The Waterpolo Drill - Add Some Punch And Rhythm Into Your Stroke

When moving from pool to open water swimming, the number one mistake swimmers make is to think open water is just pool swimming but without the walls. It's actually anything but!

Open water swimming requires a distinct set of skills, including:

- Being comfortable swimming close to other swimmers
- The ability to swim straight without a black line to follow
- Being able to navigate accurately around a course
- Knowing how to execute effective drafting behind or alongside other swimmers
- The ability to cope with disturbed water conditions

The last of those - coping with waves and chop - is very important but often overlooked. Traditional swim coaching teaches swimmers to develop a long stroke technique, minimising the number of strokes taken. More often than not this is a bad thing to do in the pool but in open water it can be disastrous because it lowers your stroke rate (cadence)  - killing the rhythm of your stroke.

Developing A Better Stroke Rhythm

To excel when swimming or racing in open water you need a good sense of rhythm in your stroke. This helps you punch through disturbed water, either from waves, swell and chop from the prevailing conditions, or that generated by other swimmers around you:

Try and use a long smooth stroke in these conditions and you'll hugely underperform because you get stalled when a wave hits you in the gap between your strokes and have to reaccelerate your whole body mass again on the next stroke. The more efficient way to swim is to apply propulsion continuously from one stroke to the next.

(Thinking of avoiding this by seeking out clear water? And as we discussed here, you actually can't, even on an otherwise flat lake:

So as part of your preparation for open water swimming, you need to work on developing good rhythm in your stroke. But what's a good way to develop it?

A key drill is Waterpolo, watch Swim Smooth's interpretation of this exercise here:

Waterpolo involves swimming with yours eyes above the surface of the water as you would expect. However, with Swim Smooth's version of the drill we only perform this over short distances (start with just 10-15m) but at sprint pace. In this way you push the pace very hard and swim at a high cadence/turnover.

Focus on maintaining a strong tempo, getting into each stroke quickly at the front. If you struggle to perform the drill at all, try using a large pull-buoy or don a pair of fins to help bring the legs up at the rear.

Perform Waterpolo regularly in your training and your ability to increase and sustain a higher stroke rate will improve, whether you are swimming easy, steady or hard pace.

The footage above is taken from the Swim Smooth Guru. Subscribers can see all 44 Swim Smooth drills (and discover exactly how and when to use them) here:

Subscribe to the Guru today and get to work improving your swimming! :

Swim Smooth!

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