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Optimizing Your Triathlon Swim with Proper Technique

Are you looking to improve your swimming technique for triathlons? Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced triathlete, optimizing your swim technique can make a significant difference in your performance. In this article, we will explore the key elements of proper technique and provide valuable tips to enhance your triathlon swim.

Key Takeaways:

  • Minimizing resistance and maximizing efficiency are crucial for a successful triathlon swim.
  • Focus on specific areas such as head position, leg movement, stroke frequency, early vertical forearm position, and the final push phase underwater.
  • Improving technique takes time and consistent practice; expect to see significant changes within 6-7 months.
  • Freestyle stroke is the best choice for triathlon swimming, with adaptations for open water swimming.
  • Utilize drills, training exercises, and swim technology to refine your technique.

Best Triathlon Swimming Strokes

In triathlon swimming, the freestyle stroke, also known as front crawl, is widely considered the best stroke. Not only is it the fastest, but it is also the most efficient stroke, allowing swimmers to move swiftly while maintaining awareness of their surroundings.

When swimming in open water, it is important to make adaptations to the freestyle stroke. Sighting, which involves taking quick glances at buoys or landmarks, helps swimmers stay on course and navigate effectively. Adjusting stroke rate can also be beneficial, allowing swimmers to adapt to the conditions of the open water, such as waves or currents. Additionally, practicing a more assertive hand entry can help handle choppy conditions, ensuring a strong stroke despite the challenges.

While the freestyle stroke is key in triathlon swimming, it is also valuable to be familiar with other strokes. Understanding breaststroke can be useful for moments of rest and recovery during the swim. However, it is essential to use breaststroke sparingly during a race due to the potential for collisions with other swimmers and the signaling of distress. Backstroke can also be utilized, but it should be limited for similar reasons.

On the other hand, the butterfly stroke is not recommended for triathlons because of its high energy demand. Incorporating this stroke into a triathlon swim can lead to excessive fatigue, making it challenging to perform well during the rest of the race.

By incorporating a variety of triathlon swim drills and training exercises, you can improve your stroke technique and overall performance. These drills can focus on specific aspects such as body position, arm movement, and leg kicks. Working on advanced triathlon swim techniques such as flip turns and bilateral breathing can also help enhance your skills in the water.

Tips to Improve Your Triathlon Swim Technique

Improving your triathlon swim technique is essential for enhancing your performance in the water. By focusing on key areas such as body positioning, breathing, stroke mechanics, and maintaining proper form, you can swim more efficiently and effectively. Here are some valuable tips to help you improve your triathlon swim technique:

1. Maintain Proper Body Alignment

Proper body alignment plays a crucial role in reducing drag and optimizing your swimming technique. To achieve this, ensure that your body is aligned and streamlined in the water. Keep your head in a neutral position, with your eyes looking down towards the bottom of the pool or open water. This helps maintain a straight line from your head to your toes and minimizes resistance.

2. Focus on Breathing Techniques

Effective breathing is vital for a smooth and efficient triathlon swim. Instead of lifting your head out of the water, which can disrupt your body position, practice breathing to the side. This allows you to maintain a streamlined posture and reduces resistance. Additionally, synchronize your breathing with your stroke cycle to maintain a steady rhythm and conserve energy.

3. Work on Stroke Mechanics

Developing proper stroke mechanics is key to generating power and improving your swimming efficiency. Pay attention to your hand entry, catch, and pull phases of the stroke. Aim to enter the water with your fingertips first, followed by your hand and forearm, creating a streamlined and efficient movement. Focus on a strong catch and an effective pull through the water, engaging your core and generating propulsion.

4. Practice Relevant Drills

Regularly incorporating drills into your training routine can help reinforce good swimming technique. Two useful drills to improve your triathlon swim technique are the kickboard drill and the catch-up drill.

  • The kickboard drill focuses on improving your leg strength and body position. Hold a kickboard in front of you and kick while keeping your head down and body aligned. This drill helps you develop a strong kick and maintain a streamlined body position.
  • The catch-up drill promotes efficient stroke mechanics and body rotation. Start by fully extending one arm in front of you while the other arm completes a full stroke cycle. Alternate arms in a synchronized manner, ensuring that each stroke is completed before starting the next one. This drill helps you focus on each arm’s technique and encourages a balanced stroke.

You can find more helpful triathlon swim technique videos and a comprehensive guide on improving your swimming technique in our Triathlon Swim Technique Guide.

Triathlon Swim Technique Video

By following these tips and incorporating them into your training routine, you can make significant improvements in your triathlon swim technique and enhance your overall performance.


Improving your triathlon swim technique is crucial for enhancing your performance in the water. It is a journey that requires dedication, practice, and guidance. By focusing on proper technique, mastering different strokes, and incorporating relevant drills, you can become a more efficient and faster triathlon swimmer.

For beginners, it’s important to start with the basics and gradually progress. Incorporate triathlon swim workouts that focus on building endurance, improving stroke mechanics, and enhancing body positioning. By structuring your swim training with frequency, varied workouts, and progressive intensity, you can steadily improve your skills.

Regardless of your skill level, continuous improvement is key. Advanced athletes can benefit from incorporating more advanced triathlon swimming techniques and challenging workouts into their training regimen. It’s essential to stay consistent, keep pushing your limits, and seek guidance from experienced coaches or triathlon training programs.

Remember, improving your triathlon swim technique takes time and effort, but the rewards are worth it. With perseverance and a commitment to constant improvement, you can maximize your potential in the water and make significant strides in your triathlon performance.

Can Wearing the Right Sunglasses Improve My Triathlon Swim Technique?

Yes, wearing the right triathlon sunglasses for performance can actually improve your swim technique. The proper sunglasses can reduce glare, improve visibility in the water, and protect your eyes from sun damage. This can lead to better overall performance and faster swim times during your triathlon.


What are the key elements to consider in triathlon swim technique?

The key elements to consider in triathlon swim technique include minimizing resistance, maximizing efficiency, positioning of the head, leg movement, stroke frequency, early vertical forearm position, and the final push phase underwater.

Which swimming stroke is best for triathlons?

The freestyle stroke, also known as front crawl, is widely considered the best stroke for triathlon swimming due to its speed and efficiency. It allows swimmers to maintain awareness of their surroundings and conserve energy.

Are there other swimming strokes worth knowing for triathlons?

Yes, other swimming strokes worth knowing for triathlons include breaststroke, backstroke, and treading water. Breaststroke can be used for rest and recovery during the swim, while backstroke should be used sparingly due to potential collisions and signaling distress. Butterfly stroke is not recommended for triathlons due to its high energy demand.

How can I improve my triathlon swim technique?

To improve your triathlon swim technique, focus on key areas such as body positioning, breathing, stroke mechanics, and maintaining proper form. Utilizing swim drills and training exercises, such as the kickboard drill and catch-up drill, can also contribute to improved technique. Swim technology, like FORM Smart Swim Goggles, can provide real-time data to analyze and refine your technique.

How long does it take to improve triathlon swim technique?

Improving triathlon swim technique takes time and consistent practice. Studies show that it can take at least 6-7 months to make significant changes. It is important to be patient and avoid overwhelming yourself with too many changes at once.

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