and your hips up?
● Perhaps you should be trying to create pressure on your forearm?
● Is it driving power from you hips?

What part of your body are you focused on? What should it be doing? Are you getting it right?

WHERE you can reduce resistance or increase propulsion.

Some drills are designed to help you reduce resistance while others increase propulsion. Understanding what the drill is designed to do will help you execute it far more effectively.

Reducing resistance is always the first goal as we move through the water. Swim speed in triathlon depends on how little resistance you work against, not how fit or strong you are.

If you’re working on a drill designed to limit resistance; double your focus on streamlining your body.
When working on a drill designed to increase propulsion; make sure you have first streamlined your body, then power forward.

HOW the movement or position propels you forward

Any movement or action in your stroke that isn’t moving you forward is wasted energy.

Key Takeaway

So ask yourself: “how does this action, with this part of my body, at this point in the stroke, help me move forward? Am I doing this as efficiently as I can? What could I change?”

Swim Drills For Triathletes

2. Slow It Down

Don’t use speed to cover up your stroke faults.

Rushing through any task set before you is unlikely to result in high quality work. The faster we go the more sloppy we tend to be.

Quality lies in the details. By mastering movements at a slow speed you set yourself up for success at high speed.

Don’t try to use speed to cover up inefficiencies in your positions or movement patterns. If you’re able to slow everything down and still do it right, then you’re really getting the benefit.

Key Takeaway

Quality lies in the details. By first mastering movements at a slow speed you set yourself up for success at high speed.

3. Drill Into Full Stroke

Drills should always be taken into full stroke.

Getting good at swim drills for drills sake is no use to anyone. You can be the best side kicker in the world, but if it doesn’t transfer into your full stroke it’s pretty useless!

Good drill sets or drill progressions should have some full stroke swimming mixed in.  This gives you a chance to practice the isolated pieces you just worked on in the full stroke.

Transferring what you feel from drill to full stroke is THE key when using drills to build rock solid technique.

If your stroke looks exactly the same before and after the drill you’ve missed the opportunity to improve. The changes may not always be life changing, but the smallest adjustments can make the biggest difference in the water.

Key Takeaway

Transferring what you feel from drill to full stroke is THE key when using drills to build rock solid technique.

Swim Drills For Triathletes

4. Test Yourself

Nothing is learned until it’s tested under pressure.

Follow your drills up with some speed/race pace swimming.

We can test how well you’ve learned a position by taking your stroke to speed or race pace. It might easy to swim with the perfect stroke at a slow or moderate pace, but can you hold that technique as you fatigue?

Following your drill set up with a descending set or a race pace swim allows you to test where your stroke falls apart.  It will also tell you where you need to focus next time you practice your swim drills.

Key Takeaway

Following your drill set up with a descending set or a race pace swim allows you to test where your stroke falls apart.

👊🏼 Go Dominate.

If you’re coached by me, or I’ve done a video analysis for you, you’ll have all the drill progressions you need to solve your personal stroke problems. If you’re coached by someone else, hopefully your coach has given you a set of drills to help you improve.

You now know how to get the most out of your drill sets, but reading this is guide is only the first step… Go get wet and dominate!

💁🏽‍♂️ Can I Design A Drill Progression Specifically For You?

If you’re struggling with your technique or finding it difficult to make improvements, you’ll benefit from a video analysis and a customized set of drills to help fix your specific stroke problems. Get all the details on how to get your stroke analyzed HERE.
~ Rory

Download your copy of this post as a PDF, keep it handy and refer back to it whenever you need.

Download Now

About The Author

Hey, I’m Rory!
I write and record everything on It’s my way of giving back to the sport that gave me so much for so many years. Thanks for reading and hanging out on my site, I hope you’ve found it valuable!

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freestyle kick triathletes

Freestyle Kick Like A Triathlete

Freestyle Kick Like A Triathlete

How to use your strong legs to your advantage in the water

Written by Rory | Technique Advice

Hey Team, Rory here. One of the biggest battles triathletes face in the water is learning to use their legs effectively. You want the kick to help reduce drag and swim more efficiently. But at the same time, you can’t overdo it when your success on the bike and run depend entirely on your legs. 

If you’ve never learned EXACTLY how to kick your legs, this guide is exclusively for you.

I’m going to breakdown HOW to position and move each part of your leg so you can get more power out of your kick. You’ll also learn to get more from your legs without negatively affecting your bike and run.  

