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Sue Teoh: Improve your swimming strokes with drills

Sue Teoh - Swim class

What are swim drills?

Swim drills may sound alien to you if you’ve not attended formal swim coaching sessions before. Don’t get intimidated by drills, it is merely an exercise that exaggerates a particular aspect of a swim stroke.

Used appropriately, swim drills can help you learn a new stroke or let you improve your strokes markedly.

Most inexperienced swimmers tend to merely swim laps and build on mileage. They don’t integrate swim drills into their workout and miss out on polishing up on their strokes while training.

Why do swim drills?

Practising drills can help you un-learn bad habits and re-learn new ones.

Because the movements in drills are very different from the normal strokes, this ensures that bad habits cannot interfere during the re-learning phase of a swim stroke.

Sue Teoh - Swim class

Think Karate Kid!

When practising drills you’ll concentrate on how to use your senses to feel how to do the correct movement rather than just mentally understanding how the movement works. This is like how martial arts is taught…think karate kid!

The swim stroke is broken down into different components and you will practise each component repeatedly with the use of drills until the body learns how to execute the movement correctly.

This is the process of creating muscle memory, eventually the movement becomes automatic and your mind is free to take on the next challenge.

Each drill is designed to help you focus on one specific skill to master. Therefore you can tackle one skill at a time and do not get overwhelmed trying to put everything together all at once. Progress is a lot faster this way.

Master one drill at a time, once you’ve mastered that drill you can progress to the next drill more easily.

It will be very difficult or impossible to move on if the previous drill has not been mastered.

swim fitness maintenance

How to practise swim drills?

Do it slowly and very mindfully, you shouldn’t swim the drill like you are in a race.

The key is to do it patiently and in the suggested order.

Understand the objective of the drill so you can focus your attention to that objective. You’ll need time to learn a new drill so give yourself a few practice sessions to get a new drill right.

It may take a few weeks to master the sequence of drills for your stroke but you will see a big difference.

Let your body adapt between each swim session. You will notice that with each practise, the drill becomes easier as the body has adapted.

Integrate drills into your warm ups in each session.

Practising drills at the beginning of a session helps dial in your strokes, like sharpening a knife before using it.

Even elite swimmers who have mastered their strokes still practise their drills at every training session so that says a lot about how regularly you’ll need to practise your drills. Plus, drills help keep your workouts varied and interesting.

For example, 4 sets of 25m of drill and 25m of regular swimming. Practise the drill for a lap or so, focusing on a specific aspect of your stroke, then try to maintain that focus while swimming another regular lap or so.

Additional equipment helps keep focus

Get a pair of short fins to help reduce your kicking and fatigue while you practise drills.

Another useful piece of equipment is the front mounted snorkel specific for freestyle swimming. With the snorkel you’ll remove the need to turn to breathe so you have one less component to think about while drilling other components of the stroke.


So now you know how drills work and why it is such an excellent tool in teaching or improving swim techniques. Join some coaching sessions to learn what drills you should be doing on a regular basis to improve your swim efficiency!

Join Sue’s Swim Coaching and start your drills!

Swim Coaching Group Classes

  • Stroke Development classes – Intermediate/advanced
    • Mondays 7pm-8pm at British School KL, Bandar Utama, Selangor.
    • Wednesdays 7pm at PJ Palms Sports Centre, Selangor.
  • Beginner Freestyle classes
    • Fridays 7pm at British School KL, Bandar Utama, Selangor.

Private classes for individuals/group are also available upon request.

Contact Sue Teoh at suesueteoh@gmail.com or call +60125156020.

Related article:

Sue Teoh: Improving your swim – How you should spend your time and money

Exclusive Interview: Sue Teoh, Malaysia’s Triathlete at the Singapore SEA Games 2015

Sue Teoh: Preparing for a Triathlon RACE!

Sue Teoh: 6 Training Tips for Triathlon Cycling


More about the author

Sue Teoh is an internationally certified personal trainer and triathlon coach, accomplished athlete excelling in competitive swimming. She is currently part of Malaysia’s National Triathlon team. Through coaching, she passionately helps people of all ages achieve their fitness and lifestyle goals.

Follow Sue Teoh, Fitness Trainer on Facebook here.