Drills To Help Improve Your Freestyle

Work on your form and speed by practicing with these drills.


By Beth Shaw


Now that we have gone over How to Swim Freestyle, let’s work on some drills to help improve both your form and your speed. One thing I always tell the athletes I coach is that swimming should be fluid and smooth. Keep your stroke long and graceful, almost like dancing. The more you fight the water, the harder it will be for you to progress.

Catch-Up Drill

The catch-up drill is a go-to for many swimming coaches. It’s a fundamental drill that helps with distance per stroke (going farther with less strokes) and proper mechanics. In catch-up drill, essentially one arm “catches up” to the other.

To do this drill, push off the wall in a good streamline and then as one arm comes around from catch to pull, the other arm stays straight out extended in front of you. Then, alternate so the other arm stays straight out extended as the moving arm does a full rotation. During this drill, try to think about the rotation of your hips in the kick as well as your breath.

Closed Fist Drill

This isn’t a favorite of many, but it is very effective in helping swimmers identify weaknesses in their pull. For this drill, simply swim freestyle with a closed fist. You’ll be surprised at hard this is. With an open hand, our palms work much like the widest portion of an oar, so when we make a fist we lose that surface area that pulls us forward through the water. When swimming with our hand closed in a fist, we are forced to focus on pulling through the water with the rest of our arms, or the narrow part of an oar.

Vertical Kicking

Here’s another drill that sounds exactly like what it is. For this one, head to the deep end and practice your freestyle kick vertically. Cross your arms to avoid using them for help. Practicing your kick vertically will help you increase both leg speed and power. It’s best to do this in intervals and as you get more proficient, put your arms up in an “I surrender” position.

Single Arm Drill

While this is definitely one of the tougher freestyle drills, it’s also one of the best for getting more efficient on both sides of your body. To do this drill, simply swim one length using only one arm with your kick. The other arm is kept straight out in front of you. Then switch arms on the next lap. Is one arm harder than the other? What can you do to correct this?

The key with swim drills is to understand why they are practiced and apply them to your non-drill sets. Think about why you are doing them and how they can translate to a faster and more efficient freestyle.

Beth is a running and triathlon coach from Florida who began her journey through health and fitness as a high school swimmer. After leading an unhealthy lifestyle while in college she made changes to get back in shape. Since then, she's completed numerous marathons and triathlons and finished her first full Ironman in 2014. She's also a freelance fitness writer and blogger. Her passion is fitness in all forms, though she enjoys running and swimming the most, and she believes in doing what makes you happy and healthy.

Main Photo Credit: pio3/; Second Photo Credit: Microgen/; Third Photo Credit: Ververidis Vasilis/

Mon May 22 11:29:02 UTC 2017

Samantha 🦋💫 look at this I thought of you.

Mon May 22 12:41:29 UTC 2017

Oh wow Brandi🇨🇦 this is awesome. Id heard of the first drill but not the others. I'm going to try some of them as soon as David ok's me back in the pool. My slip on the stairs has my back off kilter a bit... Thanks for thinking of me my lovely friend. I see all this activity lately from you. Keep it up, ok? You're doing great! We got this. 😘😘❤️

Mon May 22 12:47:40 UTC 2017

That's right I forgot sorry Samantha 🦋💫 hope you get better soon. Have a beautiful day and thank you for your kind words.

Tue Jun 06 02:46:00 UTC 2017