Streamline your technique and make sure you arrive in T1 with energy to spare…

Sort your stroke style

Most triathletes have a background in running or cycling and so it’s no surprise they usually find the swim to be their weakest discipline. It’s probably why duathlons (run-bike-run) are popular events because then competitors can miss out the wet altogether. Swimming is made up of skills that are best learned during childhood – as most skills are – and they can be difficult to develop efficiently once bad habits or poor techniques have become automatic as an adult.

Now, here’s the good news: difficult certainly doesn’t mean impossible. Here are five easy tips for boosting your swim speed ahead of your next race.


As your hand enters the water, it’s incredibly tempting to immediately begin to pull, especially in a fraught race scenario. However, the most efficient strokes are the ones that make the most of each propulsive phase, so try to initially reach forward once your hand has entered the water. This will lengthen your pull, propelling you further through the water with each stroke for no extra effort.


It’s totally understandable you’ll want to look around to see what’s happening with the other swimmers, especially if swimming is your least confident discipline. The problem with doing this is that your stroke cannot find a rhythm, and therefore becomes choppier and as a result, less efficient. Focusing on a fixed point in front of you will help your body naturally hold better streamlining in the water, thereby improving efficiency and speed through it. Looking ahead also means you won’t swim off course easily, losing precious seconds.


Your pull is what gives you the majority of your forward movement (propulsion) through the water. Once you begin the propulsion phase, you should accelerate through the pull until you reach your hip. This accelerated motion will add power to your stroke as well as adding impetus while your other arm recovers to the beginning of its propulsion phase.


Visualisation before you begin swimming, whether in training or a race, will help you control your stroke when you come to perform it. If you’ve been watching videos of super swimmer Slovakian triathlete Richard Varga on repeat or following a swimming ace in your training lane looking for sneaky tips, now is the time to think back to it and concentrate on your form.


But not too much. Relaxing into your stroke is vital to avoid wasting energy and fatiguing before you reach T1, but you need to avoid laziness. For example, allowing your arm to sweep wide on the recovery instead of keeping your elbow high may feel more relaxed, but in reality you compromise your hand’s entry into the water as well as widening your profile in the water both of which will only serve to slow you down…

Make it work for you

Whatever the rules about drafting on the bike, make the most of the practice in the swim. You can save significant energy and benefit from someone else’s superior stroke and speed simply by staying within around a metre of the person in front.

WORDS: Ashley Quinlan

Check out more from our training section  – on how to improve your stroke style and more – to help with your triathlon training…