Want to swim faster? Add drills to your swim workouts! The right mix of drills will refine your technique and improve your efficiency so you don’t get tired as quickly.

But, you can’t just go through the motions and do drills incorrectly. If you do, you could end up swimming slower in the long run. 

Check out five common drill mistakes we see at the pool, and learn how to fix them for maximum speed gains!

1. Kicking

When you kick with a kickboard, you’re prone to improper body position. We see many swimmers who end up sinking their hips too low, which can cause discomfort in the low back and produce extra drag that makes kick sets more difficult.

Related: 5 Biggest Kick Mistakes Swimmers Make

Instead, try kicking in streamline on your back! Focus on perfect streamline, with your arms squeezing your ears and your hips close to the surface of the water. 

If you have a snorkel, try kicking in streamline on your stomach as well.

2. Catchup Freestyle Drill

If you think you need to tap your hands together during catchup drill, you’re wrong!

Tapping one hand to the other can mess with your hand entry technique, causing you to cross over the midline of your body. 

Your hands should enter the water directly in front of your shoulders, so you can immediately start your early vertical forearm catch and pull straight back. When you start your pull from the midline, you spend precious time sweeping your hand out to shoulder width before pulling – it’s not necessary!

The next time you do catchup drill, try keeping your arms shoulder width apart. Instead of tapping your hands together, your extended arm will take a stroke when the other arm returns to the starting position. 

If you have a piece of PVC pipe or a short stick, try holding onto it during catchup drill to reinforce the correct hand positioning.

3. Single Arm Freestyle

Single arm freestyle is one of our go-to drills for all-around freestyle technique, helping to improve your catch and rotation.

Related: Try These Drills to Fix Your Freestyle Rotation

But many swimmers think that their non-swimming hand needs to be extended forward, like catchup drill. And that’s just not the case! 

Instead, try pinning your non-swimming arm down to your side. This will allow you to rotate to both sides fully and should feel more natural. 

4. Fist Drill

If you’re focused on perfecting the high-elbow catch, fist drill is your friend. When you swim with your hands in fists, you’re better able to feel your catch and focus on maintaining a high elbow. 

However, don’t punch the water as hard as you can (we know it can be tempting!). When it comes time to swim normal freestyle, your hands won’t need to enter the water very forcefully.

Related: How to Improve Your Freestyle Pull & Catch

Instead, practice silent swimming. Try to make as little splash and sound as possible with each stroke. Focus on deliberate, controlled strokes with perfect technique. Feel how your hand enters the water. Stretch out before initiating your pull. Slow down to experience all the benefits of fist drill! 

If you have a few tennis balls, try holding onto them during fist drill for a different feel.

5. Speed

Finally, if you’re swimming slowly all the time, you probably won’t see much progress. Many swimmers opt for non-stop laps at a consistent pace, and while that’s a great way to fit in some exercise, it won’t help you reach your goals. 

Instead, we recommend varying your speed within your workout. Start out easy during your warmup, pick up the pace a little bit with drill work, and put the bulk of your challenging swimming in your main set. Depending on the goals of your workout, you could focus on maximum speed, race pace training, endurance, or short rest threshold pace. The sky is the limit! 

When you swim with the MySwimPro app, you’ll unlock daily, personalized swim workouts with this speed variation built in. Each set includes a goal time so you know exactly how fast you should be swimming, and how much rest you should get between reps. 

Sync your workout to your Apple or Garmin smartwatch for in-pool guidance, split tracking, and detailed data after your swim. 

Swimming faster is all about quality over quantity. Whether you do drills every workout or once per week, slow down, focus on your form and avoid the above mistakes for the best results!



  1. I have a question about practicing starts: is 6 ft deep a safe enough depth for adults? I used to practice in a 9 foot start training pool. Thank you!
    PS: I’m currently unemployed but would like to sign up for your program as soon as I can!

    • Taylor Holmes on

      Hi Kari, 6 feet should be sufficient to safely practice starts (USA Swimming requires a minimum of 6 feet, so you can follow that guideline). Just make sure to always practice your starts at a pool that has a lifeguard present for extra safety!

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