Drill Seeker: Legs

You may think you're swimming well but there may be an aspect of your technique you know is not quite right - legs too low in the water, perhaps, or too much bending of the knee. Simply swimming more is not going to address these problems. You need to add swim drills to your session.

Swim drills are great for improving swim technique because they isolate areas of the stroke that may be deficient or imbalanced. Coaches prescribe drills to their swimmers for this reason and to add variety to training.

To become a better swimmer you need to swim consistently and that very regularity can make it hard to maintain focus. By breaking up the sessions into warm-ups, drills, pre-main sets, main sets and recoveries (or warm-downs) the swims become more fun and motivating. This month we will focus on leg drills.

Your legs should help elevate your hips and body but many swimmers find the opposite happens. It's a common problem and the solution is straightforward, though it can take a little time because such technique problems develop over long periods. Simply lowering your head will not solve the problem.

Poolside Kicking Drill

Do this to remind yourself how you should feel when your hips and body are in the right position

The drill:
Stand in the water and place your hands on the edge of the pool. Your arms should be straight and your head and upper body relaxed. Stretch out in the water. If you find it too hard to do this without putting your head in the water, that's fine, but you should learn to relax your upper body enough so you can keep your head up and breathe.

The kick starts at the hip flexors, the muscles at the top of the thigh. Keep your legs straight so you are not tempted to use your quadriceps (the big muscles at the front of your thigh); slightly turn the feet inwards.

If you bend your knees your hips will automatically drop and your quads will become overworked and burn too much energy. Aim to keep your legs as straight as possible. The goal is to contract and relax the hip flexors, which move the legs up and down by small amounts. Keep the ankles closeogether and flutter the feet. Ensure the legs are on the surface of the water, which means your hips will not begin to sink.

If you want to test that your legs are in the right position try to create a little white water. Don't kick deep;  a small flutter action will do. If your legs are too deep you will not be able to create white water. The more flexible your ankles, the better, and the less energy you will use.

The first time you do this drill it can seem hard work but it will soon become easier. Do it for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, then repeat five times. Perform the Poolside Kicking Drill at the start of every session. Once you have mastered the drill technique you should not expend too much energy and it will feel natural. 

Kicking Drills

For body and leg elevation and propulsion. These drills can be done with or without a kickboard float, depending on which aspect of technique you're working on. Once you have learned how to relax your ankles with poolside kicking you can begin to incorporate kicking propulsion.

The drill:
Push off, glide for two seconds and start kicking. Keep the legs straight and kick from the hips. Don't bend the knees - any bend should come from the pressure of the water and not you.

Relax your feet and ankles; let them fishtail or flutter. This creates elevation but to move through the water you will have to increase the tempo of the movement. Continue to flutter the feet but do not kick too deeply because this takes too much energy.

The kicking drill with the float allows you to rest your forearms and focus on your legs. Without the float you have to learn to relax and breathe while maintaining a strong kick, making this an excellent general swimming drill.You can do the drills before or after your efforts. Start with one length (25 metres) and build to 200 metres at a time.

Front Crawl Fin-kick Session

These can be done with fins, zoomers or positive-drive fins. Zoomers have a wide blade for added resistance but are short, to help you kick quickly.

Positive-drive fins allow you to incorporate a variety of kicking drills into your training. Because the tips are rounded and smooth they can be used in pools that don't allow normal fins. They improve leg efficiency and can have help you achieve a more horizontal body position in the water.

The shape of the fin-tip is integral to the work that can be done with it. Positive-drive fins help to build kicking drills with front crawl, butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke. Use the fins with a kickboard float tilted up against the water for extra strength work.

The drill: Relax the ankle, alternating a fluttering action of the foot near the top of the water for half a length with a deeper explosive kick creating white water for the second half.

This drill prepares you for when you need a big kick in a race: the start; catching a swimmer in front to draft; and the last 200-300m of the race, when you need to get blood to the legs to help with transition and prepare you for the bike.

Do this as a pyramid drill: 25m, 50m, 75m, 100m working hard with 10 seconds' rest between.