The Best Practice We Have Had This Year

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

I know we aren’t very far into the year, but this one was REALLY good.


Swimmers partnered up. The 25s and 50s were fast off the blocks for time. Half of our group swam while the other half videoed them using their phones (“peer coaching”). Swimmers gave each other feedback. I was impressed with the quality of the feedback and the amount of teaching/learning that was happening. And we swam fast too!

Swimmer A would do all three of the 25s before swimmer B did the 25s. This allows for shorter time between performance, feedback, and repetition. Coach feedback was used to supplement and guide swimmer-provided feedback.

Video Station and Back or Breast

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

SCY. This morning we set up our underwater camera to get a closer look at our dolphin kicking and how we can improve it. Swimmers at that station kicked a 25, watched their video, panned the camera for their next teammate, and then got back in line to kick.

The second station got some short rest quality swimming with good technique.

Kick set to finish off the session.

39 Swim Coaching Videos You Need to Watch

Many of these have been featured in “the wake-up swim.” Here I put them all in one spot so you can binge-watch them if you wish.  -RW

Drill Videos:

1. “Paddlehead” drill for perfecting freestyle breathing technique.


2. Backstroke Start Progression with Georgia Davies:

3. A drill to help with timing of the breath in freestyle:

4. Breaststroke Speed Drill

5. Start Drill with Tyler McGill and Brett Hawke:

6. Sean Quinn puts a new “spin” on open turns:

7. Breaststroke Single-leg kicking

8. The “Plunge for Distance”

9. Early Vertical Forearm Drill with Beth Winkowski

10. Ankle flexibility exercises to improve dolphin kicking:

11. Backstroke drills:

12. One-arm scoop drill. Classic. Simple. Helpful.

13. Freestyle catch drill with coach Steve Jungbluth:

14. Freestyle “archer” drill

15. Backstroke weight drill:

16. Backstroke cues:

17. Butterfly power

18. Tow-in turns:

19. Stay tight for the turns:

Motivational/Philosophical Videos:

20. On setting impossible goals with Alex Honnold:

21. The great coach-player relationship between Steve Kerr and Steph Curry:

22. WHY do you coach?

23. Billy Donovan on building the best teams:

24. David Cutcliffe on confidence:

25. How NOT to motivate the lazy athlete with Brett Bartholomew:

Example Videos (to show your swimmers great technique):

26. Butterfly technique

27. Getting tight on a freestyle flip turn:

28. Dolphin Kicking and a Backstroke breakout:

29. Breaststroke Turn example with Nic Fink:

30. Freestyle from all angles:

31. Adam Peaty breaststroke:

32. Breaststroke from a head-on angle:

33. Backstroke head-on:

34. Katie Ledecky Freestyle technique:

35. Kim Vandenberg’s Streamline and breakout:

36. Amazing underwater dolphin kicking:

37. Dana Vollmer’s Butterfly:

38. Butterfly from a side angle:

39. Breaststroke, “hiding” the kick behind the body

Race Pace and Technique Set with Video

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

We use 5 lanes of our 6-lane pool during practice. We did the following circuit that used an underwater camera hooked up to a time-delayed DVR and TV. The camera was positioned to gets “head-on” look at the swimmer coming down the lane. We looked at the video immediately after each swimmer finished the 25 in lane 6. This allowed us to make some technical adjustments while still performing a challenging set. Swimmers left the wall :15 apart so that the camera could adequately film each one.

Video Feedback Circuit

Ryan Woodruff
Head Coach
Lynchburg YMCA

For this set, we set up our underwater video camera in the end lane.  Swimmers performed the 15m fast underwater kick in that lane.  They watched their video on a time delay on our flat-screen TV and then did the 5 x 25, one in each of our 5 remaining lanes.  We repeated this circuit for 30 minutes.

This could obviously be easily modified to look at any stroke or any technical aspect in that first 15m.

Snake Circuit with a Full Pool

Ryan Woodruff
Head Coach
Lynchburg YMCA

The challenge: How to make the best use of 30 minutes of pool time with 50 teenage swimmers in 5 SCM lanes.  Here is what we did.

Each swimmer performed a 50 drill in lane 2, then moved into lane 3 and did a 50 swim with a fast turn, and so on.  We have an underwater camera hooked to a TiVo in Lane 6, so after the swimmer sprinted past the camera, he climbed out and watched his technique with a coach.  Get back in lane 2 and repeat. 

This one was a hit with swimmers and coaches alike.

How To Finish Like a Champ

Ryan Woodruff

The finish is among the least frequently practiced skills in our sport, in my observation. This drill serves as a mini-progression to help swimmers adjust to the presence of the wall appropriately during a finish, thus practicing for that gold medal moment.

We did this as a set of 16 x 50, 6 done like phase 1, 6 in phase 2, and the final 4 in phase 3. Here’s the progression.

Phase 1
At the conclusion of the 50, the swimmer takes his last stroke at the backstroke flags and then positions his body for the finish, kicking strong all the way to an extended touch.

Phase 2

Same idea as the first phase, just move everything closer to the wall. Take the last stroke halfway between the flags and the wall. Make sure the swimmer is paying close attention to the spacing with the wall.

Phase 3
Now do an all-out finish, touching with the body at maximum length. The swimmer should touch with the fingertips. With the wall-judging ability honed in phases 1 and 2, the swimmer should be able to time his finish very precisely.

Try this progression for any stroke. You never know when your finish will make the difference between gold and silver!

Thank you to Heath Hudgins (the swimmer in the videos) for being a willing example.

Tornado Ball

“The best oblique ab workout I’ve ever had,” said one of our swimmers after trying this exercise for 20 seconds.

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Ryan Woodruff

Here is one of our favorite core exercises. We call it 30-60-90 for each of the body angles where we pause.

Have the swimmer be seated on a physio ball and have a teammate stand on his feet. The swimmer should then streamline and hold a straight line from wrists to shoulders to hips as he moves through the different angles. We like to go for 1:00 straight shifting positions about every 3 seconds and finishing with 10 seconds holding the 30 degree position.

Physio Ball Flutter Kicks

Ryan Woodruff

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Here’s another abdominal exercise that we do, often for 2 sets of :30 each. Keep the ball on your lower shins, and control it using the tops of your feet. Kick from the hip with the knees straight and the hips slightly elevated for best results.

Physio Ball Roll-Overs

Ryan Woodruff, North Carolina Aquatic Club

Here’s an example of a terrific core exercise we do. The swimmer in the foreground is demonstrating the best technique. We typically do a set of 10 of these, rolling the swimmer on the physio ball from the chin to the knees and back each time.