Fitter And Faster Swim Drill Of The Week: Big Ben

Welcome to the “Swim Drill of the Week” sponsored by The Fitter and Faster Swim Tour presented by Swimoutlet.com. Swimming World will be bringing you a drill, concept, or tip that you can implement with your team on a regular basis. While certain weeks may be more appropriate for specific levels of swimming (club, high school, college, or masters), Drill Of The Week excerpts are meant to be flexible for your needs and inclusive for all levels of swimming.

This week’s drill is Big Ben for backstroke. Similar to L Drill, Big Ben is a great backstroke drill that works on developing a strong, even stroke with power that is generated from the core. Pushing off the wall, have your swimmers begin a normal backstroke cycle. After the underwater pull, swimmers will stop half way through their recovery when their arm is extended straight over their shoulder.

This is where the drill differs from L Drill: instead of pausing, swimmers will drop the extended arm back down to their hip before finishing the recovery phase of their stroke and pulling through with the opposite arm. While pausing, dropping, and then moving the arm through the recovery phase, the opposite arm should be extended straight overhead in line with body on the surface of the water. Swimmers then repeat this sequence on each side as they move down the pool.

Think of this as a more advanced version of L Drill. Instead of merely pausing in the middle of your recovery, you are actively moving your arm while in an inherently unstable position. It is common to feel your body position drop as you are moving through this drill, as it requires a strong core and kick to maintain a good high position in the water. It may also be common to see the lead arm drop and begin the next pull to compensate for the imbalance that is created during this drill. Regardless of what a swimmer struggles with, the focus should be on maintaining a good line and a high body position in the water.

This has carry over into full stroke. If body position is dropping through the recovery phase of this drill, chances are it is also dropping over the course of a 100 or 200 yard race. Regular practice of this drill will help your athletes develop a strong core and a better awareness of how to use their whole body (rather than relying heavily on their arms) while swimming backstroke, and ultimately have a more efficient stroke that will give them a second gear at the end of a race. Happy swimming!

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Author: James Sica

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James Sica is the Men and Women's Assistant Coach at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has been an assistant coach at CMU in Pittsburgh, PA (2015-2017), a volunteer assistant coach with the Harvard women’s program (2014-2015) and an assistant with the Ithaca College men's program (2012-2014).

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