Swimming Coaching Video Analysis

Increase your efficiency with focused technique review

I've completed 100s of one on one swimming coaching and swimming lessons/ video coaching sessions in person on pool decks in Canada, USA (including with clients on the Big Island of Hawaii in Kona prepping people for the Hawaii Ironman World Championships) and as far away as Australia on the Gold Coast overlooking the Pacific.  

I've taken those decades of swim instruction and compiled it into a very effective coaching system for analyzing your swim video footage and making the necessary recommendations for improving your technique.  

I love to help people increase the efficiency of their swim stroke.  I primarily work with triathletes who are in effect distance swimmers, but with the limitation of 'saving' their legs a bit for the bike and run.  As such I teach them differently and really focus on efficiency and constant power application.

The swim coaching form I've included below are some of the items I'll be looking at when I review you swim stroke.   I developed this list over decades of swim technique coaching.  In my analysis of your stroke I'll identify what you're doing properly, what you can work on and then outline a specific 'retraining' program for how to adjust your stroke to increase your efficiency and ultimately your speed in the water.


Swim Coaching Video Analysis


Swim Video Analysis

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Swim Video

Michelle before

Swim Video

Michelle after

Swim Coaching Form

Hi there *****.  Below is an analysis of your swimming stroke as observed on the above date. I’ve provided some comments on your stroke (both good and bad) and outlined specific descriptions of what I saw in the pool.  These thoughts are good to keep in mind so that you can be aware of when poor stroke mechanics creep back into your stroke. I'll follow that up with a listing of drills that you can do at this time to correct the identified stroke flaw/concern.  The drills are roughly in the order that you should undertake them in order to follow a progression for improving your stroke.

At the beginning of the swim session you were getting down the length of the pool in *** strokes and ***’ (seconds).  By the end of the session you were getting down the length of the pool in *** strokes and ***’.  All things being equal (assuming you can hold that pace) you will go ***’ faster over 100m, ****’ faster over 1500m and ****’ faster over 3.8km.  Seeing the increase in efficiency (fewer # of strokes) is what you should be striving for right now.  As you develop fitness and familiarity with the new swim stroke you will see your times drop as you are able to maintain a higher pace without your form falling apart. For now though focus on getting your stroke count lower to really work the ability to be efficient in the water. Later you can get your stroke count back up in order to swim faster.

Keep in mind that in order to swim faster you want to increase your arm resistance in the water and decrease your body resistance. Everything that I am going to tell you here is designed to do one of those two things.

Stroke Description Summary

Areas of your stroke that look good and are contributing to your speed include …..  

Areas of your stroke that require correction include the following:

  • Head too high and feet too low.  Your body needs to be in balance.  If you’re going to keep your head high in the swim then your feet are going to drop. You need to get your head deeper in the water and breath more to the side as opposed to straight ahead. This will allow your feet to come up.
  • Your kick is slow and large.  This takes too much energy and isn’t really effective.
  • Body sways a lot during the stroke.  Corrections for this include recovering your arm in a more bent and relaxed position instead of a hard straight-arm throw, also keeping your head steady during the swim stroke and breathing in a more relaxed manner.  Using a snorkel to remove the breathing motion initially will help get that smooth feeling.  
  • Cross on entry as your arm enters the water.  Reach wider as you enter to keep from crossing.
  • Press down on the entry because you reach too far forward before moving your hand into the water.  Doing this causes you to press at the front end of the stroke which lifts your upper body up and subsequently drops your legs. 
  • Elbow drops at initiation of the stroke.  Make sure that you think more about pulling your body over your arm rather than pulling your arm under your body.  Get the elbow OVER your hand first then bring the arm back.
  • Hands cut in too early on the pull (knifing in) which draws energy out of your stroke.  Need to keep hand lower/wider on the pull.
  • Hands (especially left) cuts too far inside on pull so you’re pulling in front of your chest instead of below your body but adjacent to your torso.
  • You need to extend more throughout your stroke (ie you want to feel the connection between your front leading/reaching hand and your rear pushing/pressing hand.  Feel this slight stretch at the beginning/end of every stroke. 
  • Body too flat in the water.  This makes it hard to get your arm below your body so you can pull in a straight line and keep your force application aligned.  By not rolling onto your side you are not able to use your hips to turn (as you roll to the other side) to pull your arm through the water.  You instead need to use your arm muscles for this move which is quite tiring.  Use the bigger back muscles to affect this pull instead of the smaller arm muscles as the big muscles tire less easily.  Rolling more will also make it easier to bend your arm on the recovery and take the pressure off your shoulder.
  • Arms are slow and don’t accelerate through the water during the pull phase.  Use your hip snap as you roll to the other side to snap and accelerate your arms through the water.
  • Pull out early at the back end of the stroke.  Make sure you finish the stroke down to your hip and not pull out of the water too early.
  • Shoulders very tight.  Work on stretching your shoulders in order to complete a proper arm recovery.  One in which you stay in balance and expend little energy or generate little torque.

