Impactful Drills for Swimming Training | The Rhythm DrillDonovan van Gelder
In the last in our series of swim drills we are going to talk about the most all-encompassing of the body-position / rotation drills, the Rhythm Drill. I like to think of this drill as a kind of top-up. After some extensive work on improving and refining our horizontal body position in the water and an effective and snappy body rotation that generates power through our freestyle pull, we can cut back on the drill and technique work and focus on building endurance and speed in the water. I use the rhythm drill to keep refreshing my technique and as a kind of activation of good stroke during my warm up, before starting the main set of training repetitions.
The rhythm drill can be simply described as two single arm strokes on one side, before changing to the other arm and doing two strokes on that side. It is slightly more complicated than that however, as we want the change of sides to happen nice and smoothly, so that there is a normal stroke between the two single arm strokes. I think this is where the drill got it’s name as the rhythm is similar in cadence to a dance step – fast, fast, slow, fast, fast, slow… I’m no dancer so I’ll stand to correction on that comparison.
Push off the wall, extending both arms as we normally do into a glide. Then do a stroke (I start on the left), keeping the right arm extended. Go through the full stroke with a nice high elbow in the catch. Good hand acceleration through the pull and a nice hip-snap as we push our hand the last few centimetres before exciting and beginning the recovery phase. The hand then enters the water normally and extends forward to meet the extended right hand. This will result in the body rotating on the spine until the shoulders are flat or even slightly rotated with the right shoulder lifting out of the water. So get a good stretch into the catch phase before doing another stroke with the left arm and follow the same good technique as the first stroke before the recovery.
Now, instead of the right hand waiting for the left before we do two strokes on the right, we begin the catch phase with the right hand just before or as the left hand enters the water. This is the normal freestyle timing and not a catch-up stroke, which is what the result would be if we had waited with the right hand. We now go into the two strokes on the righthand side, following the same protocol as the left. Nice, high elbow catch. Accelerating through the pull and snapping the hip out of the way as the hand exits.
What we will feel as we go through the normal stroke to change sides is a pronounced and emphasised body rotation and snap of the hips. That is because we tend to roll more onto our sides when doing a single arm drill, with the other arm extended. So while doing the two strokes on the left we will have ended more on our side, right shoulder down, than we would probably have achieved in our normal freestyle swimming. Changing across to the right arm for two strokes, using a normal freestyle stroke and not a delayed catch-up stroke, means we have to rotate from one extreme to the other, quickly. Our range of motion during the rotation is higher than normal and the rotational speed is also faster.
That is what we are looking for. While we are doing this we want to keep the body nice and controlled and steady and rotate the hips, torso and shoulders in unison as if we were a kebab on a stick. We should feel a very powerful pull and good connection with the water as a result.
So, the rhythm drill is a great ‘brush up’ of correct technique before starting a more cardio-vascularly strenuous set of intervals. It enables us to isolate and check up on: The Catch; The Pull; Body Position and Rotation as we go through the cycle of the drill. It also develops a nice feel for the water which we can take into the harder swimming where feel and touch can often become the victims of trying too hard. We want the set of rhythm drill to feel nice and relaxed. An extension of the warm up period of our session. For those of us with weaker kicks, fins are definitely a good addition to this set. Always end each repetition of rhythm with a length of freestyle to connect the good technique with our swimming. So a set of 50s or 75s with the last 25 as freestyle is normally the best way to accomplish what we are looking to achieve. Remember with drill and technique work, more is not necessarily better.