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Swim Training: In Defense of Drills

By Gary Hall Sr. | Nov. 10, 2015, 11:11 a.m. (ET)

swim school

Go back to school! Erase the smelly, crowded hallways of your high school from your mind and imagine yourself under the Islamorada sun in a clear pool ready to absorb knowledge that will enable you to swim faster. Swim School from Gary Hall Sr. of The Race Club is about lifelong enjoyment of the sport. It’s always more fun to swim to your potential.

In the never-ending quest to get their swimmers fitter, coaches tend to use every minute of the practice to get more meters or yards into the workout. Rarely, do they ever stop and take a step back to really analyze what their swimmers are doing. In fact, in the sea of arms and legs moving across a pool in a daily workout, seldom will a coach pinpoint any details of any individual swimmer’s stroke. It is hard to see the forest through the trees.

swimSince it takes place in a medium some 800 times denser than air, swimming could arguably claim to be the most technique-sensitive sport out there. With compelling drag forces that come into play at relative low speeds, the water has no mercy for swimmers when it comes to making positional mistakes. Yet coaches will watch their swimmers for hours going up and down the pool, making the same mistakes over and over again.

While one could argue about the relative importance that should be given to fitness vs. technique, the fact is, most swimming coaches don’t give technique much consideration at all. They should. Great swimmers have great technique and those that aren’t so great, usually don’t.

Drills are the single best way to improve technique. Here are three good reasons why coaches should give up some of the swimmer’s precious fitness time and devote more of it to doing drills.

1. Drills isolate the problem.

2. Drills help correct the problem.

3. Drills help keep the problem corrected.Although, it has to be said, not all swimming drills are good for you

Stay tuned for more on the three reasons why drills matter in swimming in the next Swim School column on Dec. 1.

gary hall srGary Hall Sr., M.D. is a three-time Olympic swimmer (‘68, ‘72, ‘76) who earned a medal in each of the three Olympic Games. At one time he held 10 world records in all strokes except breaststroke and was the World Swimmer of the year in 1969 and 1970.

Gary Sr. serves as president and technical director of The Race Club Inc. based in Islamorada, Florida. He is the current president of the United States Olympians and Paralympians Association and co-founder of World Fit, a non-profit organization promoting childhood exercise and sports. He has six children, the oldest of whom, Gary Jr., also swam in three Olympic Games (‘96, ‘00, ‘04) and earned 10 Olympic medals. Two other children, Richard and Amy, and his wife, Mary, work with Gary Sr. at The Race Club. In 2006, Gary Sr. retired from ophthalmology to dedicate his remaining professional career to teaching advanced swimming techniques for competitive swimmers and triathletes. 

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.