To Draft Or Not To Draft?

Drafting another swimmer (see the two ways here) can save you up to 38% of your energy expenditure. With such large savings on offer, swimming in a good draft can feel very easy despite you moving at a decent pace.

In a race situation this creates a common dilemma, should you stay in an easy draft or swim around and go on your own? In this situation how do you know what's right to do? At the moment we're half way through our clinic series in the UK and in the section on open water skills this is the most common question we've been asked by the swimmers. Here's our answer:

Pace Awareness When Drafting

To know whether you are really moving too slowly when drafting, you need to practise this in the controlled environment of the pool to learn how it feels. Grab a buddy who is a slightly better swimmer than you and have him or her swim at your target race pace for around 200-400m while you draft them. Settle into the draft and get into the rhythm of swimming - you'll soon gain an appreciation of how this target pace feels - it may surprise you how easy it is!

Pacing skills are a very important part of being a good swimmer but as a triathlete or open water swimmer you also need pace judgement when drafting so that you can make tactical decisions like this in a race. There's only one way to develop your drafting pace judgement and that's with practise. For that reason we strongly recommend you work on your drafting skills (and also your sighting and navigation skills) all year round in the pool. It's great fun and will really help you achieve your potential come the open water season.

Drafting skills are important for any swimmer
to master, whatever their ability level
In fact, Swim Smooth's philosophy is that stroke technique, swimming fitness and open water skills are equally important and should all be given equal priority in your training. Our new UK Certified Coaches follow this philosophy in their squad sessions by including regular open water skills sessions.

Don't Like Drafting?

Many swimmers say that they dislike drafting and that's only natural, the concentration required is higher and the hustle and bustle of swimming close to other swimmers can feel a little disconcerting at first. However, like with anything, with practise you can become familiar and comfortable with it and the performance improvements on offer are too large to ignore. Drafting well can easily be worth two minutes per km swum!

Always remember the number one rule of drafting: PRACTISE MAKES PERFECT

Swim Smooth!


Tommy said...

Hi there, Can you please explain to me the exact position I need to be to be able to draft?

Anonymous said...

Can you post a link to the studies which show the benefits of drafting?

Adam Young said...

Hi Tommy, did you see this link? :

Hi Anonymous, the study referred to in this post is here:



Beatrice Black said...

On race day, the swimmer I'm drafting behind can help me make up my mind. If passing that swimmer seems out of my league, I'll tuck back in behind and a teensy bit to the side. But I'll also periodically pull out to check to see if it's time to pass. (And to be sure I'm not following my benefactor right off course!) ) I tend to get stronger as the swim goes on. At some point it will be time to soldier on solo if I drafted behind someone who went out a little too hard.

FabiƔnPicornell said...

I like everything but the end could.

Good practice make perfect.

Because practice make habit.

So I need more swimsmooth.

FabiƔn Fedinchik
Barcelona.Piscina Bernat Picornell.

John said...

I agree that drafting is an important skill to learn. Whether you use it in a race depends on the other athletes you are competing against. If they are better at sprinting or better at the other legs than you then it might be good to go alone and try to break them early. If you are better at those things then I say save your energy and draft away!

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