No babble. No stories. Let’s get kicking! 

1. Your Toes: 

Point your toes in exactly the opposite direction to the way you are swimming, i.e. backwards.

You should be able to point your toes with the least amount of effort possible. If you have to tense or strain your foot to point your toes, chances are you experience calf cramp regularly.  And you know, nothing will end your swim faster than a cramp!

freestyle kick triathletes

2. Your Foot: 

The top of your foot should form an extension of you shin bone.

Imagining flooring the gas pedal in your car… notice how the angle between your foot and your shin opens up? That’s the position we’re trying to get into!

As with pointing your toes, you want to open the angle of your ankle with the least amount of effort possible. If you have to fight to hold this extended position, you will quickly end up with cramp!

freestyle kick triathletes

Key Takeaway

You want your foot to be parallel to the bottom of the pool or ocean as you kick up and down. You should be able to open the angle of your ankle and point your toes with as little effort as possible.

3. Your Ankles: 

Have you ever grabbed a kick board and started a kick set only to find you’re not moving anywhere? Or if anything, you’re moving backwards?

If that’s you, your legs (whether they’re kicking or not) are killing your swim speed.

In a perfect world, your ankle should open up more than 90°.  If you can’t get to 90°, moving your legs is actually going to slow you down! You can put all the energy and effort into kicking more. Kicking harder. Kicking faster. It won’t do you any good.  In fact it will make you slower!

freestyle kick triathletes

Bad Ankles – acting like anchors and stopping you moving forward!

freestyle kick triathletes

Ok Ankles – not acting like anchors but not helping your move forward

freestyle kick triathletes

Great Ankles – helping you reduce drag and move forward!

4. Your Knees:

To kick well your knees must bend. But, we’re not riding a bicycle, or even kicking a football. That much bend would move our legs outside the profile of our body… And slow us down!

So how much knee bend are we looking for?

Well it’s kind of like Goldilocks’s search for the perfect porridge in the home of the Three Bears.
● Too much knee bend is going to create extra resistance.
● Too little knee bend doesn’t create enough force to create stability or move you forward.
● Somewhere in the middle is just right!

freestyle kick triathletes

There two points to think about when it comes to the knee bending:

1️⃣ The knee bend should lift your heel up towards the surface of the water. It should NOT pull your thigh in towards your stomach.

2️⃣ Your thighs should always remain hidden in the profile of your torso and upper body.
Get those two points right, and you will be creating force while minimizing resistance!

Key Takeaway

The knee bend should lift your heel up towards the surface of the water so your thighs always remain hidden in the profile of your torso and upper body

5. Your Hip Flexors:

Your hip Flexor is where the kick movement and power originates. When kicking correctly, your hip flexors should fatigue first, not your thighs.

To kick effectively; use your hip flexor to raise your leg up to the surface of the water as your knee bends slightly. Then snap it down powerfully as as your ankle whips back against the water.

Key Takeaway

Use your hip flexor to raise your leg up then snap it down powerfully as as your ankle whips back against the water.

6. Your 5 Step Check List:

1️⃣ Hip flexor raises raise your leg up  inline with your body
2️⃣ Knee bends taking the foot to the surface of the water
3️⃣ Hip Flexor snaps down powerfully
4️⃣ Ankle allows the foot to whip back against the water to drive you forward
5️⃣ Ankle allows the foot to presses down on the water, which lifts you up. Giving you balance and floatation.

freestyle kick triathletes

Key Takeaway

The ultimate goal is not to overkick or drive from the legs. Rather you’re looking to keep the kick small, light and consistent to stabilize and balance your body.

💁🏽‍♂️ What Questions Do You Have On The Kick?

This guide should leave you with no questions about how to kick, but no doubt you’ve thought of 20 already. Comment below with what’s holding you back from kicking like a real triathlete!

Download your copy of this post as a PDF, keep it handy and refer back to it whenever you need.

Download Now

About The Author

Hey, I’m Rory!
I write and record everything on It’s my way of giving back to the sport that gave me so much for so many years. Thanks for reading and hanging out on my site, I hope you’ve found it valuable!

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Use These 5 Steps To Improve Your Swim Technique

Swim Technique: 5 Ways To Make
Lasting Swim Technique Changes

Written by Rory | Technique Advice

Swim technique will set the limit on where your fitness will take you. We talk about this in the first section of the Fundamentals of Triathlon Swimming Guide. You can train harder and get fitter to shave mere seconds off your best times. Or you can improve your technique and save minutes.