Stroke Analysis

* Kicking - kick tends to be wide and broken on arm catch and recovery phase (need to kick consistently) 

* Kicking - frequency is too low (need to speed kick up and tighten range of kick motion) 

* Kicking - motion is not powerful in that legs are bent throughout motion (need to straighten leg on upbeat and delay then bend on down beat) 

* Kicking - legs are too low in the water (increase propulsion, frequency and downbeat emphasis)

* Kicking - legs are too high in water on kick (don't arch back during kick) 

* Entry - Hands cross in front of head on entry (enter wider) 

* Entry - Hands enter thumb first and sweep out (enter flat and pull back not out) 

* Entry - Hands slide under water too shallow and too far forward which causes elbow to drop and shoulder to roll under (maintain rotation of shoulder and enter hands deeper on reach) 

* Reach - reach too far forward (beyond your abilities for strength/flexibility) which causes hips to sway out (extend with shoulders not body) 

* Reach - drop shoulder on reach  (keep elbow rotated up to prevent shoulder from dropping)

* Pull – Both/Right/Left hands sweep outside past wrist and elbow on pull (hands inside and below wrist and below elbow) 

* Pull - pull crosses too far to inside on both/right/left arm (too much inside chest) (need to roll onto side and pull more with lats instead of shoulders) 

* Pull - arms pull in front of chest instead of adjacent to side of torso 

* Pull - arm travelling at constant speed on pull (need to accelerate arms through water) 

* Pull - Start of pull forces water down and not back (catch water with forearm then pull) 

* Pull - elbow drops before pull begins reducing arm resistance (keep elbow higher) and pull with hand, forearm, and upper arm (tricep)) 

* Pull – Hands knife in through stroke, which will rob your pull of energy which should go into the water to drive you forward. Keep your hands deeper and don’t let them come in too much.  You should feel that it’s a bit more effort but that’s the stroke showing you it’s working.

* Pull - pull delayed causing a catch up situation (start pull earlier, don't race arm during recovery) 

* Pull - reverse catch-up situation is happening as you delay your recovery after racing your pull through the stroke (kayak principle should help keep in sync) 

* Breathing - Head rising too high out of water on breath (use body roll to allow for breathing, don't let breathing control the stroke) 

* Breathing - Head looking too far forward on breath (see above) 

* Breathing - Head remains out of water for too long during recovery phase which blocks proper roll and arm exit (use head to pull arm back in water prior to arm passing head, rather than having head push head back in water) 

* Breathing - breathes only to right/left side (learn to bilaterally breath for versatility) 

* Breathing out too quickly and sitting too low in water (hold breath for as long as you can, breathing out just before inhale and then inhale as your mouth comes to the surface)

* Breathing – Head bobbing up and down during breathing motion

* Head/body Position - head too low in water 

* Head/body Position - head too high in water 

* Head/body position – chest not deep enough in water – causing legs to drop (press chest deeper into the water) 

* Head/body position – Head bobbing up and down during breathing motion

* Roll - not rolling enough in the water (roll more) 

* Roll - rolling too late 

* Roll - rolling too early 

* Push - hands exit water too early (extend hands (in flexed position) down to hip) 

* Push - hands lead hip out of water (ensure hip pulls hand out of water) 

* Push - hands pulling up at end of stroke causing stroke to pull you into the water (just push back, not up in water) 

* Recovery - arms too wide on recovery (hang forearm under elbow) 

* Recovery - arms too high on recovery (as above) 

* Recovery - Head remains out of water for too long during recovery phase which blocks proper roll and arm exit (use head to pull arm back in water prior to arm passing head, rather than having head push head back in water) 

* Recovery - arms working too hard and too tense during recovery (relax arm and slow recovery down) 

Other Items

* Hips - hips sway too much (focus on recovery, head position, pull position, catch position, kick, lack of flexibility, no balance) 

* Balance - no stability during stroke 


The order of importance for you future swim focus includes the following:

Balance (balance and super slow swimming drills)

Entering hands deeper and pulling sooner (pipe entry drill)

Entering hands wider on entry (10 & 2 drill)

Keeping elbow higher during catch and pull phase (includes not cupping hands on pull) (fists only drill)

Recovering with lower hand and elbow leading hand (shark and shark attack drills)

Accelerating arms through pull phase of stroke

Increasing kick speed and power.

The following drills will get you swimming more efficiently:

BALANCE– Goal is to get comfortable being on your side so you don’t fight for stability during the swim stroke

-Balanceprogress from floating to swimming 

-Super Slow Swimming(kick normally but progress with arms very slowly to allow for perfect focus on arm action. 

ENTRY– Goal is to enter smoothly with little resistance through the water.  Keep your body long and linear without overextending beyond your flexibility abilities (which cause swaying)

-10&2position for your hands entering the water. Don't cross your hands in front of your head. Think about keeping your thumb "tied" to your forearm to prevent it from leading the hand outside your elbow at the start of the swim stroke. Firm the wrist to connect the forearm and the hand into a single unit. Also think about entering your hands into a tube which is angled into the water. you'll go straight down through the tube. 

-Pipe Entry enter your arms into a straight pipe angled into the water at shoulder width apart.  Maintain high elbow position

-Head Up Front Crawl eyes breaking surface of water watch hand entry positions

-Flat Hand Entryhand should be flat on entry into water not leading with thumb or little finger

PULL– Goal is to maximize arm resistance in the water without increasing body resistance.

-Pull straight Back to Opposite Hip don’t sweep hand to outside on catch. Keep hands inside and below the wrist and wrist inside and below the elbow

-Kick on Side. Ensure that as you begin the pull you haven’t begun to roll to the other side

-Acceleration  Focus on accelerating arm on pull

-Kayak Principlepractice on deck and at home.  Don’t allow arms to get out of sync (catch-up, either front or back)

-Fists only. Focus on getting your elbow higher during catch portion of stroke. Enter the water with your arm in a plastictube to get deep and to allow you to start the stroke in the proper position. Gradually open up your hand from fists to open hand over the course of a number of weeks.  Feel the pull also on the back of your triceps.

-Breast stroke pull. Do the breast stroke with pull buoys in your legs to focus your pull effort on your arms and to get your arms into the proper position relative to your body.

ROLL– The roll sets up many good things in your stroke.  Without a good roll you’ll find it hard to get into the most powerful efficient positions while swimming.

-Balanceto feel proper roll position

-Kick on Side. Maintain roll throughout stroke moving quickly from one roll position to other, pulling mainly on your side.

-Super Slow Swimming with head getting back into water before recovering arm passes head.  This will allow for a proper hip action and more forceful push with the hands.  Blocking you arms out with a late breathing action prevents the roll.  Focus on head getting in water before recovering arm passes head and on getting hip put of water before pushing arm gets to hip.

RECOVERY– Recovery should be relaxed and not contribute to unwanted destructive forces (swaying)

-Shark Drill.  Kicking on side run hand up and down side two times then stroke to switch sides (keep kick constant)

-Shark Attack Drill.  Kicking on side run hand up side then as hand approaches head finish inhale and get your head back into the water as you take a stroke and whip hip out of water as push hand exits.

-Relax  arms on recovery

KICKING– Kicking should get your legs high in the water (for triathletes this is your primary goal) and then aid in your propulsion depending on the length of the swim event.

-Kicking. With or without a kickboard. Kick hard for 25 meters then rest. Focus on straight leg on upbeat and bent leg on down beat. High cadence. Vary angle of legs in the water to see what works best. 

-Kick on Side. This works on your balance and the transition from one side to the other. Start with 4 seconds on each side, breath after you take a stroke. Keep kicking through the switch from one side to the other without a break in the kick action.

-Kick on backwith arms starting by your side, progress to raising arms out of water.  Maintain frequency of kick and focus on core stability.

Work on the above drills in the order presented. If you have any questions about the above please let me know. Work on the above drills one at a time and only work on a max of three in any one session. Don't add another until you've mastered at least one of the three.  Swimming Coaching and swimming lessons are important to refine your technique.  You can do this.

Have fun, Steve