Drill Progression to Hydroplane in the Water


Posted by Coach Aaron Scheidies

Body position is very important for efficiency and speed in the water. I have written about this in the past, but now I’m going to give you a drill progression to do something about it. The main thing that slows people down in the water related to body position is the dropping of the legs.  A high head position is also related as it results in the legs dropping. Here are the swim drills to help you hydroplane on the water.

  • Kick on Side: Stretch as long as possible and think of doing a partial oblique crunch on the side that is down
  • 6 Kicks + 1 Pull: Focus on pushing the chest to the bottom of pool as in kick on side
  • Butterfly:  As you bring your arms around from head to entry, thrust your chest down and your butt should come up. The thrust of the chest down is key.
  • Dolphin + Stroke:  This is done for the teetering/bobbing motion. As you thrust your chest down bring one arm around for a freestyle stroke.  Alternate arms down the pool. The focus is chest thrust. (video)
  • 6 Kicks + 3 Pulls: Integrate pushing chest down when on side with 6 Kicks and chest straight down with 3 Pulls (video)
  • Catch Up: Think about putting all of the above progression together. With catch up, you want to elongate your spine and become as long as possible to keep on top of the water until recovery arm catches lead arm.

The above progression is intended to help you counter the upward force of the buoyant lungs and in turn, keep your legs at the top of the water. 

The use of the butterfly/dolphin motion is key to teaching the feeling of pushing your chest down when you are in the prone position.

The side drills are important because, in freestyle, you are continuously rotating on a central axis and therefore kicking on a side. Think of performing a partial oblique crunch towards the pool bottom to help improve your ability to keep pressure down on your chest while rotating on the side. 

The 6 Kicks + 1 Pull and 6 Kicks + 3 Pulls drills are transition steps back toward the full stroke of freestyle.

The final drill, catch up, is meant to emphasize the importance of always trying to stay as long as you can with your central axis. That will help you to stay on top of the water provided that you have good core strength to maintain a semi-rigid spine.

So next time you are at the pool, try this progression. Add in a few lengths of easy freestyle in between each drill to help integrate each skill into the freestyle stroke. Don't get overwhelmed thinking about too many things.

With some practice and regular use of this drill progression, you should find yourself on top of the water and making quicker intervals in no time!


Coach Aaron Scheidies is a USAT Level 1 Certified Coach and licensed Physical Therapist. A graduate of Michigan State University with a degree in Exercise Physiology, Aaron has coached World Champion Paratriathletes as well as Ironman World Championship qualifiers. While at Michigan State University, Aaron was the President and Founder of the MSU Triathlon Club and he has also played an integral part in paving the way for future growth in the Paratriathlon sport. Aaron is an 11 time World Paratriatlhon Champion and has set the World’s fastest time for anyone with a disability at both the Olympic (1:57:24) and Ironman 70.3 distances. (4:09:54). He can be reached at aaron@teamMPI.com.

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