When you change your swim technique so it’s efficient and effective the sky’s the limit on where you can take your swim fitness and speed. Making good changes to your swim technique is important in reaching your full potential as a swimmer.

● But what if you have bad habits that you want to correct but you can’t seem to make the change permanent?
● What if you know what you should be doing but you can’t get it right when you’re actually mid way through a lap?
● What if your technique goes out the window as soon as you get tired? Or even worse, you changed your swim technique and ended up slower?

stroke technique changes

I want to give you the strategies and mindset you need to change your swim technique permanently and effectively.

Before we get into those strategies, I need to give you a little bit of context on how our brains go about learning. There are 4 stages to learning anything new. These don’t only apply to swimming, they apply to any skill you want to learn.

Stage 1:

Unconscious Incompetence
The “You don’t know what you don’t know” stage

At this stage in the learning process you aren’t even aware of the things you don’t know. You don’t even know the skill exists. You can’t change your swim technique until you know it needs to be changed! It’s not until you read or have someone teach you something that you will have an “aha” moment of awareness. When you become aware of the skill you move on to Stage 2.

Stage 2:

Conscious Incompetence
The “You know what you don’t know” stage

At this stage in the learning process you know that there is something to learn. But the problem is you do not understand it or do not know how to do it. You know what to do to change your swim technique, but you don’t know how. This stage can be really frustrating to work through. So you begin to gather information. You read the Fundamentals of Swimming Guide. Watch Youtube videos or hire a coach and you begin to get an understanding of how to do it. This is when you move to Stage 3.

Stage 3:

Conscious Competence
The “You know what you know” stage

In Stage 3 you’ve learned how to change your swim technique, but actually doing it takes a lot of concentration. When your attention is focused on the skill you’re trying to master you get it right. The moment your attention wanders or some other external factor comes into the equation (like breathing or fatigue) you are no longer able to do it right.

Stage 4:

Unconscious Competence
The “You don’t know what you know” stage

With enough repetition and time spent in Stage 3 you will start to find that the skill becomes second nature and can be performed easily. Welcome to stage 4! When you reach stage 4 you’re able to go onto autopilot while you perform the skill. This is our ultimate goal.

stroke technique changes

If you are reading this blog you are very likely in Stage 2 or Stage 3 on your swimming journey.

These are the most challenging stages in the learning process. This is where most people will give up. That is NOT what I want for you! So here are 5 way to approach changing your swim technique like a pro.

1. Be Prepared To Screw Up (a lot)

Stage 2 in particular can be really frustrating for triathletes in the water. Making mistakes and screwing up is critically important to progressing through this stage. If you aren’t comfortable with screwing up, you’ll struggle to move onto stage 3.

There are very few people that ever hit a homerun on their first attempt at something. You are going to screw up. It’s going to look like a train wreck. It’s going to feel horrible and it may even make you slower to start with.

That is 100% ok. The more ok you can be with that, the faster you will learn. Mistakes and failures aren’t final, they are simply feedback. Get comfortable with making mistakes and you’re technique will improve much faster!

2. Break It Up Into Smaller Pieces

Everything you do in Stage 3 requires a lot of focus. It’s much easier (and more effective) to focus on one thing at a time. This is why we use drills to help us make stroke changes. Good drills are essentially small pieces of a deconstructed swim stroke. They allow us to isolate one particular piece of your perfect stroke or put you in a specific position. They then give you the opportunity to practice that particular piece over and over again.

Using a good drill will give you only one or two things to think about. Instead of trying to concentrate on the whole stroke at one time your attention and focus can be channel.

Using training tools like fins or a center mounted snorkel will also help you through stage 3. The fins keep the effort level low and keep you moving through the water. This gives you more opportunity to concentrate on your specific stroke piece.

The center mounted snorkel eliminates the constant thoughts on breathing. When you aren’t thinking about the next breath you can isolate your thinking to the stroke element you are working on.

3. Stay Consistent

Repetition is the secret weapon to making stroke changes through both Stage 2 and Stage 3. If you only practice something once or twice it’s unlikely that any change will take effect. Many competitive swimmers will spend 20-30 hours a week in the pool training. This volume isn’t entirely related to getting fitter. A lot of that time is spent on developing great movement patterns that come about through endless repetition.

