5 swimming drills to improve your pace and cut your swim time

Want to cut your swim time? Here are 5 swimming drills you should get to grips with to boost your pace.

Drills are crucial to a swimmer’s performance. Not only do they help isolate and correct bad habits and problems, they also ensure they stay corrected too – meaning inefficiencies are reduced, technique is improved, and your pace is quickened.

“Unlike running or cycling – where you can check your position in shop windows or by taking a quick glance down – in swimming, most of our positioning happens behind us,” explains Dan Bullock, Head Coach for Speedo On.

“That makes it hard to see what our arms, or head is doing as we swim. Drills are essential because they help us break down our movements into smaller components – only very few elite swimmers can actually make modifications within the full stroke. If you practise enough, you’ll see improvements that flow into the full stroke.”

How often should we be doing them? According to Dan, even Olympians have to schedule in regular drills. “Within any workout there should be a commitment to technique work – if you do it short-term and return to old habits, your stroke will deteriorate,” he says.

“Think of drills as repairing and restoring a tired stroke (like golfers repairing their swing) and get into the habit of doing them often.”

Here, we’re sharing five drills designed to help you improve your pace in the pool. “These drills are highly technique-driven,” explains Dan. “They’re designed to make your technique more efficient and economical as well as improving your body position in the water, which in turn will make you faster.”

1. The Streamline Push and Glide


To achieve the optimal underwater body position when you first push off the wall.

How to do it:

Submerge and push off on your front, keeping a narrow and streamlined position.

Place your hands on top of each other and aim to squeeze your ears with your upper arms, while keeping your chin tucked in. Glide as far as you can – exhaling as you go – and kick to maintain momentum. Only start your full stroke once you break the surface.


When you repeat the drill, try to increase distance.

2. The Superman


The ‘Superman’ position encourages you to lengthen your body position while staying streamlined.

How to do it:

Kick on your side with your lead arm outstretched, shoulder to your cheek. Aim to keep your head still and your chin pointing down, rotating your head to breathe.

You should be kicking enough to elevate your trailing shoulder above the water’s surface, while ensuring that when outstretched, your lead arm is parallel to the floor and below the surface.


If your lead arm feels like it’s sinking while breathing, try using a kickboard for support.

3. The Single Arm


Improve technique and stroke accuracy by isolating one arm.

How to do it:

Push off in a streamlined position with both arms extended, and try swimming one length using just your left arm (keep your right arm extended forward).

Once the hand is pushed past the hips, you can recover the arm back to the front of the stroke alongside the static arm. Ensure you pivot at the elbow and point the fingertips downward, repeating with the opposite arm.


Use fitness fins for an advanced version, swimming with the unused arm by your side to allow full rotation, focusing on a full single arm movement and breathing between strokes.

4. The Blossom

Improve your technique by breaking down the underwater stroke into small parts…

How to do it:

Begin with both hands under the chin and paddle with minimal extension at the back of the stroke for a third of your pull length.

For the middle third of the length, paddle quickly with a slightly bigger extension at the front and back of the stroke, which starts to build doggy paddle.

For the final third, aim for a full doggy paddle.


Keep your arms as outstretched and as far apart as possible, in front and past the hips.

5. The finger trail


Achieve a narrower, more efficient stroke with a high elbow recovery.

How to do it:

Glide your fingertips close to edge of your body, whilst dragging them across the surface to maintain a high elbow. The shoulder of your lead arm should brush closely to the chin as it extends forward, achieving a nicely-rotated body position.


Slow your front crawl stroke right down when you practise this.

For expert tips on how to improve your speed with diet, technique and marginal gains, head to our blog.

Disclaimer: Always consult with a professional healthcare provider before starting any diet or exercise programme, if you are pregnant or if you are potentially suffering from a medical condition.