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The Most Essential Swim Training Tools for Triathletes and How to Use Them - 52 Weeks to Mont Tremblant - Week 20

Wow, 20 weeks into this blog already and Ironman Mont Tremblant couldn’t feel further away! My wife asked me this morning if I was doing too much too soon after telling her I had a 90 minute run to do. My response with a slight chuckle, “I got 8 months left to go, so no. But I still have 8 months to go.”

Admittedly, I’ve been slacking in the pool. My speed is there (I had my fastest ever swim last week), my form is improving, but I’m struggling to actually get myself to the pool three times per week.

Training tools and their purpose

Training tools are all well and good by themselves but unless you know how to use them effectively, they’re meaningless. With (hopefully) a renewed sense of focus on my swimming, here are the most essential training tools, aside from your cap and goggles, for triathletes to improve their form and get faster in the water.

Stretch cords are the perfect warm-up tool. Not only do they prime your shoulders, lats, and back for the workout they also emulate the feel and resistance you’ll encounter in the water while simultaneously increasing your shoulder strength and flexibility.

Starting position for stretch cords

Starting position for stretch cords

The pull buoy helps you keep your body aligned at at the surface of the water. Knowing how to maintain body taughtness at surface level is the first step in a quality swim stroke. If you struggle to keep your hips and feet near the surface try incorporating the pull buoy into your technique routine. It’ll allow you to feel the proper body positioning for a balanced stroke.

Swim fins serve several purposes with the main one being to improve your kick. But what I find most valuable about fins are their ability to help increase your stroke rate. The faster you can move your arms through the water, with good form of course, the faster you’ll be. When you swim with fins your speed naturally increases as they act as larger propellers than your feet. So, if you’re looking to increase stroke rate, toss on a pair of fins and try to keep up with your new found speed.

Swim fins

Swim fins

Tech paddles are increasing in popularity. You grip the paddle with a fist, which in turn forces you to have a high elbow as you pull through the water. This allows you to cover more surface area in the water for added propulsion.

Tech paddles

Tech paddles

Here are a few of my favorite drills that I incorporate into many of my workouts still.

Zipper Drill

This drill reinforces a high elbow while your arm is out of the water. Push off the wall with hands over your head. Take a swim stroke with one arm all the way down to your hip, grab a quick breath, but instead of immediately bringing your arm back up over your head, drag your thumb up along the side of your body as if you’re undoing a zipper. Being your hand back to over your head and repeat with the other arm.

Do this drill until it’s comfortable and you don't feel like you have to rush the process.

Exageratted Hip Drive

This drill completes the stroke but with an over exaggerated hip drive. This will train your body to streamline on it's side, reducing drag and making you faster.

Swim normally and when you go to turn your body do it by driving one hip down really hard towards your front and pulling the other hip backwards. Do this so you’re almost barrel rolling in the water.

Your body rotation needs to come from your hips. Do this drill until it’s easy to flip yourself right over.


This drill improved your literal feel for the water. Push off the wall on your stomach with both hands over your head, kick as lightly as possible just to remain horizontal. Then wave your hands back and forth over your head, feeling a palm full of water. Lift your head up to take a breath as you need and repeat.

Here’s a look at my workouts from this past week


Upcoming week

Swim: 3,600 yards

Bike: 4:00

Run: 3:55

Strength: :15

Total: ~9:30