You don’t need to be swimming that much. But I do want you to understand that doing a drill once is unlikely to bring about any permanent change in your stroke. Consistently working at it will.

4. Don’t Force It

If you’re like me with my A-Type personality you want to make sure you are doing your drills or stroke exactly right. This A-Type mindset can be very beneficial to making a stroke change permanent. But it can also stall the process.

There is a fine line between focus and force.

One of my triathletes, Jennifer felt this on Saturday. The more she focused on her rotation the more mechanical the movement got. The more she tried the more tense she became. She knew what she was supposed to be doing, but she just couldn’t get it right.

Half way through the drill set I asked Jennifer what she got for her birthday last year.

She couldn’t remember off the top of her head so I asked her to think about it while she did the next 50m drill.

Boom. Perfect rotation.

Distracted by trying to remember what her husband gave her as a gift she stopped forcing the rotation and it began to flow effortlessly. Hello Stage 4!

4. Don’t Force It

Most stroke changes take time to become permanent. If you are willing to:

● Make mistakes
● Focus on one thing at a time but not force it
● Stay consistent

You will see progress and begin to feel your improvements. Feeling faster is nice, but we also want to test if we truly are faster.

I like to use a set of 4 x 50 Descending to test the impact of a change. Once you’ve finished your drill set, do 4 x 50 Freestyle as follows:

● First 50 easy
● Second 50 medium
● Third 50 at your Olympic or ½ IM race pace
● Fourth 50 sprint fast.

If your times are improving your stroke changes are effective.


If you’re struggling with a stroke change, tell me what exactly you are trying to change and what you’re finding so difficult in the comments section below. I’ll give you some guidance on how to get the breakthrough you’re after.
Here to help!

About The Author

Hey, I’m Rory!
I write and record everything on It’s my way of giving back to the sport that gave me so much for so many years. Thanks for reading and hanging out on my site, I hope you’ve found it valuable!

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The Freestyle Breath: How To Keep Your Head Low

The Freestyle Breath: How To Keep Your Head Low

Written by Rory | Technique Advice

Many triathletes I work with complain about taking on a mouth full of water during the freestyle breath. Especially when I have asked them to keep their head low during the movement. If they do manage to keep their head low, many feel like they don’t get a good breath in and get winded and run out of air too fast.

As a result they lift their head up for the breath or over rotate and look up to the sky as they breathe. Both of which result in slowing them down.

Learning to stay low to the water during the freestyle breath will ensure that you carry your momentum from stroke to stroke. When you don’t slow down each time you take a breath you’ll be able to sustain your pace with less effort. You’ll also find you can hold your speed for longer periods of time.

By keeping your head low to the water you are able to limit the amount of resistance you work against. The lower your head can stay the less you will slow down as you take a breath.

But keeping your head low to the water is a challenge!

So here are 4 ways to help you with the freestyle breath. Especially if you’re lifting your head or over rotating to breathe and struggle to stay low to the water like this☝????triathlete .

1. Get Your Hips Up

If your hips sit too deep beneath the surface when you try to stay low during the breath your mouth won’t get out the water.

Watch me nearly drown as I attempt to demonstrate this in this video:

Raising your hips up to the surface will level your body out. That means as you rotate for the breathe your mouth will clear the water and you’ll breathe in fresh air!

2. Make The Breath Faster

You’ll struggle to hold your low breathing position if you are taking too long to inhale. You have a very short window of time to get that breath in. You want to use that window to inhale only. To do this, make sure you have sufficiently exhaled while your face is in the water. That way when your face comes out the water you only have to inhale (as opposed to exhaling first then inhaling) before it can return back down.

3. Start The Breath Earlier

Breathing late in the stroke will cause you to rush the breath and lead you to feel winded very quickly.

Your head should start to turn for the breath just after your fingers have entered the water. You rotate from the neck first and then the rotation of your shoulders will take over. As your arm extends out in front of your shoulder and your body rolls to the side your mouth will clear the water. Breathe in and then return your head down before you begin to pull back with the extended arm.

Freestyle Breath - Keep Your Head Low

Staying low to the water as you breathe will ensure that you carry your momentum from stroke to stroke. You’ll no longer take on water and you’ll stop feeling winded when you get the rhythm, timing and position of the breath right.

Have You Grabbed My Breathe Easy Guide? 

Put an end to your extreme urge to breathe – even if you can’t swim more than a lap right now...

