4 Challenging (But Fun!) Swim Drills For Triathletes

Go outside your comfort zone with these drills that will help you become a more relaxed and efficient swimmer.

Photo: Oliver Baker

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Illustration by Oliver Baker.

Go outside your comfort zone with these four challenging (but fun!) drills that will help you become a more relaxed and efficient swimmer. 

Tombstone Kicking

Develop a strong kick by pushing a large surface through the water. Grasp the sides of a kickboard and hold it vertical with only the top inch of the board out of the water. Push off the wall and kick the length of the pool. Keep your body flat and your face in the water except to breathe.

Example set: 6×75 with 15 sec rest as (25 Tombstone/50 swim)

Illustration by Oliver Baker.

Underwater Recovery (aka Dog-paddle)

A key element to efficient swimming is learning how to slip through the water. To practice finding the smoothest path, swim the freestyle stroke but keep your hands and arms underwater during the recovery. Don’t lift your hand out of the water after it passes your hip. Instead, slide it up the side of your body, keeping your arms and elbows tucked in close. Move your hand forward into the reach position and then start another stroke.

Example set: 12×25 with 10 sec rest as 3x(2 Underwater Recovery/2 swim)

Illustration by Oliver Baker.


Use the edge of the pool to strengthen your swimming muscles. Put your hands on the top and push yourself out of the water. When your arms are completely straight, drop back into the water, and then pop out again. Keep your hands on the wall, shoulder-width apart during the drill.

Example set: 400 swim with five Pop-ups after each 50

Illustration by Oliver Baker.

Tennessee Tumblers

This is a different take on the hypoxic breathing sets. Swim 20 yards toward the opposite wall, and when you reach the flags, dive underwater and kick/pull to the wall. Remain underwater as you touch the wall, turn around, and push off. The goal is to make it past the flags before breaking the surface and starting to swim.

Example set: 8×50 Tennessee Tumblers with 10 sec rest

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