Bellingham Athletic Club

Freestyle and Backstroke Drills

Many of us use swimming as a supplement to our dry-land workouts. We hop in the pool to stretch out and work a little of that lactic acid out of our systems. Swim a few laps, call it good and go about our day. But did you realize that you can get a lot more out of your workout?

Swimming is a complex sport and one that most people think of as a ‘high-dedication’ sport. In order to improve, you must be in the pool 2+ hours a day. And to improve your speed and endurance at the point of a competitive swimmer, yes, that kind of effort is necessary. But it’s totally possible to improve your stroke technique and physical fitness without putting in that massive amount of work. Swimming should be fun!

That’s where Drills come in. Drills are a way to hone a specific skill in a stroke – you can do drills to improve kicking, breathing, body positioning, any number of factors that contribute to your efficiency in the water. A drill is simply a way to modify your stroke to focus on these skills, then see how they affect your stroke!

Try out a few of these Drills, and add them to your repertoire!


• Zipper Drill: Pretend that there is a zipper running from your hip to your shoulder. As you are doing your pull and bringing your hand out of the water, use your thumb to ‘zip up’ the zipper. The intent of this drill is to correct arm positioning during a freestyle stroke! Link:

• Clenched Fist Drill: This is a simple one. Just do regular freestyle, with a closed fist instead of an open palm! You’ll notice that it is harder to pull effectively. This drill is to teach you how to correctly pull water when you cannot rely on your ‘paddling’ hands. Link:


• 6-Kick Switch: To perform this drill, do one stroke. When you bring your hand above your head, instead of pulling underneath your body, rotate to the side and hold your positioning for 6 kicks. Then complete your pull and repeat with the other arm. Alternate this pattern, making sure to ‘over-rotate’. Link:

• Kickboard Positioning: This drill uses a kickboard to improve your body positioning and balance in the water. Hold our kickboard at hip-height, then do a stroke with one arm, the other holding the kickboard in place. Switch hands, and repeat. Then bring your kickboard above your head, and repeat again. In a third, optional position, hold the kickboard out of the water, pointed at the ceiling, and repeat again. Link: