Swim drills to improve speed – The pull

When the catch phase is done, you are in the pull phase of your stroke. This is where you take all that good torque and utilize it to gain speed, pulling yourself forward in the water. So, its time to improve your pull with these swim drills to improve speed.

In our earlier blog-post about the catch – We covered stacking of your joints. And this will now come into effect. Starting from the catch we will now focus on how your hand and arm travel through the water.

How to do the pull in freestyle swimming

From the catch

You have caught the water in your hand, it is time to generate power going from you reaching to you pulling.

Get your arm into it

With the EVF (Early Vertical Forearm), you have created a much greater surface for you to push water with than just your hand.

Use your back

Use that body rotation to include your big muscles of your back into swimming. It is not about the arms!


In the last part of the stroke, use your triceps to extend your arm. Small efforts will add up to lots of distance gained over time.

6 steps to becoming a faster and more efficient swimmer

We have chosen to sort the freestyle stroke into six separate segments. In all featured articles, you will both be able to read about that part of the stroke. Watch our videos on different swim drills that will improve your skillset in that area.

  • The Catch – The part of your stroke from when your hand enters the water, up until you are able to start pulling yourself forward.
  • The Pull – This part starts where the catch ends, and continues until the hand exits the water.
  • The Recovery – It is the part of the stroke that occurs above the surface.
  • The Kick – Kicking in swimming is not the biggest power output, but, it is crucial for water position and reducing frontal drag.
  • The Rotation – The way you rock your body from side to side to create your optimal streamlined position and best power output.
  • The Head position – How you hold your head, and where you look will greatly impact your position in the water.

Starting with the flexion in the elbow, bending your arm between 90 and 120 degrees, so that your forearm points downwards to the pool floor. Then starting the pull in your shoulder joint. Focus on that your hand shouldn’t pass your shoulder on the inside of your body. Pull yourself forward, like you are climbing a ladder. Ending the pull phase of your stroke by doing a triceps extension to push yourself the last bit of the stroke.

Doing drills from these six areas will improve your swimming. 

Three drills that will improve your pull

These three drills are great for working on your pull during your stroke. Try them out during your next swim!

Swimming with paddles

How to:
Paddles are used to build strength and endurance.
Swim as you normally do, feel the paddle against the palm of your hand.
Paddles come in different sizes, start out small!

Focus on:
Paddles will exaggerate everything in your stroke. Good or bad. So focus on technique!
Try to use the paddle as an extension of your forearm, not your hand.

Good for:
Getting a good feel for pulling yourself forward.
Swimming strength.
Swimming endurance.

Analyze your breathing, body rotation, body position, arm movements both above and below the water, and your kick. With our individualized feedback and drills, you will develop your swimming. Sign up today!

Upside down paddles

How to:
Place your paddle holding it in your palm with the tip of the paddle resting on your forearm.
Swim with the paddle tight in your hand.
Feel the paddle press against your forearm during the swim. That way you are doing it right.

Focus on:
Keeping a constant force during the full length of the stroke.

Good for:
Using your whole forearm as a paddle in pulling, and not just your hand.

Need some help with your swimming? Sign up for an individual swim analysis!

3-2-1 drill

How to:
With your passive arm forward, do three strokes with your right arm, then with your left arm. After that, take two strokes with each arm and last take one stroke with each arm.
Breath on the last stroke of each cycle.
Moderate kicking.

Focus on:
Getting a good long body position and working on your timing, so you don’t over or under glide.

Good for:
Not breathing, you can focus on your stroke.
Timing of the catch and pull.
Getting more distance per stroke.

Analyze your breathing, body rotation, body position, arm movements both above and below the water, and your kick. With our individualized feedback and drills, you will develop your swimming. Sign up today!

The next step in your training

Swim drills are great. If you are looking for inspiration on how to incorporate them into your training, then joining our global digital tribe – the TOT endurance club – is something for you!

As a member you will get:

  • A weekly training program (swim, bike, run, row)
  • Exclusive content via the member group on Facebook
  • 10% discount on any of our regular training programs

Join us today!

Welcome to TOT

Having a question?

Send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap. Welcome to TOT


Start typing and press Enter to search