Repair Your Stroke With This Workout of the Week

Jul 13, 2014; Athens, GA, USA; Swimming coach David Marsh talks with Ryan Lochte during the Sunday finals of the Bulldog Grand Slam at Gabrielsen Natatorium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

By Ronald Hehn, Concordia College Head Coach

PHOENIX, Arizona, July 23. TECHNIQUE must be addressed weekly in order to maintain efficient stroke mechanics during heavy training. This workout provides an opportunity to repair common technical flaws in each stroke. The technical focus of each drill must be transferred to each stroke. The problems addressed in this workout are some of the most common errors made by swimmers.

Body Position – The depth at which the body lies in the water.
– “High” – Body lies shallow and close to the surface; Body is above water surface.
– “Low” – Body lies deep and below the surface; Body is fully submerged.

Undulation – Dolphin motion; press and release of chest.

Posterior / Anterior Movements – The body is split horizontally (i.e. if the athlete is lying on stomach) into front and back halves.
– “Posterior” – Movements utilizing muscles in the back of the body.
– “Anterior” – Movements utilizing muscles in the front of the body

Freestyle Set:
Problem: Swimmer lifts their head during the breath causing the athlete’s body position to alternate between high and low.

Solution: “Yoshi” Drill

Execution: One cycle of butterfly using the left arm only (other arm at side) breathing to the left side, one cycle of right-arm butterfly, immediately followed by two cycles of freestyle swimming. One-arm butterfly is swum at cruz effort, freestyle cycles are swum at BEST Effort.


First 25: Perform one-arm butterfly using the left arm only. Breathe close to the surface of the water and maintain a high body position during the drill (expert tip: hips break surface).

Second 25: One-arm butterfly using the right arm only.

Third 25: Alternate between a cycle of one-arm butterfly using the left arm and one-arm butterfly using the right arm. Transition from side to side without interrupting tempo. Minimize undulation during both butterfly and freestyle. The athlete must make a distinction between the undulation of butterfly and the technical flaw during the freestyle breath.

Fourth 25: “Yoshi” Drill – Perform two cycles of alternating one-arm butterfly, then two cycles of BEST Effort freestyle swimming.

1×25: Freestyle swum at a BEST Effort breathing each stroke in order to practice efficient breathing technique.

Breaststroke Set:
Problem: Timing of the kick during breaststroke is late

Solution: “Whipped Butter” Drill

Execution: Alternate between two cycles of breaststroke with dolphin kick and two cycles of breaststroke with whip kick. Dolphin kick cycles are swum at minimum effort, whip kick cycles are swum at BEST Effort



First 25: Alternate between two dolphin kicks and two whip kicks while streamlining on back. Use larger dolphin kicks than usual, and whip kicks more narrow than usual. Dolphin kick occurs during a shorter duration than whip kick, so the athlete must match the speed of the dolphin kick with a quick and narrow whip kick (tip: imagine a dolphin kick that splits.) The posterior dolphin kick simulates the initial phase of the whip kick when the heels are drawn toward the hips.

Second 25: Alternate one dolphin kick and one whip kicks while streamlining on back. Third 25: Whipped-Butter-Breaststroke; the athlete must use a breaststroke pull while alternating between two dolphin kicks and two whip kicks. A constant tempo must be maintained throughout the 75 despite kicking transitions.

1×25: Breaststroke swum at BEST Effort using a sprint whip kick.

Backstroke Set:
Problem: Over-rotation during backstroke disrupts the connection between the hips and shoulders. As a result, the athlete’s pull becomes posterior rather than anterior. That is, the athlete reaches the arms behind the body (i.e. posterior movement) instead of performing the pull in front of the body.

Solution: “Zombie” Drill

Execution: The athlete is submerged approximately one yard / meter on their back. The athlete must perform a freestyle pull without the recovery (i.e. if swimming freestyle on the surface, the phase of stroke when the arm comes out of the water); the drill resembles up-side-down freestyle. In order to rotate less and perform an anterior pull, the athlete may associate the backstroke pull with the freestyle pull. Be aware of physical limitations and rotate while maintaining a shoulder-hip connection. In addition, this a great opportunity to practice holding breath underwater in the supine position.



First 12.5: “Zombie” Drill. The athlete must be sure not to use a body roll that is beyond their ability to balance. The athlete must remain as flat as possible. The entire 12.5 is to be performed underwater.

Second 12.5: Perform an efficient break-out and swim the next 12.5 backstroke. Focus on the hips rotating before the shoulders; the total rotation must feel flat.

Butterfly Set:
Problem – Low hips and feet during butterfly.

Solution – “Flutter Butter” Drill

Execution: Alternate between two cycles of butterfly pull with flutter kick and two cycles of butterfly pull with dolphin kick. The former is performed at a cruz effort, the latter is performed at BEST Effort.



First 25: Alternate between two dolphin and four flutter kicks while streamlining on their stomach. Focus on making dolphin kicks smaller than usual, and the flutter kick larger than usual. Maintain a high body position in the water. Hips and feet must both elevate in order to prevent large amounts of drag. Flutter kick is continuous, dolphin kick is intermittent; flutter kick sustains an elevated body position in the water opposed to rise and fall of the body during dolphin kick.

Second 25: Execute Flutter-Butter-Fly by transitioning from the high body position established by the drill into butterfly swimming. The two strokes performed with flutter kick are swum at minimal effort, and two strokes with dolphin kick are swim at BEST Effort.

1×25: Butterfly swum at BEST Effort while executing the stroke in a high body position.

Ronald Hehn is entering his second year as head coach at Concordia, and is the founder of the DakotaSota Swim Club in Fargo. Hehn had an impressive collegiate career as a All-American at Indiana University, and also swam at both the 2008 and 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. To see more from Hehn, check out his swimming workouts Facebook page.


  1. avatar
    Zach Janes

    Is there any way I could see videos of all these drills? This sounds like an awesome recovery set, but I’m having trouble visualizing some of these drills and am unsure how to explain to my swimmers. Thanks!!

    • avatar

      We will check with Coach Hehn. He’s knee deep in getting the collegiate schedule going, but will be back regularly soon.

      • avatar
        Zach Janes