Get The Guide Here

About The Author

Hey, I’m Rory!
I write and record everything on It’s my way of giving back to the sport that gave me so much for so many years. Thanks for reading and hanging out on my site, I hope you’ve found it valuable!

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How To Better Use Your Workout Time In The Pool

Are You Frustrated About Spending Hours in the Water Without Seeing Tangible Progress?

Written by Rory | Swim Fitness Advice

Time is a luxury as a triathlete. There are so many training pieces to fit together each week! To plan your swim/bike/run workouts amongst work, family and some sort of social life can be mission impossible!

When you finally get the piece to fit together, you want to make damn sure that you’re not wasting any of your workouts!

improve my swimming

I receive coaching requests every day from triathletes here in Dubai and around the world. All of them with the same goal:

“Coach, I need to improve my swimming”.

The next step is where a lot of you get caught up. Figuring out how!

Every workout you do should help you improve. Every swim should move you closer to your ultimate goal.

Think about someone looking to invest some money. The goal is to get the biggest possible return on the investment. In the same way, you want to see the most progress possible from your time spent in the pool.

The more progress you can make in the time you have available the quicker you’re going to achieve your goals! And achieving goals is AWESOME!

So if you’re wondering “how do I improve my swimming?”…

Two easy ways you can make better use of your workout time in the pool:

1. Follow A Plan

Have you ever Googled a swim workout while you’re driving to the pool? Or are you just repeating the same workout every time you hit the water?

If this is you, you are not making the best use of your time in the pool!

You need to follow a structured plan.

Get 3 New Structured Swim Workouts Every Week. Join The SwimFaster Program HERE.

If you have a goal, you need a plan.

Training without a plan is like getting in your car and driving to a destination you’ve never been to…  without using a GPS!

You’re going to get lost. You’re going to take the long way around. You’re going to ask strangers for directions even though you’re adamant you got this! And sadly, you’re going to waste a lot of time…

Chances are you may never even arrive at your destination.

2. Film Yourself Swimming or Get a Video Analysis Done

Swimming is very foreign to us humans. Our ability to know and understand what our bodies are doing in the water is very poor.

That’s why seeing yourself swim can be so eye opening and valuable.

Only once you watch yourself swim on video do you realize the areas that need the most improvements.

I film the athletes that I work with at least every 10 weeks. By doing so, we know exactly what stroke technique points we should focus on during each workout.

Check out how Video Analysis Helped Amin Drop Minutes Off His Swim Time! Read it HERE.

Don’t allow swimming to become a frustrating experience where every trip to the pool is a waste of time. Your time might be limited but you can maximize it to make sure that every workout is helping you improve and moving you closer to your ultimate goal.

About The Author

Hey, I’m Rory!
I write and record everything on It’s my way of giving back to the sport that gave me so much for so many years. Thanks for reading and hanging out on my site, I hope you’ve found it valuable!

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Should Triathletes Swim Front Quadrant Freestyle?

Should Triathletes Swim Front Quadrant Freestyle?

Written by Rory | Technique Advice

There’s one similarity that both you and the fastest swimmers in the world share.

A common factor that you, an Age Group Triathlete and the greatest Olympians have to deal with… Want to know what it is?

The speed and efficiency of your freestyle stroke is directly related to the length of your body.

Let Me Explain

The longer or taller you can make your body the better you will move through the water. Think of your body like a boat; long, narrow yachts move quicker than short wide barges. Right?

Let’s think about that for a minute… Who would win in a race, the yacht or the barge?

If the barge captain fires all his engines. Burns every bit of fuel he’s got, and gets a head start he might have a shot at beating the yacht. At least over a short distance. But if he’s using that much energy to generate speed, it’s not going to last long. Sooner or later the yacht’s efficiency will win.

Now ask yourself; when you hit the water in your next race, would you rather be a barge or a yacht?


The length of your body through the water plays a significant role in your speed and efficiency.

So how do we use this idea to help you swim faster for longer and still have the reserves to smash the bike and run?

Make Yourself Taller 

I admit, there’s not a whole lot you can do to change your actual height. But you can make a couple of small adjustments and cheat a little to make yourself tall and long in the water. Here’s how:

Swimming with good posture is your first priority.

Just like your middle school teacher used to harp on, posture is important. Standing with good posture vs slouching is better for your health and your appearance! As it does on land, lengthening your torso and straightening your back will make you taller in the water.

