The Javelin Drill Sequence

On last week's blog we talked about how pro triathlete Joel Jameson has made big strides forwards with his swimming by breathing to his non-dominant side. We had a huge response to the post and we know a lot of you have been experimenting with breathing to your 'bad' side to great success.

If you have a strong preference to breathe to one side when you swim, try one of our favourite drill sequences below, we call it the Javelin Drill. It's a simple but powerful way to help you open up the 'bad' side of your stroke and develop the timing of breathing to that side. We often use this sequence during session warm-ups in the Swim Smooth squads.

The Javelin Drill Sequence

Wearing fins, grab a single paddle and place it on one hand - a conventional strapped paddle is fine but we like the Finis Freestyler for this purpose as it is arrow shape and the keel gives you feedback on your alignment.

Push off and kick on your side with the paddle on the lower hand outstretched in front of you. This is like our conventional side kicking exercise (see here) except you are wearing the paddle on the lead arm. Make sure you are at 90° on your side with your rear hand placed gently on your thigh.

As you kick on your side think about keeping the lead arm aligned by drawing your shoulder blades together and back, the arm should point arrow-straight down the pool. Be particularly aware of this if you have a crossover of the centre line in your stroke as it's likely to re-occur whilst performing this drill:

Also become aware of the angle of your hand, make sure the palm is facing the bottom with a very slight downwards angle at the wrist. As always in your stroke, elbow higher than wrist and wrist higher than fingertips:

Once you get the feel of this drill on both sides (swap the paddle to keep it on the lead hand), perform it for 25m and immediately go into your full freestyle stroke, breathing away from the paddle on every stroke. So if you kicked on your right side with the paddle on your right hand go into full freestyle but breathe only to your left side on every stroke.

As you stroke and breathe away from the paddle, let the breath take care of itself and maintain your focus on the lead arm. Visualise your arm like a javelin spearing straight forward with perfect alignment down the pool - this improved alignment whilst breathing is the focus of the exercise.

Integrating Into A Set

Try swimming the drill in this 200m set, perfect for adding in to a warm-up:

Paddle on right hand: 25m kick on right side + 25m freestyle breathe left
Paddle on left hand: 25m kick on left side + 25m freestyle breathe right
Repeat twice through

How does it feel breathing to your bad side? The drill should help you rotate much better to that side and the paddle give you a greater awareness of your catch whilst breathing.

Swim Smooth!


Anonymous said...

Should the head be pointing down or forward as in the photo?

Patrick said...

I tend to get dizzy when I breathe to my bad side which I why I don't do it much, especially when I'm doing a hard set and need to breath every two strokes. I've worked on this while swimming slow to see if I can figure out why but I haven't found a solution. Any suggestions?

Adam Young said...

Hi Patrick, you can actually do either as the support of the fins will keep your legs up whatever. I would recommend keeping it the same as in your full stroke to keep things "realistic".

Hi Patrick, definitely try the sequence in the post and see if it helps!


Wyku said...

Patrick, I also noticed this when I tried it out last night, but found the dizzyness went away after about 50m or so. The same thing happened when I switched back to my "good" side though. I was doing hard-ish 500m pieces breathing every 2nd stroke so once I got through the initial dizzy feelings things were good. Not sure if that helps any, but you're not alone at least :).

Camy said...

Thank you for giving us drills to help breathing on our bad side (reminds me of a song) !
I'm worried about 2 things :
1)Why do you write : kick on your right side with the paddle on the right hand ?
If I've got the paddle on my right hand, I feel i'm kicking on my LEFT side.
2) When performing 25m with fins : do we have to look forward or down ? should we breathe (on the left) or not ?
Thank you.

Anonymous said...


Would you clarify this: "drawing your shoulder blades together and back"? I cannot reconcile it with what I've been told is "good" positioning. Whenever I read things suggesting having a "packed" should, I wonder if I'm doing everything completely wrong!

Background: I tend to reach my leading hand so far forward that my shoulder touches my upper jaw near the ear. On longer workouts, the stubble around my jaw abrades the skin on my shoulder. My Master's coach -an accomplished collegiate swimmer- says that is a "good" sign; suggesting my positioning is correct.

- Mark

Nick E said...

I get arrhythmia when I push things too hard in the pool. I also can't kick very well so the javelin drill has been suggested as one to help, but it triggers the flutter and I have to stop. But if I can work my way up I'm usually OK. Any suggestions for drills to ease into this one?

Paul said...

Are you using fins Nick?

Any sort of medical condition such as an arrhythmia should always be checked out by a medical professional before starting any program...I'm sure you have, but worth pointing out nonetheless.



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