When Swimming Drills Don’t Work
Unfortunately, working harder doesn’t always mean we get faster. Every athlete’s body moves a bit differently. It’s important to know how your body moves in all directions within your sport. Then, you need to know the most effective movement patterns for that sport. With this knowledge, drills can be designed that will maximize your improvements and reduce the risk of injury. The same drills won’t be as effective for everyone. In fact, a lot of times swimming drills are counterproductive and can lead to injury. Yup, that’s right. I just said you might be doing more harm than good with all of those drills you’ve been working so hard on.
Here’s why: If you try to push your body into a position it doesn’t like, it’s going to fight back. In particular, when you run out of room in a joint in one direction, another joint and/or another direction gives way to the pressure. You don’t get to choose how this happens. Most of the time you can’t even feel it! Sometimes this happens because of mobility and sometimes strength. Addressing these opportunities should be the first step in improving your stroke.
You have two options: Change the way your body can move or change the drills relative to how your body does move. When someone tells you to have a “high elbow,” know that no matter how hard you try, your body can only move the way it does. Doing finger drag drill as coaches often prescribe to teach high elbows will not help you if your shoulder doesn’t have the range of motion or strength to rotate the way it’s supposed to (I should point out the one huge exception here kids and teens. Their bodies are still developing and are far more adaptable. Look for a future blog on differences between the long time swimmer’s body and adult triathlete).
Entering your hand closer to your head, driving your hand a little deeper in front of you, and widening your hands are all techniques that may help you raise your elbows. It all depends on how each technique affects the rest of your body. Inevitably, each technique will have both a positive and negative impact on your speed and endurance. Assess whether a drill makes you faster or your swim easier, then decide if it makes sense to incorporate it into your training. Until you address your body’s limitation in movement, simple adjustments like this are the quickest way to protect your body and pick up your speed.
Train With Purpose