Is There A Perfect Swimming Technique For Triathlon? | Swim Like A Triathlete


– For the vast majority of us, taking part in a triathlon means that we will be swimming in
an open water environment, which is significantly different to swimming up and down
in a swimming pool. Now, with that change in environment, there’s a need to slightly alter our swimming style and our stroke, but why is that and how? Well, today I’m going to be exploring the components of a
triathlon-specific swim stroke and explaining how you can
adapt your own swimming stroke so that you can better cope with that open water environment
in your next triathlon. (gentle music) Now, the first thing you might notice with a triathlon swim stroke is well, it can look quite awful. I mean, take Mark’s swim stroke; by his own admission, he
windmills his arms along like nobody’s business and in comparison to a
regular swimmer’s stroke, this contrast is, well, quite stark indeed and this doesn’t necessarily mean the triathlete is a bad
swimmer, not at all, it just means that they’re swimming in different environments. When we’re swimming in a
mass start in a triathlon, swimmers are all really close together, shoulder to shoulder,
on each other’s hips, and in real tangled close proximity, and this doesn’t bode well for having a lovely, beautiful pool-based swim stroke with a nice low arm recovery
over the top of the water. Arms can clatter, you can even catch waves or choppy water with that arm, so it’s much more suitable to
have a straight arm recovery when you’re swimming in a
triathlon-type environment. Now, that being said, this isn’t something that I would suggest you just
go away and try and learn, because an awful lot of pool swimmers have learned how to have
that nice low arm carriage with their swim stroke from the outset and then they learn to adapt
into this pool stroke later on. (gentle music) This moves us nicely onto arm rate. Now, if you watch triathletes swim, you might notice they’ve
got a very high cadence and this is entirely different
to what you might see if you’re used to watching
swimming on the TV with a nice long relaxed stroke, and this difference is
down to the disruption of the water and the environment that the athletes are swimming in. Coupled with the fact that you
can bump into other swimmers, you can find your stroke
suddenly becoming dud, for want of a better word, and what we mean by a dud stroke is when you put your arm in the
water to take your stroke, nothing happens, or you
lose propulsion completely; a, because the water’s
really bubbly and turbulent, or as I said, you might have
got bumped by another swimmer, whereas if you’ve got a long sort of traditional pool stroke, this can really affect your stroke much more if you get bumped, because there’s an awful long time until that next swimming
stroke coming along and that’s where the high turnover of a triathlon-based
stroke can be much more applicable to the open water, because it doesn’t take long
for that next stroke to come in and then bang, you can get your propulsion from your stroke and keep moving forward. Now this doesn’t mean
that I’m just suggesting that you throw good
technique out of the window; no, of course, get those fundamentals of a proper pool stroke sorted first, but by being able to adapt that stroke to heighten your turnover
and get your cadence up, that means that you’ll be more
equipped for the open water. (gentle music) Another area that is less
obvious is with our breathing. Now, given the nature
of open water swimming and the fact that we’ve often got athletes round about us all the time, it is really useful to be able to breathe as easily as you can to both sides. If we’re in a pool environment like this, well, we generally refer to
this as bilateral breathing, but if you do watch a
triathlon swim stroke, you’ll see that athlete very often repeatedly just breathing to the one side, and I was very guilty
of this when I raced. I would generally always
breathe to my right side and this is something that
athletes do predominantly because you could be swimming
alongside another athlete to the side of you that you
don’t want to breathe to, but also you might find in
an open water environment that you’ve got waves or chop coming in from one particular side, so you want to be able to breathe away from that too and cope with it and finally, because it’s
the open water and outside, there might be glare
coming off of the sun. (gentle music) Now, that’s me talked a fair
bit about the upper body, but what about the
lower body and our kick? Well, you might well have observed when you’re watching triathletes swim that they have got quite a low kick rate and this is actually not
something that is specific just to triathlon, we
see it in long-distance open water swimming as well, and in fact, if we look
at pool-based swimming, if you see the sprinters swim, they very much have a
high eight-beat leg kick and this is not the same
as a long-distance swimmer, who’s going to have more of what we call a two-beat flutter kick. The reason for this is you’re starting to preserve energy as
the distances move on and the kick moves away from
being more of a propulsion to being about stability for your stroke. We as triathletes are
thinking about a half-Ironman or an Ironman, a 3.8K, as a long-distance, but in swimmers, well,
they can swim up to 10K, so I guess you’ve got to
take that into account. But let’s not forget that
we do have a bike and a run to come and we do need to be
able to preserve our energy. And finally, we also are
swimming in a wetsuit, so that is able to lift our legs up and make it that bit easier to not rely upon our legs quite as much. (gentle music) Now, a fairly obvious but necessary change that you will see in a
triathlon swim stroke is the ability of an athlete to sight. Now, this is really quite
important in the open water because unlike in the pool,
we don’t have a black line along the floor to follow and what we need to be able to do is see where we’re going; our target; which is usually the buoy that
we’re having to swim around and that means we’re just going
to have to lift our head up a fraction out of the
water to see that target. Now, not only do we need to
be able to see that target or the buoy that we’re swimming towards, but we also need to be
aware of other swimmers who are round about us; a, because we don’t necessarily
want to bump into them, but b, because we want to
be able to draft off of them and get on their feet,
so being able to sight is a really useful skill that triathletes need to be able to master and
incorporate into their stroke. (gentle music) Which leads me nicely onto my
final point which is drafting. If you’ve come from a
regular swimming background, the notion of swimming
close beside somebody or even sitting right on their feet can, well, quite honestly seem criminal because we’re quite used to
leaving regular time gaps when we’re swimming sets in the pool. However, this is something
that you really can’t avoid in a mass swim start environment and in actual fact, there’s
quite a benefit to be had from sitting on somebody’s hips or directly behind, touching their feet and if you can get close enough, the wake that somebody creates that comes off of their hip is something you can in
effect ride along from and get a benefit of, or alternatively, you can literally sit
directly behind a swimmer who is in front and tap their
feet with your fingertips and essentially, this acts
like drafting on a bike; you’re sitting in their slipstream, for want of a better example. And both of these
examples can help you swim at the same speed but for
considerably less effort, or indeed, you can try
to latch onto somebody who’s swimming quite a bit faster than you and try and keep up with their pace, which is going to be easier
than you would have managed trying to do that on your own. Well there you go, there
is clearly a handful of quite big differences
that we can notice in a triathlete’s stroke and hopefully, now you can get a grasp and understand why it is that they do that. But as I said already, I would advise getting the fundamentals right with a regular swimming pool stroke and then over time, you
can start to adapt that to be able to be more familiar with the triathlon environment. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this video, so please hit that thumb-up like button. Find the globe onscreen to
get all the other videos on the channel and if you want to see a video that Mark and Heather did where they compare open
water swimming stoke to a pool stroke, you can find that here, and another video about
top five swimming skills well, you can find that here.

23 thoughts on “Is There A Perfect Swimming Technique For Triathlon? | Swim Like A Triathlete

  1. When circle swimming in a shared pool lane in the UK, do you swim clockwise (keeping to the left) or counter-clockwise (keeping to the right)?

  2. Dear GTN, In one of my open water meets the finish line was just at west and I could see nothing from the sunset. My eyes are a bit sensitive to sunlight and as there was some heavy flow I had to stop and peak with my hand in order to see whre the buoys are. All this has cost me for a quite some time. Do you have any suggesttion for this. Kind regards.

  3. Fraser, in cycling it's called 'sucking wheel'. What is the equivalent nomenclature in swimming? You don't have to be discreet. lol

  4. Great vid! I would like to see more videos directed towards teenage triathletes and our different training and nutrition needs. Unfortunately there aren’t many resources for those of us still in the elite youth section. Keep up the great work👍🏻

  5. Don’t breathe every three strokes in a race longer than 100 meters. You need that oxygen, so practice breathing every two strokes and train both sides evenly.

  6. Open water swimmers tend not to ‘glide’ in their ‘catch’ ‘set-up phase’, prior to their ‘catch’ phase of their swim stroke [less glide equates to more strokes] … however, whether straight or bent arm recovery out of the water, it is what happens in the water which when coupled with good body toughtness, balance and alignment which produces the greatest forward propulsion. In both pool and open water swimming, the more efficient the all-important underwater phase, the faster that athlete will travel.

  7. I started training for my first triathlon, it's also been 15 years that I've trained swimming, I was always a good breastroke swimmer and was never a good crawl swimmer, mostly because I found the breathing much harder. I know crawl is faster, but how much and is it also more efficient? I know i'm going to be slow at the swim part but I want to save as much energy, is the crawl still the stroke to do?

  8. I‘m the swimmer in a Challenge Half Team, in June.
    I‘m able to swim the 1.9km in about 39 Minutes, what do you think is it possible to go under 30 Minutes, 6 months from now?
    Any Training Tips?
    Problem is, There’s only time for one ore swim training days per week.
    Thanks for the good work!

  9. I think the swimmer with the best technique for a triathlete to try and copy, would be olympic 1500m champion Gregorio Paltrineiri.
    Very high stroke rate, no glide out front and no kick. Exactly what we need 😉

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