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There is one swimming drill which will dramatically improve your technique, power and feel for the water if you practice it prior to a race or competition. This drill easy to do and only takes a couple of minutes each session. In this article, I’m going to explain to you how best to perform it and how often, and why it increases a swimmers power and feel for the water when practiced prior to a competition. The drill I’m talking about is sculling.

When I was a little kid, sculling was one of the the first things I was taught after I’d learnt the basics of floating, kicking and breathing. At the time, it felt like sculling wasn’t a beneficial exercise and I was never told why we did it. After 12 years, I finally discovered why it’s such an important drill to do, especially in the week leading up to a race.

Before an important race or competition, swimmers will taper for 5-10 days. Tapering means to reduce the volume of training so the body can rest and recover in order to perform at it’s peak. When swimmers taper they become prone to losing the ‘feel’ of the water because they have gotten so used to swimmer regularly. As they taper they swim less and their body can find it difficult to ‘remember’ the correct technique. Sculling is the solution to this.

‘Front scull’ is the most common sculling technique. It is performed on the front with the swimmer facing the bottom of the pool. The swimmer should put their arms in front of their head and scull in and out with their hand and forearm in a sweeping motion. The hands should be bent downwards slightly at the wrist in order for the swimmer to move forward. The upper arm should remain still while the forearm is moving side to side. During the out sweep the thumbs should be facing down and during the in sweep the thumbs should be facing up. Depending on a swimmers ability, they may want to do this drill with fins if they are a beginner. Amateurs should do the drill without fins and more advanced swimmers should use a pull buoy to isolate the arms.

Sculling is important because allows the swimmer to become familiar with the initial catch position of the stroke they are practising for. In ‘front scull’, the sculling is performed at the initial ‘catch’ position of the freestyle, butterfly and breaststroke strokes. By getting the initial catch correct in these strokes, it sets up the swimmer for a powerful pull through and helps overall with their stroke.

Practising sculling in training and leading up to a competition can help a swimmer maintain the all important ‘feel’ for the water. ‘Front scull’ helps a swimmer practice the correct position for the initial catch in freestyle, butterfly and breaststroke. This is vitally important so the swimmer can develop power in their stroke. Sculling is a simple drill to perform which if practiced for a few minutes each training session, can greatly improve a swimmers ‘feel’ for the water.

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As a coach of both elite and amateur swimmers, it is apparent that one of the biggest issues facing adult swimmers is the ability to generate power from their kick. There is a noticeable difference between those swimmers who were taught correctly as a kid or teenager, and those which have never been shown the correct technique for kicking in swimming. In some cases, I’ve seen people being dragged backwards because of their kick (true story!). There is a simple way to dramatically improve your kicking power even if you have bad ankle flexibility, and you can implement it starting today.

There are two keys to correct kicking technique in swimming. Swimmers must point their feet down (pointing in the opposite direction to where they want to go) and they must turn their feet and big toe inwards. Most swimmers will get the first point correct without being shown because it happens naturally during the kick, however the second point is something which needs to be learned.

By pointing the feet and big toes inwards (towards the centre line of the body) it increases the area of the feet which is used to generate propulsion and it increases the ankle flex of swimmer during the kicking motion (without needing to increase your ankle flexibility!). The feet and legs should remain ‘relaxed’ throughout the kick as this helps with leg flexibility.

Swimmers who are able to understand and apply the principle of turning the feet inwards will experience a much more powerful kick in each of the four competitive strokes. It may appear too simple an answer to the kicking problems which so many swimmers experience, but it is the first step to correcting kicking in swimming.

Last week we posted our first freestyle drill videos on the web.

Entry drill is a good drill for swimmers who are just starting out and working on their technique. Single arm freestyle is a much harder drill so most people will need to wear fins (flippers) to do it right. Remember that a drill done 99% right is the same as a drill done 100% wrong. The best advice I can give for improving your swimming is to SLOW DOWN when doing drills. Take them at a steady pace, focus on doing the key elements 100% right.  I can promise you that if you learn the correct technique through drills, and you practice the fundamentals over and over and over, your swimming will change dramatically.

Here are the two videos we posted on Youtube.