How do I Improve my Triathlon Swimming?

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  • Written By: Matthew F.
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 03 March 2020
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Considered among the hardest endurance competitions for multi-sport, the triathlon is a challenge for even the most hardened triathlete. The event consists of swimming, biking and running, and can be competed in at three different levels: the sprint distance, with a triathlon swim of 750 meters; the Olympic distance, with a swim of 1.5 kilometers; or the ultra distance, with a swim of 3.8 kilometers.

The open water swimming in the triathlon is done freestyle. Various swim training and triathlon swim coaching methods can help to improve your triathlon swimming. This type of triathlon training will help to keep you in shape for the other events, and will improve your speed and energy while competing in the sprint, Olympic or ultra triathlon swimming legs.

When engaged in a triathlon swimming event, be sure to focus on hand entry. Keeping the hand at the goggle line when taking it out of the water during the stroke will allow a swimmer to drive it into the water more quickly. Bringing the arm out of water farther will force too much airtime and less efficiency in the stroke. Keeping the head down during the entire length of the swim will also allow an efficient triathlon swimming athlete to use less energy moving the head from side to side.


With the head down and the hands entering the water at the goggle line, the swimmer should also pull the hands all the way back past the hip before bringing them up. Pulling the hands as far back as possible gives maximum pull and allows for more energy coming forward. The swimmer can also allow for more energy by minimizing the kick as much as possible, maintaining balance and conserving energy for the more important parts of the stroke.

When working on triathlon swimming, a swimmer should keep away from maximizing speed and keeping up with the pack until the proper stroke techniques have been mastered. Practicing at a slower pace will allow the swimming to perfect each part of the stroke until they can gradually build to a quicker pace. One such practice to work on is keeping the arms straight in front of the body during the stroke. Keeping the arms straight will keep them from crossing over and pulling in diagonal directions.

It is also important during triathlon swimming training to maintain a feel for the water. A serious swimmer should enter the water at least every other day to maintain the muscles needed for the exercise. One practice to work on during light days can be breathing exercises, taking a certain number of strokes between each breath and increasing this number as your endurance increases.


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Post 3

@croydon - Once people have a few races under their belts though, I think it's equally important to get into a good, diverse training regime that isn't just about repeatedly practicing a course.

Swimming can be improved outside of the pool, with specific strength exercises (or in the pool, but with exercises rather than laps).

I would also suggest that anyone who really wants to get serious about improving their time needs to have some kind of expert swimmer watch a few of their laps and give them tips. My sister is an avid triathlon racer and she found that her triathlon swim training became much more focused and successful once she consulted with a personal trainer and he pointed out what she needed to work on.

Post 2

@Mor - Often the swim is so much shorter in distance than the other two sections that people think they can skip training for it and I think that is where they run into problems.

Often people don't practice doing the whole course either, so they get a shock when they finally have to get out of the swim and straight into the cycle or run when they aren't used to that.

I guess one of my tips would be to try something easier than what you expect to be able to achieve first, in case it's not as easy as you think it's going to be. You don't want to ruin your first experience.

Post 1

I think what makes it so difficult is the variety. The muscles you use for swimming are very different from the ones you use for cycling and running is different again. So you don't have as much time to work on one particular set of motions since you have to improve several.

The triathlon swim seems to be the thing most people have difficulty with however. Especially if the triathlon is starting in the ocean or somewhere with a strong current or waves, because that is very different from swimming in a still, heated swimming pool.

If I was going to suggest any tips it would be to see if you can practice in the same conditions you are going to be swimming in.

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