And once you have good posture?

You can cheat by including your arms! Make yourself taller in the water by lengthening the time your arms spend extended out in front of you.

How Do I Do That? 

I’m 187cm (6ft2) tall.

Swim Drills For Triathletes

But if I raise my hands up above my head I add an extra 70cm+ to my total height.

If you add the length of your arms above your head you’re a longer, taller body moving through the water.

If your arms are not extended out in front of you, you are only as long or tall as your hight. So the longer you keep an arm extended above you as you swim the taller you are.

This Is Why Some Coaches Use Catch Up Drill

If you’ve been to a swim lesson or spent any time on YouTube no doubt you’re familiar with this drill. It is used to help teach you extend out in front.

To swim Catch Up Drill, you must wait for the recovering hand to touch the extended hand. Only once they touch can you pull through for your next stroke.

Touching your hand on every stroke gives you a physical cue telling your hand when to start the next stroke. This makes it easy to learn how to keep the arm extended out in front as well as the timing of when to pull through. Just wait until your hands touch!

While the drill teaches you to stay extended (which is what we want) it’s not a great way to swim freestyle. Why?

Because the wait disrupts the continuity of your stroke. It halts forward momentum.

While your lead arm waits for the recovering arm to enter and touch you STOP moving forward. This means you have to re-generate your speed from scratch with every pull.

You end up moving-stopping-moving-stopping-moving… Not economical at all.

It’s like city driving gas consumption in your car vs highway consumption. The stop-start driving in the city results in higher fuel consumption than continuous driving on the highway. Similarly the stop-start movement of catch up drill results in higher energy consumption.

This higher fuel consumption may come back to haunt you later in your race.

You may have better length length in your stroke by swimming with a catch up style. But if you have to re-generate your speed from scratch with every stroke you’ll be burning too much energy. It’s going to hurt more than it helps.

This is why I do not use Catch Up Drill unless we’re in extreme circumstances!

So How Do You Achieve That Long Stroke?

Enter Front Quadrant Freestyle.

Front Quadrant Freestyle takes the benefits of the Catch Up Drill without killing your momentum.

To swim Front Quadrant Freestyle; wait until the recovering arm has passed the line of your head before you start your pull.

You could say that Front Quadrant Freestyle is 3/4 Catch Up Stroke. Instead of waiting for your hands to touch before you pull back, you start when the recovering arm has just passed your head.

If filmed from above we want to see one hand/arm extended out in front of your head at any time in the stroke cycle. You must make sure the lead arm stays extended out front during the recovery of the other arm.

Front Quadrant Freestyle

Notice how the lead arm disappears past the head before the recovering arm enters the water. This shortens the length of your body through the water and will slow you down.

Front Quadrant Freestyle
Front Quadrant Freestyle

3/4 Is A Rough Guide

You can adjust the length of time you keep the lead arm extended based on:

  • The distance you’re swimming
  • Your speed
  • The water/weather conditions.

Long distance / Slow speed / Flat calm water = More Extension

Short distance / High Speed / Rough Water = Less Extension

In the pool, you have the opportunity to be patient with that lead arm. You can keep it extended and ride your line as long as it doesn’t kill your momentum.

What About Open Water?

In rough open water, the length of time you leave that arm extended out is potentially shorter.

Turnover is generally higher in rough water so you’re not going to have the same length to your stroke. You will spend less time in the extended position and pull through into your catch a little earlier.

Some Degree of Front Quadrant Freestyle

With the types of distances you will be swimming, you should always have an element of Front Quadrant Freestyle in your stroke. Regardless of the situation (distance/speed/conditions) you always want some part of one hand or arm extended out in front of your head at all times in the stroke.

It may not be the full arm, but some part of it should be stretched out to make you longer.

If it’s not you’re shortening your length slowing yourself down and risking shoulder injuries.

To help you conceptualize what I’m talking about, here is an exaggerated example of Front Quadrant Freestyle.

For demonstration purposes, it’s swum very slowly to help you pick up on exactly how I get more length.

This is not the speed at which I would train or race. But it does give you a good idea of how you can lengthen your body for better efficiency!

About The Author

Hey, I’m Rory!
I write and record everything on It’s my way of giving back to the sport that gave me so much for so many years. Thanks for reading and hanging out on my site, I hope you’ve found it valuable!

Share This With A Training Buddy